My Recent Buy–Terry and the Pirates Tattoo Transfers

“My Recent Buy” will be a regular feature in The Insider.  What did you buy recently that brings a smile to your face?  Share the object and your story with our readers.  Send the story of your buy and two to four images to  Your recent buy might appear in a future issue.  

terry and the pirates

A 10¢ envelope of “Terry and the Pirates Tattoo Transfers Pack No. 9 (ca. 1945-1950). Inside are two sheets, each containing 11 decals of characters in the strip.

Although recapturing a childhood memory is priceless, it often involves a financial outlay.  How much is too much to pay for something that brings a smile to one’s face and evokes a string of memories that turns the trip down nostalgia lane into hours and days?  In the case of my recent acquisition, the cost was $10.00.

I was attending an estate sale that featured a large selection of paper ephemera.  I love going through piles of old paper looking for hidden treasures.  It is a slow and tedious process that often goes unrewarded.   In this instance, my find was a 10¢ envelope of “Terry and the Pirates Tattoo Transfers Pack No. 9.”  Inside were two sheets, each containing 11 decals of characters in the strip.  A banner on the bottom of the envelope read “TWENTY-TWO FULL COLORED TATTOO / TRANSFERS OF TERRY AND HIS / PALS TO DECORATE YOUR / ARMS, HANDS AND BOOKS.”

The daily newspaper comic strips and the Sunday Funnies were part of my educational reading as a kid.  The only reason I still subscribe to the local paper is to read the funnies.  Growing up in the late 1940s and early 1950s, my local Sunday Funnies still included many of the early classic strips – Batman and Robin, Blondie, Buck Rogers, Beatles Bailey, Bugs Bunny, Dick Tracy, Gasoline Alley, Katzenjammer Kids, Little Abner, Little Orphan Annie, Mandrake the Magician, the Phantom, and Pogo.  Hopalong Cassidy and Roy Rogers had their own strips.  Don Winslow and Terry and the Pirates were recent arrivals.   Calvin and Hobbes, Peanuts, the Far Side, Doonesbury, and Garfield would not arrive until much later.

Reading the Sunday Funnies was as serious as going to church.  They were as important an educational tool as Dick and Jane readers.  “Comic Weekly Man,” a radio show that aired from 1947 to 1954, featured a person reading the Sunday Funnies with added music and sound effects.  I have vague memories of a Sunday morning television show out of Philadelphia that featured a gentleman seated in a chair reading the Sunday Funnies as the appropriate strip appeared on the scene.

Cartoonist Milton Caniff created Terry and the Pirates.  It first appeared as a daily strip on October 22, 1934, and as a colored Sunday Funny on December 9, 1934.  The action strip involved Terry Lee and his friend Pat Ryan who initially arrived in China looking for a lost gold mine.  Along the way, they encountered a host of pirates and other villains, among whom was the notorious femme fatale, the Dragon Lady.  Eventually Terry joins the U.S. Army Air Force.

terry and the pirates characters

The 22-colored tattoos in the packet are each of a different character from the strip among whom were April Kane, Hotshot Charlie, and Connie

Like so many of the comic strips of that period, the story line was populated by a large supporting cast of characters.  The 22-colored tattoos in the packet are each of a different character from the strip among whom were April Kane, Hotshot Charlie, and Connie.

terry and the pirates supporting characters

More supporting characters from Terry and the Pirates.

The Chicago Tribune Syndicate owned the strip.  Caniff left in 1946 and launched Steve Canyon, a knock-off strip, a year later.  George Wunder took over and kept Terry and the Pirates alive for another 27 years.  The final strip appeared on February 25, 1973.  In addition to the comic strip, Terry and the Pirates also became a comic book, movie serial, radio program, and television program.  There were dozens of Terry and the Pirates licensed premiums and products.

Today’s comic strips are far too politically correct for my taste.  The comics of my era were adventure and fantasy focused.  They expanded readers imagination and horizons.  The $10.00 I spent on the “Terry and the Pirates Tattoo Transfers” was worth every penny, nickel, dime, quarter, and half dollar.  It transported me back in time, when life was simpler, had fewer shades of gray, and it was possible to tell the good guys from the bad guys.

On a final note, if “Terry and the Pirates” was Pack. No. 9 of Tattoo Transfers what cartoon strips were featured in the other numbers?  The hunt is on.


Using the WorthPoint Worthopedia, I was able to assemble a partial list of the comic characters in the “Tattoo Transfer” series.

No.   1.

No.   2.     Captain Marvel

No.   3.     Captain Marvel

No.   4.

No.   5.     Dick Tracey

No.   6.     Don Winslow

No.   7.     Roy Rogers

No.   8.     Captain Midnight

No.   9.     Terry and the Pirates

No. 10.

No. 11.     George Pal’s Puppetoons

If you can identify the comic characters for the missing numbers, please email the information to  Thank you.

Rinker Enterprises and Harry L. Rinker are on the Internet. Check out Harry’s Web site.  You can listen and participate in Harry’s antiques-and-collectibles radio call-in show “Whatcha Got?” on Sunday mornings between 8 a.m. and 10 a.m. Eastern Time. It streams live on the Genesis Communications Network.  “Sell, Keep Or Toss? How To Downsize A Home, Settle An Estate, And Appraise Personal Property” (House of Collectibles, an imprint of the Random House Information Group), Harry’s latest book, is available at your favorite bookstore and via Harry’s Web site.

Harry L. Rinker welcomes questions from readers about collectibles, those mass-produced items from the 20th century. Selected queries will be answered on this site. Harry cannot provide personal answers. Send your questions to: Rinker on Collectibles, 5955 Mill Pond Court SE, Kentwood, MI 49512. You can e-mail your questions to Only e-mails containing a full name and mailing address will be considered. Please indicate that these are questions for WorthPoint.

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