The Society for the Preservation of Letraset Action Transfers
Links to sections on this page:
What are Letraset Action Transfers?
Letraset were the pioneers of rub-down instant lettering, & had a huge influence on just about every aspect of popular culture.
In 1964 Dai Davies (the original inventor), seeking to expand the market for his Instant Lettering, hired graphic designer & illustrator Patrick Tilley to create a rub-down product for children. The initial result was Busy Bee Instant Picture Packs, followed by the even more successful Instant Picture Panoramas.
So — Action Transfers (initially as "Instant Pictures") were born.
My initial interest was the range of Panoramas that appeared in 1965. Letraset (later 'Waddington/Letraset') Panoramas consisted in sheets of rub-down transfers, together with three-foot folded backgrounds on which to apply them. These started with sheets of either black or white transfers, & as the technology developed, spot colours were added until eventually full-colour (CMYKW) printing emerged — which is, of course, how all modern transfers are printed. The transition from one colour to four spot colours took place in 1966; full-colour had arrived by 1968.
Other companies licensed Letraset's technology, including Waddingtons, Patterson Blick, Gillette (as Kalkitos & PrestoMagiX) & many more.
Action Transfers are ephemera, & once they've been used they're effectively rubbish & are usually thrown away. Hardly anybody keeps their old Action Transfers; but on the other hand, if you ever do find a set, it should be cheap despite its rarity. Lots of the 1970s-1980s sets do surface, usually from old unsold shop stock, but relatively few from earlier.
Since there were no websites or information available on the web, I contacted other auction bidders for Letraset products with a view to sharing information & generally helping each other out.
As a result, in 2003 the Society for the Preservation of Letraset Action Transfers formed — officially named on 13th October 2004.
Starting with nothing, over the years SPLAT has gathered a wealth of information (& thousands of unused sets).
Many people who worked at Letraset or who created the original transfers have joined, but of course anyone interested is welcome.
How to Join SPLAT:
After years with a private Forum & group emails, we decided the best way for people to keep in touch would be with a combination of personal emails & Facebook messages. We're no longer a closed group — if you like SPLAT enough to get in touch, then you are a member! So…
How to Contact SPLAT or Action Transfers:
Please visit the Facebook Action Transfers page, & send us a message from there.
(If you've attempted to send a contact form message to us before, but haven't had a reply, please try again via Facebook.)
If you don't use Facebook, you could Google "Tom Vinelott", but you'll still likely end up with Facebook as the only option… it's not ideal, but it is unavoidable.
Very many people deserve huge credit for all the help they've provided with this website; thanks to all of them. Individuals are credited where appropriate throughout the site. By choice & tradition, the original members of SPLAT aren't credited… but I'm working on that!
All images that appear on this website are attributed, so if you would like to supply an image, please let us know what you would like your attribution to say. We can even include a link, if appropriate. Many contributors prefer to remain anonymous; that's okay as well!
Useful places to get started on this site:
- 'What are Transfers?' is a particularly useful article; there are links at the bottom of that page to help you with anything specific.
- A Brief History of Letraset & Action Transfers; this also covers technology, & will even offer you a conducted tour.
- Our long-awaited 'Rub-Down Your Own Transfers' Game is now online!
- Or just Browse if you prefer.
Visit us on Facebook:
- Action Transfers — our Facebook Page
For our other, unrelated, website, check out:
- Triplica.com — Photography
- Letraset's monochrome transfers were printed on sheets of Crown (15" x 20") by a Kippax Pneuminor silkscreen press, purchased in 1961. You can visit H.G.Kippax & Sons Ltd if you'd like to get one yourself! Tell them SPLAT sent you…
Great numbers of Letraset transfers were provided as Free Gifts in breakfast cereals, & the ever-helpful Nick Symes is the ultimate source for cereal promotions:
- Cereal Offers — Nick's website
- Cerealmad — Nick's YouTube channel
As for Letraset & Acorn's websites: sadly, they're no longer online, so we can't link to them any more.
(People often ask me what 'FAQ' stands for. GIYF.)
- Q: I've got one, can you tell me how much it's worth?
- A: No. We've bought & sold thousands of transfers, & we still haven't a clue. The same item can sell for pennies one day, & thousands the next. The other day I bought an unused Panorama which I had personally valued very highly, for £6.50 including postage. If your set has any sentimental or curiosity value (or if you just think it's great), then hang on to it, because it will be worth more to you than you are likely to get selling it; or even better, send it on a return trip to the SPLAT Scan Archives, & get your name in lights.
- Q: Will you buy it or help me find a buyer?
- A: We can certainly mention it for you on the Facebook Action Transfers Page if you're very nice about it. We might even send out a flurry of emails if we know of people who will be particularly interested! As a last resort we suggest eBay, although eBay really is a lottery. If you end up listing it there, remember to tell us AS WELL, so that we can find it — it's simple common sense to increase your potential market by inviting those most likely to bid!
- Q: Do you have any spare transfers for sale?
- A: Not here; ask on the Facebook Action Transfers Page.
- Q: How do I join SPLAT?
- A: Ask to join, on the Facebook Action Transfers Page.
- Q: Does anyone still make these transfers anymore and if so, where can I get them?
- A: Most of these sets are long gone now! You can still find some of them for sale as collectibles. Hopefully soon we'll be reproducing our own sets!
- Q: What do you mean, 'collectibles'?
- A: Stock purchased, often when new, with the intention of collecting it — & maybe selling it years later for a shocking profit.
- Q: So where would I find these collectibles?
- A: Easily your best bet is to join SPLAT, where we have over 200 members constantly looking out for them.
- Q: Does anyone plan to reproduce the original sets?
- A: Yes, SPLAT does — starting with some of the Panoramas (but expanding if successful). And we have already started selling inexpensive high-quality reproductions of some of the rarer Free Gift items that otherwise most people would not be able to afford.
- Q: Does anyone produce anything similar nowadays?
- A: Yes, there are loads of new transfer sets available, although none of them are as spectacular as the 1960s sets.
- Q: Where can I get transfers made, & how much will it cost?
- A: Short runs will be expensive, so if you just want one sheet it will set you back a bit! There are quite a few companies producing dry transfers, but we would especially recommend Acorn, since historically they are very closely tied with Letraset. Tell them SPLAT sent you! (UPDATE 2019: Acorn are no longer trading, I'm sorry to say.)
- Q: What about these "SPLAT Scan Archives"?
- A: Many of our members are less interested in collecting than in preserving, & high-resolution scanning is our preferred method of preservation. If you have a set which we haven't already scanned, then we are very interested in either accepting it as a donation, or in borrowing it from you to scan for the Archives. All the items in the Archives eventually end up online in this site, along with a Picture Credit which can say whatever you like (for instance, it can include a link). We are very grateful to the many people who have generously donated items, or who have posted them from all around the World in order to have them scanned.
- Q: Do we have to post stuff to you? Or what?
- Answer No.1 (by email or online file service): if you've got a scanner & you're not afraid to use it, we have some guidelines we can send you to help with all that (transfers are a bit tricky to scan). However, if you are only willing to send photos or quick scans, then we'll still be really, really grateful! Or…
- Answer No.2 (by post or in person): certainly you can post items — in fact, we prefer it, since that way we can be sure they're scanned exactly as we like it. If you do post your items, they will be returned to you with great care; but if you can manage it, why not visit SPLAT Central Command HQ in person, see the Action Transfers museum, & get your items scanned while you wait. We'll be very pleased to meet you!
- Q: Why isn't my favourite set on your site?
- A: We'll get to all of them eventually, but if you tell us which one's your fave we can prioritise it.
- Q: Are you going to display sets from other companies such as Kalkitos, PrestoMagiX, etc?
- A: Absolutely.
- Q: Why do some of the backgrounds have transfers on them, while others don't?
- A: We try to obtain unused sets for the Archives & to display online; when we do, you get to see both the clean backgrounds & the transfer sheet. However, sometimes we have to make do with a set which has been used. We 'upgrade' sets when we get the chance, so if you're disappointed to find a used set, tell us; we might have an upgrade ready to go.
- Q: How about letting us apply our own transfers to the backgrounds, like an online game?
- A: Certainly. Visit our 'Rub-Down Your Own Transfers' Game!
- Q: What are transfers? And how do I apply them? I've got some odd ones I would like to identify… (etc.)
- A: See our 'What are Transfers?' article; there are loads of links at the bottom of that page to help you with anything specific.
- Q: I'm interested in the history side of things / the printing technology… (etc.)
- A: See A Brief History of Letraset & Action Transfers; this will get you properly started, & will even offer you a conducted tour.