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What Made You Start Collecting Telephones?

Started by Doug Rose, June 06, 2010, 01:51:59 PM

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Doug Rose

Thirty++ years ago I had just started in the Telephone industry. I was walking a Flea Market with my then wife and I saw a great old black phone in wonderful condition. I turned out to be a manual Western Electric 302. Cloth cords and no dial, how did this thing work? I dickered with the Lady and got the 302 for $5. I played with this thing for days. I keep trying new combinations with the wires, finally dial tone! I thought I was Alexander Graham Bell! But I couldn't get it to ring, so I had my then wife hold the bare wires from the house wiring to the bare wires of the cloth line cord and I would call in from my neighbors. I heard her from my neighbors and she didn't even pick up the phone. 90 volts ring voltage does smart, she got the shock of her life, but my phone worked! RING!! I was hooked. Every weekend yard sales and Flea Markets. LOOOOOOOOOOONG before eBay and it was and still is; a blast. Thirty ++ years later, new wife - new life; but I am still hooked on telephones. I still work in the industry and still have the same passion for telephones. I picked up a great 302 yesterday for $10, the thrill is still there. I took me a little less time to get it to work, even though it has a dial....Doug


Quote from: Kidphone on June 06, 2010, 01:51:59 PM
90 volts ring voltage does smart, she got the shock of her life, but my phone worked! RING!!

maybe why she is the "then" wife  ??? :o ;)

i got into collecting phones about 7 years ago, after i started working for the phone company. oddly enough the first phone, i actually bought for my son. he was just in his new apt, i got him a "hotline" phone so ma could keep in touch.   ::) a red 500. 1955 chassis, with newer modular cords & housing.


I've always liked phones for some reason, and i was going through a box of stuff I had stored away about 3 years ago, and got the bug. At the time one of the phones was a WE 500, and the other was an A&E. I didn't even know they were different phones.

The More People I meet, The More I Love, and MISS My Dog.  Dan Robinson

Russ Kirk

For me,  tinkering with telephones has been something I have been doing ever since i was 8 or so. I remember adding long - non legal - mounting cords and set up a secret phone in my bedroom.  I "fixed" a phone so I can eaves drop on my much older sister when she was talking with be boy friends.  Yes I was an evil little brother.   

In my early 20's I started as a PBX installer with Pacific Telephone,  that was over 30 years ago. 

I started a mild and small collection when some phones occasionally fell off my phone truck now and then. My collecting slowed when I went into engineering.  Once I got bit by the eBay bug my collection began to grow.  I have been actively collecting for the last 10 years and growing more in the last 5 years. 

When will I stop collecting?  That is a tough one,  room for the collection is a growing problem,  since I do not want to have y collection sitting in boxes in a storage.  So far,  my collection is about 125 phones on display and maybe another 30 or fixer uppers or junkers in storage. So,  for the near future,  I will have to get a bigger house.


- Russ Kirk


I started playing with phones at about 14 in about 1965 when the phone police would bust you for having an illegal phone hooked up.  I ran a line between my bedroom and my friend's bedroom who lived next door.  We got some magnetos to ring each other.

I once had my brother hold the wires while I cranked the mag.  He didn't see the same sort of fun in that as I did.

In the 1960's there were about as many 302's still in circulation as there were 500's.  The 302's, we all thought, were a piece of crap because they were old fashioned.  Candlesticks and wood wall phones were very plentiful at second hand stores and antique stores.  Because the phone company owned all the phones, and it was "illegal" to hook up your own, modern phones were impossible to find anywhere.  To get a 500, you had to have a phone installer give you one on the sly (fell off the truck) or you had to take one with you when you moved, and claim someone else must have taken it.

There were off-brand phones in the Army/Navy surplus stores (and they looked like they went through a war, which they did!), and you could order them from ads in Popular Science or Popular Mechanics magazines.  

After the break-up of Ma Bell and it became just fine to have your own phone, the phones seemed to come out of the woodwork, and suddenly everyone had a non-phone company phone or two.

I was always kind of collecting phones on the sidelines, until the last 5 or so years.  In many respects, I wish I had been actively scooping up lots and lots of phones in the 70's and 80's, but if I had, I would be very poor and I would need a barn.

So, the interest in telephones and making them work is really my passion in phones.  More so than cleaning and polishing them, although I seem to find myself doing my share of the cleaning and polishing and restoring too.

-Bill G



Dennis Markham

Jorge, you can't blame me.  It was within you all the time.  Maybe I just helped bring it to the surface! :)



I know. But it was not until I browsed your site that I knew that phones came in many colors, other than red, black and beige. Then I wanted to have one of each, then one AE, then two, ......



Quote from: JorgeAmely on June 06, 2010, 11:03:50 PM
Then I wanted to have one of each, then one AE, then two, ......

And now you have all the AE colors that AE80's and 90's were available in.

Time to start on AE Stylelines...there are approximately 20 Styleline colors. I am only missing one or maybe two Styleline colors......



My interests are strange convergence of old-school and high-tech.   I have always been a bit of a techno-geek, but simultaneously a history buff and antique collector.  My parents got me started collecting various things as a hobby when I was a kid.  About 12 years ago, I learned the basics of low-voltage systems cabling for my work as an IT technician.  I later went to work for a company where telephone systems were part of the IT department's responsibility, so I got into more detail on the voice side.  

I work in IT management now, so I don't get my hands dirty as often, but I still tinker with the voice stuff from time to time.  The younger technicians don't like to touch telephone cabling for some reason -- but there is nothing better for stress relief than punching down a 50-pair cable.  Thanks to the rise of VoIP, there aren't many opportunities to do that anymore.  

About a year ago, I got the bug to find some old rotary phones to tinker around with and use around the house.  I got a 1948 WE302 as a gift, and picked up a couple on eBay.  I did a lot of reading on the Bell System memorial page, Dennis Markham's site, and others -- and began to acquire and work on restoring a number of other phones.

Thanks to a tolerant wife, a plentiful supply of Novus 2, some short spans of free time between work and family, and the friendly and knowledgeable folks on this forum, collecting and restoring phones has turned into a wonderful and relaxing hobby for me.  There just is no greater thrill than finding some quirky old wreck of a phone for a few bucks and bringing it back to life.    I've even started a tradition that once a week, I pick one of the working phones out of my collection and call a family member or friend that I haven't talked to in a while.  Some of them even start the conversation by saying "So which phone are we talking on now?"

Other than the disturbing fact that my 5 year-old can tell the difference between an E1, F1, G1, and G3 handset -- I'll just sum up by saying that this whole phone hobby is a heck of a lot of fun.


I started collecting phones 5 or 6 yrs ago to keep, of all things, my sanity, ain't that a hoot!! I've run out of hobbies after 32 yrs at home. Old phones are fun!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Get Your Dial On!!!!  Yeah ,I still have a few loose screws!!!!  stub
Kenneth Stubblefield


I started tinkering with phone equipment as a teenager, while building phone patch gear for amateur radio stations.  At the time it was a clandestine operation.  Parts were sold and traded "under the table" at hamfests and designs were generally passed along by word of mouth -- nothing formal in writing.

After years in high tech, working on projects that lasted for years and on long-term business and engineering strategies, it was a treat to spend time in the shop working on old phones. The results of an hour's tinkering and polishing produced instant gratification.   Over the years, it gradually grew, but really took off in the late 1990s when email and the internet let us get connected.
Visit:         WE  500  Design_Line


Come in Nighthawk

"I've always wanted one..." of those old oval-based phones with the funny-shaped (i.e. "spit cup") mouth-piece.  I'd been dragged through a few antie-que shoppies by my Frau in recent years, and kept my eyes open, but "no joy."  Closest I got was what is an ITT black plastic desk phone, stamped in black on the bottom: "500 00 LR 30M."  A "copy" of the W.E. 500, I guess?  It works anyway...

Then, I was watching _The Sting_ (1973) about a month ago, when the scene ran on the DVD where "Kid Twist" (Harold J. Gould) was in his stake-out across the street from "The Wire" shop, and he was using an oval-based old phone to receive and then pass the "tips" to Doyle Lonnegan (Robert Shaw).  It reminded me, I always wanted one.  So, I decided to see what might be on eBay, and was amazed.  I also found this forum!!!

Pretty much that simple!!  ;D


I had an interest as a kid in all kinds of mechanical and electrical things, I was constantly taking things apart to try and figure out how they worked and putting them back together. I guess that is why I ended up fixing cars for 30-some years! As I mentioned in another thread at 15 my dad told me I could no longer use his phone, I don't blame him now, I was on the phone nightly with my girlfriend for hours. I had my own phone installed in my bedroom and I was very interested in the whole process, I followed the installer around watching everything and asking a ton of questions. He even gave me a tool he had made for releasing the fingerwheel and showed me how to use it! Guess I was lucky and got a real nice guy, I would probably not be as patient! I must have remembered though because a year later when my dad wanted a phone installed in the basement I did the install. Recently, a year and a half or two years ago I picked up a magneto phone at auction to sell on eBay. I had no idea what it was but I just liked the way it looked. I took it apart, cleaned & polished it then when I was trying to identify it I found TCI and joined. Reading all the posts was very interesting and when Steve Hilz offered a faded Pink 500 "parts phone" for $5.00, I bought it. Again I took it apart, asked a lot of questions on the list and spent two weeks wetsanding it, it came out looking awesome and it worked! I was hooked, the sickness spread from there so now I have about a hundred or so phones! I did eventually sell the Ericcson magneto I got at auction, I paid too much for it but in the end sold it to a guy in Finland for twice what I paid! I have been going crazy looking for the tool that installer gave me way back when but cannot find it. I know I had it not long ago because I kept it in my junkbox on my dresser and remember seeing it. It also came in handy during a phase of my life for poking out pipe screens and removing resin! ;D
Harry Smith
ATCA 4434

"There is no try,
there is only
do or do not"


What you are describing is the advanced stage of the disease. I don't even know what's ahead, or if there is a cure.  ;D ;D ;D

I think I want to collect all colors of the AE34.  ;)  (That will put an end to the disease)