Deadstock rotary phones for sale

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Twine is selling these magnificent vintage rotary phones, retrieved from the British General Post Office where they were never used. They ain't cheap though: $210. Tellies (Thanks, Kelly Sparks!)


    1. No reason they won’t in terms of the age factor. The phones were never used, so the components have suffered no wear or tear.

      1. Re age of components. I was actually thinking of the electronics, the capacitors and the like. Do they have that long a shelf life?

    2. Back in the day, the British phone system worked off of a 3 wire system instead of the 2 wire tip/ring system in use in the USA. Used to be a bitch when our ship pulled into one of the old British colonies in the Caribbean and the C.O. would want us to hook into their system.

      1. RHK: Go back far enough and the US phone system was also 3 wire. Red and green carried the signal, and yellow carried the ring voltage. To use and old, 3 wire phone to the newer 2 wire system, you’d hook the yellow wire to one side of the red/green pair, and voila! Dial the phone from another number. If it didn’t ring, hook the yellow wire to the other side and try again. I’d bet it worked the other way, too. Just channel the yellow ring voltage onto the correct side of the red/green pair to make a US phone ring.

        1. I got one of these old rotary phones from the U.K., via eBay. Got it to work, but not ring. I’ll have to try that 3 to 2 wire hack and see if it will ring.

          Thanks for the info!

  1. My parents have a couple of these, although they don’t use them any more (even when I was a kid they were the less-often used phones). They only do pulse dialling (not tone dialling), which is still supported by the exchange but isn’t supported by most “Press 1 to do X” systems.

    They had a good “brrring-brrring”, and it was actually worth not needing to dial the area code for local numbers.


  2. Whether they would work or not in the US depends completely on 2 things: 1. Does the local exchange still support pulse dialing? My understanding from years ago is that pulse is grandfathered in for all of eternity, but…

    2. Does the phone use 10 pulses for “0” and the same count of pulses as the digit for non-zero digits, or does it use 1 pulse for “0,” 2 pulses for “1,” and in general +1 pulse for the non-zero digits? If it’s the latter, phone numbers can be transcribed from one system to the other by understanding the difference, but it’s a pain.

    Finally, having to dial local area codes has nothing to do with whether the phone is rotary or touch. It has to do with whether the local service office’s system now requires local area codes because there’s more than one area code for the same “area.” If two area codes are intermixed in the same locale, it is necessary to dial local area codes.

    1. In answer to some questions, these phones use 10 pulses for ‘0’. Pulse dialing should still work fine on modern exchanges, if for some reason you have trouble with pulse dialing a simple DTMF keypad held over the microphone will work a treat. DTMF keypads are also nesessary if you have to deal with an automated “press 2 to speak to..” system.

  3. Oops. One more post to clear up another possible point of confusion: In the “ring/tip” system, “ring” does not refer to the voltage that causes the phone to ring. The names is based on the appearance of a phono plug and jack. The “tip” is the pointy part of the plug. The “ring” is the barrel part of the plug behind the little insulating band. In a DC electrical system, the tip is usually the positive pole and the ring is negative or neutral.

  4. Automated dial-in systems not supporting old rotary phones is much less of a problem than it once was, since most new telephone systems support voice recognition. “press or say one”.

    I have several old Western Electric rotary phones in use in my house and their call clarity far exceeds the plastic throw-away wonders made in China. Not to mention the thrill of dialing a telephone manufactured in 1936 and talking on it.

    1. I have reason to hate the systems which ONLY accept voice input, though.

      I was recently desperately in need to contact someone, but had no phone credit and was in the woolly wilds. So I rang the number to top it up.

      All went well, until it asked the last question: the name on the credit card.
      It: Please say your first name.
      Me: Dewi.
      It: I think you said your name was: Gary. Is that correct?
      Me: No.
      It: Sorry about that. Please say your first name again.
      Me: Dewi.
      It: I think you said your name was: Gerry. Is that correct?
      [This continued for quite some time. I was pretty sure that the name simply wasn’t in its database. But finally:]
      Me: Dewi.
      It: I think you said your name was: Dewi. Is that correct?
      Me: Woo-hoo!
      It: Sorry about that. Please say your first name again.
      Me: NOOOOOO!
      It: I think you said your name was: Romeo. Is that correct?

  5. Check out Old Phone Works (I do not have an affiliation with them.) They sell a pulse-to-tone converter called the Rotatone that fits inside the phone. I retrofit a 1957 Western Electric 501 in about 20 minutes. Add a 4-prong (circular type) phone jack and you’re in business. I know nothing about the circuits of these phones, but they are certainly similar and schematics are probably available somewhere. Any old BT techs know about them?

  6. This will not even work in the UK unless they have been converted. The original phones work on pulse, so while you can dial numbers, they will not work with voicemail and automated systems which require tone signals. They will also have old school connecting wires which have to be screwed inside a junction box.

    There are many one eBay that have already been converted to tone and have the correct plug on the cable.

  7. $210? Do they work in the USA? Seriously? My mom refuses to pay for touch tone (they charged for it years ago, who knows if they still do…hell, they could be charging her for pulse), and still has 2 of these (one cream, one black…I switched the bodies as a yout) PLUS a wall-mounted one. So they work in Massachusetts anyway. Yet I feel some incentive to kindly upgrade her a nice cordless set & offer to ebay…er…dispose of the old ones for her.

  8. I’d buy one purely as an objet d’arte, if I had the kind of decorating budget that would support that. Tragically, I do not. ::sniffle::

  9. All I have to say is, this is the kind of phone you need when you have to hit someone with it.

    My parents have one (not quite as vintage, but still) and it’s SOLID phone.

    Much like the scene from True Lies…. (I bet you’d even hear the bell ding when it hit.)

  10. I’ve found a UK company selling refurbished phones in similar colour combinations which “are fitted with brand new, original mouldings and cords and have not been re-polished or spray painted”. The only difference is that they cost £39.50 instead of $210 and the vendor doesn’t claim that they’ve never been used. :)

  11. No info on the ‘will it work in the USA’ question, but…

    I have two of these, one of which is red in case I need to call the Prime Minister. They have an excellent ringing noise, and even more important, they don’t fail. I had 4 sets of wireless phones that all packed up, but the proper phone is still going years later.

    Even more important: if you want to use your wireless phone in a power cut, hard luck. Obviously that’s true of any wired phone.

    If the dial stuck you can still ring someone up by tapping the handset rest switch quickly, eg 10 times for a zero, then a pause, then 9 times for a nine and so on. I tended to get confused halfway through.

  12. These phones are fully operational in the USA and come packed with an adapter to make them work with our phone systems.
    We’re getting more stock ASAP.
    – TWINE

  13. Back in the day, I used to work for Ma Bell, the old monopoly. If BT built phones the way Western Electric did, these things will last forever. Use some imagination in refitting them with modern electronics, and you’ll never live without them.

    Just don’t drop one on your foot!

  14. A minor correction to comment #10 by No Imagination: Phone systems are generally positive-ground (positive-earth), so the positive “tip” is also neutral, and the “ring” is “hot” even though it’s negative.

  15. To get these to actually ring in the UK (Not sure about US) you’ll more than likely need a ‘REN Booster’

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