It is difficult to pin down exactly when the first temporary tattoo was debuted, but it is thought that they were designed and produced around the turn of the century. in the late 1890s and the early 1900s temporary tattoos that were created in the food coloring style were inserted into boxes of Cracker Jacks®. These temporary tattoos were transferred from the paper to skin with the use of spit or water. Surprisingly enough, Cracker Jacks® still use these same style of temporary tattoos as one of their “prize in every box” surprises today.
The food coloring style remained the mainstay in temporary tattoos for decades. Television shows, sports teams, and cartoons have all used temporary tattoos to gain recognition with young consumers. For example, Topps not only used sports cards to sell their gum, many cards of which are extremely collectible today, but they also inserted temporary tattoos called Baseball Tattoos in the 1970s. Smurf, Pee Wee’s Playhouse and The Bionic Women all had temporary tattoo packages sold as a way of promoting their respective television shows. all were created using the food coloring style of tattoo production.
In the 1980s there were temporary tattoos created that were different and more exotic than the plain food coloring style. First of all there were Scratch and Sniff temporary tattoos that had a special microfragrence® coating designed and developed by 3M. These tattoos were still based upon the same artistic styles as the previous food coloring style, and never really caught on. However, Dandy Novelty company teamed up with a world famous tattooist Ole Hansen, from Copenhagen Denmark in the 1980s and together they produced an entirely new line of temporary tattoos that was based upon the real tattoo flash artwork.
This new look of temporary tattoos created a large amount of interest and eventually got the nod from Hollywood. 3M was again involved in creating a temporary tattoo that was placed on a translucent film that could be transferred to the body without spit. this allowed actors to have a tattoo for a character that looked real, but again was only temporary. this style of temporary tattoo, currently under production by Paper Tattoos, has essentially replaced the food coloring style entirely (except in the Cracker Jack prize packets) due to the fact that the designs are edgy, realistic and longer lasting than previously released temporary tattoo brands. Now, temporary tattoos are essentially considered to be pieces of body art and are often used as a fashion accessory in the same manner someone would select a pair of earrings, a navel ring, or other body embellishment.