(Peter Archer fans: read on!)
A longstanding mystery clung to various sets of transfers produced in around 1974-75 which were not by Letraset & which appeared to infringe their patent. Who produced them? How did they get away with it? Years went by without a solution, until one day John Hunt happened to mention…
JOHN HUNT: Sodecor were producing rub down transfers before Letraset bought them [in 1976 — Ed.] but whereas Letraset's patent relied on stretching the plastic carrier film, Sodecor's product worked by adhesive transfer — not stretching.
TOM: I wonder if these were the same technology as the Topps/Hasbro rub-down transfers (which were basically just blobs of ink that left a smudge when you rubbed them)? There were transfers from a company called Peace Transfers (who made Adventureplay transfer sets in 1974) & Alan Lythgoe's company Trans-Action (who made D-Day Landing sets in 1975); and Bowyer's "Action Sport '75" promotional transfers used the same technique. So those were all around 1974-1975, & it would make sense if they were all printed at Sodecor. (I have to say they were all truly horrible!) The first Bowyers transfer promotion, in 1971, was indeed one of yours & was called "Sport in Action Transfers". But then Bowyers followed this up with another similar promotion called "Action Sport '75".
JOHN HUNT: I was not aware that Bowyers did a second promotion!
TOM: It would seem quite neat if they, the "D-Day Landings" packets & the "Adventureplay" sets, which all appeared around 1974 to 1975 & used an inferior transfer technology, should account for the otherwise mysterious non-Letraset dry transfers which you said Sodecor were printing at exactly that time. Here are some square pegs, & here's a square hole!
The bottom left packet is Letraset's Bowyers Sport in Action; the other three are Bowyers Action Sport '75.
JOHN HUNT: Not sure if you were aware but Alan Lythgoe used to work for Letraset — not sure of his position it might have been technical director.
TOM: You're absolutely right! I had completely overlooked that connection. It looks like he left Letraset, set up his own company 'Trans-Action Products', produced his own "D-Day Landing" packets & then he poached Bowyers as a client… perhaps you should have a word with him about that!
JOHN HUNT: Very interested to see the original Bowyers promotion and the second, which I had not seen before. There is no creativity when you have to place them in precise positions, and as you say the quality is very poor.
TOM: Having taken a couple of these apart to see what makes them tick, it's clear that rather than printing on film in the Letraset manner, these are printed directly onto the adhesive; obviously, adhesive does not form a good basis for printing, & the smudging you get with these reflects that. I imagine that Alan Lythgoe, having been technical director at Letraset, was fully cognisant of Letraset's method & was keen to avoid patent infringement. And he would have gotten away with it if it wasn't for those pesky kids… er… I mean, the very aspects he tried to avoid were the ones which provided Letraset's high-quality results.
Since it doesn't mention the fact anywhere in this advert from a comic, I should probably point out for the benefit of International viewers that "bangers" are sausages.
The missing sixth packet, not shown above; image courtesy of phil-young.com.
Ben Archer has something to say about this 1975 promotion, but before continuing with the Trans-Action story, it makes sense to take a momentary detour to deal with the earlier Bowyers Sport in Action promotion mentioned above:
Picture Credit: The SPLAT Scan Archives — phil-young.com
© Tom Vinelott 2023