Information about Americana is very hard to come by, & what there is is devoted to Football cards or, failing that, to sticker albums such as were later (& currently) popularised by Panini.
They were, in fact, the Panini of their day.
I'll tell you what I've been able to work out, & if at any point I've made a mistake, I'd be very grateful if you could let me know!
The first issue regarding which there has to be some conjecture is the name of the company. According to one source, they were called "Americana Kaugummi" (chewing gum) until 1971, after which they changed their name to "Americana München" (Munich), & stopped including chewing gum in their packets.
However, as far as I can tell, the company were ALWAYS called:
Americana Kaugummi Inc. GmbH & Co. KG München
It may be, though, that around 1971 they stopped stressing the "Kaugummi" & started emphasising the "München". They also set up an American branch:
Americana Sweets & Novelty, Elizabeth N.J. 07206
I've been told that Americana ceased trading in 1981, but I have no corroboration for that.
Among the many amazing items which Peter Archer left me after his death were these sheets of film, which are clearly proofs for a set of Americana transfers (complete with his annotations).
During this period, Letraset printed by rotary gravure onto thin sheets of plastic film; for proof purposes, the wax & adhesive stages would be left off — so these are not active transfers.
Although one butterfly has been trimmed off for personal use, you can see that at the very least there were two sets of four transfers. Conjecturally, since Americana favoured very large numbers of items in their series, it can be assumed there would have been many other sets beside these two, covering a wide range of subjects.
Around the edge of each transfer, the text reads:
"Bildchen mit Fingernagel Uberreiben. Schutzblatt vorsichtig obzeihen und Bildchen an irgendwelche flache, staubfrei Stelle oder Haut schieben. Bildbogen vorsichtig abneben. Fruit-Chewing Gum-Kaumasse mit Fremden Stoffen. Americana Kaugummi G.M.B.H. & Co. KG."
"Rub picture with fingernail. Remove the protective sheet and rub the picture onto any flat, dust-free area or skin. Carefully remove the picture sheet. Fruit-Chewing gum mass with foreign substances."
The "skin" part is a bit alarming; possibly Letraset's German wasn't very good, & they didn't notice that Americana were still thinking in terms of skin tattooze; obviously rubbing dry transfers onto skin isn't going to work. And these are certainly not skin tattooze proofs!
It also says "Printed by LETRASET England patented. Made in W. Germany" — no surprise that these were Ashford rotary gravure transfers, but the "Made in W. Germany" bit obviously refers to the chewing gum itself (& the wrapper) — not the transfers.
Regarding the date: gravure printing was first available around late 1967, & Peter was the pioneer of colour transfer printing. His use of colour was still restrained before about 1969 or 1970, so I would say the earliest these are likely to be would be 1971; they look more like 1974 or so to me, but that late a date might be problematic for fitting in with Americana's product ranges. Certainly they must date from before 1976, when everything switched to Litho printing; & Peter was poached away from Letraset by Alan Lythgoe in 1974, so really we're looking at some time between 1971 & 1974.
Americana's other series were marked "Made in Italy", & so were Litho printed at Sodecor in 1976 or later.
There were several later series of Americana transfers that we know of, & unfortunately for us they were given different names for English-speaking markets.
My thanks to Michael Feierabend, whose website on Americana first put me on the track of these transfers, & who has been very helpful more recently — & indeed, currently. (Unfortunately, his site was part of a group which is no longer online.)
Originally these series were dated (which is where the "1972-1978" in the page title comes from), but these dates are now in question, so I've decided it's less confusing to leave them off until they can be fixed. Foto-Rubbel & Super-Rubbel were given as 1972, but that's too early for transfers "Made in Italy"; dry rub-down transfer printing at Sodecor didn't begin until 1976. Most of the rest were 1978, & I have no quarrel with that, except that it's better to be sure!
Two transfers per pack; 288 in the series. Courtesy of Michael Feierabend.
288 in the series; 'Made in Italy', so Litho printed at Sodecor. Photos courtesy of martin-bear.
You can see from the thematic similarity of above two packets, & the identical number of transfers, that this series of Rub-A-Dubs is the English-language version of the Foto-Rubbel series. For convenience, the transfers from these packets appear further down the page.
The following series of Rub a Dub is, despite the similarity of name, completely different:
Two transfers per pack; 'Made in Italy', so Litho printed at Sodecor. Courtesy of Michael Feierabend.
Courtesy of Michael Feierabend.
The transfers in the following image came from packets of Rub-A-Dubs, but clearly they are identical to Foto-Rubbel.
Photos courtesy of martin-bear.
Rolf Kauka's cartoon foxes are very popular in Germany. I already had some of these, but bought another packet just the other day.
"Reibe Abziehbilder" means "rub scratch-pictures"; no-one can agree on what to call dry rub-down transfers in English, & apparently the same applies (or rubs down) in German.
Two transfers per pack; 256 in the series.
Simple colour variation on the back of the packet (same front).
I've just realised that I need to add these Americana series to the "Packets & Tattooze" article… there's no rest for the wicked!
UPDATE: done it!
"Die original geschichte als rubbel-spass in 25 folgen" — "The original story as a rub-down game in 25 episodes"
Searching for these titles has led to a great number of Americana stickers & sticker albums, but the photos above are the only evidence I've been able to find so far to indicate that they existed as transfers as well… & still no sign of Sesame Street. It's a bit of a puzzle.
Talking of puzzles reminds me that there are also packets of Americana jigsaw puzzles dotted around the Internet, all marked "Made in Italy" — although whether this indicates they were transfer puzzles such as Letraset made for Disney characters remains to be seen. If I get hold of one & see that it is so, I'll keep you posted!
Picture Credit: The SPLAT Scan Archives — Michael Feierabend — martin-bear
© Tom Vinelott 2023