The above scan is taken from the Thomas Salter 1981 trade catalogue. Although the transfers are dated 1977, they probably didn't appear until the following year. The text claims there are 100 different designs, but this includes the various small bits & pieces which appear in addition to the "two designs per sheet", & even then is slightly rounding-up…
Photos courtesy of Gary Maguire
We don't know which came first — the packets of eight Tattooze, or the packets of ten, but as the 1981 catalogue illustrates eights, it seems likely the tens were earliest. Since there are two Tattooze on each sheet, that means four sheets for eights & five sheets per packet of ten.
Quite often Letraset would do a job for a client, & then nick the idea. Perhaps that happened here. We only know of a few instances of Letraset printing temporary tattoos (although they did also print some iron-on transfers), & on this occasion they've kept the unusual spelling "Tattooze". Sodecor did have a long tradition of printing waterslide transfers, so that might have been a motivating factor.
This was a big year for Letraset promoting DC comic characters; having purchased the licenses, they also produced Action Transfer sets & even toys (such as Rotadraw). The same applied to Marvel & Disney characters.
Below, you can see what the Tattooze look like both with their protective papers on (upper row), & removed (lower row). We can't show you the full design, though, because you would have to apply the transfer to see that! Perhaps we'll apply some later on… Meanwhile, you'll have to look at them through their backs.
Hank Landry has been exceptionally helpful in establishing the full range of cut sheets, & estimating the relative rarity of some sheets.
His son Pete obtained a sample of 675 sheets (168 packets; 4 sheets/packet; it nearly works out…), & found that the scarcest had eight examples, while the most common had twenty-two instances.
The sample is large enough to suggest that these 45 are all the sheets in the range.
The sheets themselves are un-numbered, of course, but if we call the columns "A" to "E", & the rows "1" to "9", then here is a table of how many instances he found of each sheet:
You're welcome to perform your own statistical analysis, but it seems likely that some sheets were two to three times more common than others.
To speculate further, if 15 sheets appeared three times, 15 sheets twice, & 15 once — the simplest arrangement — that would make the full uncut artwork sheet equivalent to 90 cut sheets.
Each cut sheet is 4cm x 5cm, so that would mean the artwork would fit onto a sheet of Crown (15" x 20") with exactly enough bleed… looking something like this:
Who says maths isn't useful in everyday life?
(You may also be interested in our page "How to apply Temporary Tattoos" for further reading…)
Picture Credit: The SPLAT Scan Archives — Pete Landry — Gary Maguire
© Tom Vinelott 2023