Vintage Rotary Telephones
Vintage Rotary Phones are vintage telephones featuring a rotary dial.
The origins of rotary telephones can be traced to Almon Brown Strowger, an undertaker from Kansas City who was awarded a patent in 1892 for the rotary dial, a device that provided a simple process of accessing a network by manually entering a series of numbers.
In 1898, A.E. Keith, along with Charles and John Erickson, were granted a patent for a rotary device that they invented that allowed subscriber level dialing. Their invention showcased lugs that were utilized for turning dials. In 1904 the design for rotary dial phones was modified when holes replaced lugs on dialing plates. The rotary phone wasn’t offered by the Bell Telephone Company to the public until 1919.
When it entered the market, the rotary dial phone was warmly received by consumers. By 1950s, it was already regarded as the industry standard. Up until the 1970s, the rotary phone was still widely used. The entry of more advanced touch phones during the 1980s caused rotary phones to be eventually phased out. Bakelite, Western Electric and ITT were the most popular manufacturers during the time when rotary phones dominated the market.
Guide for Collectors
Despite the more novel modern phones that are available today, some people still go for this type of phone for style, to recapture childhood memories or remind them of slightly better days, when things were more fun and less stressful. These phones are known for their durability and functionality. They also come in a variety of styles and designs.
The oldest, most iconic and perhaps, the best, is the candlestick phone which dates back to the early 20th century. This type of rotary phone has a ringer housed in a box separate from the phone’s body. Classy Black Bakelite phones that feature a rotary dial on the front and a single handset containing both a microphone and an earpiece can be found in serviceable condition today in online auction sites such eBay, or in antique shops. The big chunky plastic retro phone is a thermo-mould plastic model with a rotary dial on the front and an indestructible plastic handset that can easily be converted to work on modern networks.
It is still quite possible today to find original vintage rotary phones that are still in relatively good condition. Specialist dealer shops, antique fairs, or even Web-based auction sites such as eBay are known to offer them.
Examples of groups that a rotary phone enthusiast or collector may find to be useful joining are the following:
The Antique Telephone Collectors Association (ATCA). Members of this group can have access to diagrams, technical facts and other interesting information about antique phones. It is non-profit, and membership costs around $35 a year.
The Telephone Collectors International offers links and information that can help an individual build or organize his antique rotary phone collection.
Notable Auction Sales
For sales based on auctions, one of the priciest to date involves a Vintage rotary dial pay telephone used in the show "Happy Days" (ABC-TV, 1974-84). The starting bid at Guernsey’s was $1,000 but the final value reached $2,800 on 16 March 2008.
A Deco-Tel personal vintage box hotel telephone was sold for $10 at Auctions Neopolitan on 30 December 2008.
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