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Chas Issett & John Hunt joined Letraset in 1973; John came in as Brand Manager for Letraset Consumer Products, who were responsible for all the transfer toys (among other things).
"In 1976 Letraset purchased an Italian printer, who Acorn now represent on an exclusive basis, who became the manufacturing base for all Letraset litho rub down transfers. The gravure machine was sold and production of four colour transfers in the UK and Ashford ceased.
"The move to Italy was based on a Letraset contract to supply multi-colour rub down transfers to Gillette (the Razor and Pen company), worldwide, under the Kalkitos brand name. This contract continued on until the late 70's when due to diminishing sales, it was cancelled.
"The retail business was sold to Thomas Salter and then on the demise of Salters, taken up by Peter Pan Playthings, who also went into liquidation.
"My company Acorn and the Italian factory have continued on from 1980, by concentrating on special tailor made productions and promotions. Sadly the proportion of rub down transfer jobs has fallen to practically nothing, although the gap has been filled by Temporary Tattoos — skin transfers."
On the break-up of Letraset Consumer Products, John Hunt became Director of Action Transfer Products, a company who were part of Thomas Salter & therefore no longer at Letraset. So all the transfer toys came with him. However, after a while John (& soon after, Chas) left Action Transfer Products to form Acorn Printed Products (& Acorn Marketing). They bought the trademark "Action Transfers", even though it appears that 'Action Transfer Products' carried on regardless at Thomas Salter for a while "with a new guy" (as John put it). Action Transfer Products had "fizzled out" by the time Thomas Salter collapsed.
Sodecor, the factory Letraset had purchased to fulfill Gillette's requirements for Kalkitos, was sold back to its manager Enrico de Fillipis when that contract ended. They carried on until 2011; Acorn continued trading, using transfer printing companies in China, up to 2019.
From Letraset's website (no longer online):
"Acquired by the Swedish Office Supplies Group Esselte A.B. in 1981 Letraset was subsequently divested to the company’s management team in June 2001."
Esselte didn't get the transfer toys, because Thomas Salter had already regained their independence, taking the Action Transfers with them. Thomas Salter's involvement dates from 1978, when they were bought by Letraset for £1m.
Thomas Salter & their successor Peter Pan Playthings both having bitten the dust by 1985, the distinguished line of Action Transfers was effectively ended (until we took it up again in 2010).
Acorn, however, continued to print transfers at Linea Sodecor in Italy until 2011. Here are a few early examples to round off the story:
And when I first contacted Acorn many years ago, Chas Issett sent me the following four samples of their work:
Several years later, John Hunt of Acorn very kindly tracked down & sent me two sets which he still had left over from those early days, so here they are (with his hand-written compliments slip).
We've arranged the two Bertha sets over the next two pages, so either click on one of these images to view a particular set, or if you prefer, simply use the "Next" link at the bottom of the page & follow on from there to the other.
Linea Sodecor went into receivership in 2011, so Acorn could no longer get their transfers printed on Letraset's former presses. And having regained independence from Esselte in 2001, Letraset were purchased by ColArt in June 2013.
Picture Credit: The SPLAT Scan Archives, with special thanks to John Hunt
© Tom Vinelott 2023