With a big increase in the interest of old Vintage BT telephones , such as the 746 Telephone produced in 1970’s and 1980’s, many new manufacturers have flooded the market with modern replicas of this iconic telephone.
One of the greatest strengths of the original vintage telephone was its robust construction and the superb British engineering of the internal components. Unfortunately this can’t be matched in these inexpensive reproductions. This is particularly true of the sound of the bells, the modern replicas are vastly inferior in terms of quality and sound of the bell ring. Some modern GPO 746 replicas are not even the same basic shape as the originals, apparently based instead on an American 500 series telephone.
Many people who buy these inexpensive replica 746 telephones (made in China) are often disappointed in these new telephones as they remembered the original old telephones fondly for the high quality of construction, the substantial weight and the lovely sound of the classic and distinctive bell “ring ring”.
As always do your homework, if you have a nostalgic desire for one of these iconic old BT telephones research is the key. You can still buy these original vintage telephones that have either been restored or re-cased, provided you don’t mind using a rotary dial (which I believe is part of their charm).
Original 746 telephones, restored or re-cased (new plastic case but the original internals and dial) are usually more expensive than the modern replicas, however I believe they represent far better value for money as essentially they are still original and have all the iconic characteristics people remember.
Although this site is mostly about Retro Telephones I believe its still worth mentioning the classic British Bakelite Telephone. These antique telephones were the first Bakelite Telephones to be used in the UK. These telephones were made of Bakelite and had a separate “Bell Set” that contained the bell. However this “Bell Set” could be mounted underneath the telephone as shown below and the telephone was then called a “combined set”. These Bakelite telephones are now regarded as iconic Art Deco phones in the UK.
These 200 series telephones were predominantly made in the 1940’s, however they were produced for the GPO between 1929 and 1957. These vintage telephones were produced in the standard black, rare ivory, very rare red and extremely rare jade green.
Again although not classed as Retro I believe its worth mentioning the most popular British Bakelite telephones (classified as Antique or Vintage), known as the 300 series Bakelite telephones.
They were the first British Bakelite phones to contain an internal bell. Before this telephones always had a separate “Bell Set”. This superb telephone with its classic hard lines is very sought after. The standard 300 series telephone was known as the 332, although the 300 series range contained several models, usually resulting in extra chrome buttons (above the dial), such as the 312 which had and extra button for shared service working.
The other models with the extra chrome buttons are rarer than the standard 332 and hence they are more collectable and harder to find in “Grade A” condition.
In this Bakelite Telephone Era 99.9% of all these telephones were Black.
The rarest colour for an antique 332 telephone is Green as in the one above.
The classic British Retro Telephone is the 706 (made in the 1960’s).
These classic 1960’s 706 telephones were the first modern Plastic Telephones in the UK to be offered in a range of standard colours, such as ivory, red, green, concord blue, topaz yellow as well as black.
Before this the standard colour for a British telephone was Black, and although ivory, red and green were made they were very rare, less than 1:10,000 of all the Bakelite telephones in use in the UK were coloured rather than standard Black.