Telephone Talk > Collector's Corner

What Made You Start Collecting Telephones?

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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!!

--- End quote ---

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.

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.


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.


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