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Old Phones - Know the Basic Models

Old Phone Basic Models

Novices to old Phone collecting need to familiarize themselves with the basic model telephones that were used by the phone companies over the last one hundred plus years. Taking a look at the different models is like turning the pages of a history book, as each preceding design was common to a specific era of our past. The 'Princess' phone says 1960s. The 302 model says 1940s and 50s. Candlestick phones remind us of the decades surrounding WWI. And of course wooden crank style phones shout the Victorian era.

This list is composed for those wishing to find some "entry level" information about the different standard models of old phones and their values. Each of the Models listed below have many variations and sub-models. This is not an attempt to list them all, but rather an effort to list the basic models with relation to their time frame. Current relative values is a range of prices pulled straight from eBay auctions. Keep in mind that variations, scarcity, condition and colors have a lot to do with desirability and final prices.
old phone trimline
The Trimline 1965-1990s

First introduced in 1965, the 'Trimline' was one of the Bell System's best marketing innovations. The base was made in both 'desk' and 'wall mount' variations. There was also rotary and push button dials, as well as a variety of colors. Trimline phones currently can be found on eBay from $5 to $70. Color seems to be the primary contributing factor with regards to prices, as some of the rarer colors are very difficult to find.
old phone princess
The Princess 1959-1994

The 'Princess' was the Bell System's first effort to market to a specific consumer group. Targeted at young girls it enabled Bell to place additional phones in the bedrooms of teenagers across America. The 'Princess' had several variations with both rotary and push button dialing systems. But it is the 12 color variations that collectors seem to be looking for, with rare colors commanding prices in the $100 plus range, while the more common colors go in the $20 to $40 category.
old phone model 500
500 Series 1954-1980s

The '500' was America's basic phone for over three decades. It came with both rotary and push button dialing systems, as well as various other optional features. In the early 1950s, Bell began to promote phones in "designer colors". This is probably the single biggest feature that draws collectors to the '500s' today. There was over one hundred color variations, and one could spend years trying to accumulating all of them. Hard to find colors often top the $150 price range. More common colors can usually be found around $20 to $50.
old phone 302 lucy
300 Series 1936-1954

Popularly known as the "Lucy phone" the 300 series was the phone company's mainstay for many years. It was originally made with a metal case, but switched over to hard thermoplastic during WWII. Over the years the 300 series had many model variations and colors. The model variations seem to drive collecting prices more in this series than do the colors. That is probably due to the fact that most phones of this era were basic black. It is not unusual to see metal 300s or rare color 300s selling for over $300, however $50 to $100 is more common for standard variations.
old phone model 102
102 & 202 Series 1927-1937

Even though production of this series ceased in 1937, few telephones were produced during WWII, and many 102s and 202s stayed in service for decades. The earlier model 102s had a round base, while the oval based 202s were introduced in 1930. Other model variations were very limited and colors were almost always black, unless painted. Condition seem to be the determining factor for the price fluctuations of 102 and 202 series phones. Pristine examples command in the $200 to $300 range, while average condition go more around $100 to $150.
old phone candlestick with rotary dial
Rotary Dial Candlesticks 1905-1930

Beginning around 1905 various phone manufacturers added rotary dials to their candlestick phones. Both Western Electric and Automatic Electric had popular models of this phone design. Colors are almost always black, however a few can be found in other polished metals such as brass or chrome. Prices vary greatly depending on the manufacturer, scarcity and of course condition. High end on rotary candlesticks seem to be around $300, with average phones in the $100 to $200 area.
[ Be aware of numerous 'reproductions' ]

old phone candlestick
Candlestick Phones 1890s-1920s

All of the major early manufacturers of old phones made some form of the well recognized candlestick phone. There are many models and variations in several colors and metals. It is this large selection of designs and styles that make specializing in candlestick phones both challenging and exciting for many old phone collectors. Quality candlestick phones sell for around $150 to $300. However some of the older and more exotic models can bring prices well over $1000, and in a few cases over $5000.
[ Be aware of numerous 'reproductions' ]

old phone crank style
Wooden Crank Phones 1876-1910s

Of course for old phone collectors, the wooden crank phones represent the 'Rolls-Royce' of the genre. As the viability of telephones evolved, various manufacturers were all jockeying for dominance. They produced an array of designs and models aimed at specific market segments. Rarer models of the old phones are very hard to find, as few of these 100 year old plus phones remain today. Those that do are vigorously competed for, often going in the thousands of dollars. Occasionally some of the more common models can be acquired on eBay for a few hundred dollars.
[ Be aware of numerous 'reproductions' ]

According to experts, old phone prices are expected to increase.
Perhaps you should Invest in some yourself,
-- you'll be glad you did!
eBay Old Phone Auctions


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