Vintage 1959 Western Electric Bell rotary wall telephone, in box, $2.

The collecting of antique telephones and telephony equipment was an extremely popular pastime long before eBay was around. So, what does a 1950s vintage Western Electric wall telephone have that would be of interest to collectors? Let's take a look.

When it comes to vintage collectable telephones, we like to scurry around looking for the more unusual items, like the really old examples from the early part of the 20th century, or the weird and wildly colorful examples of 1960's pop art.

So, as with most areas of collecting, it's really easy to understand it when the telephone collectors out there take interest in the rare and unusual examples, isn't it? So, just what is it that this clunky old black 1960s wall telephone has to offer anyone? This phone was about as basic as you could get back when it was state of the art, and I bet there are lots of them still sitting around in barns and attics across the country.

Back when this telephone was the pinnacle of consumer technology, you didn't just go to the local electronics store to buy one, you know. You contacted your local telephone company and the technician (in this case, from Illinois Telephone Company) actually came to your residence with your new telephone in hand, ready to wire it up. Remember, this was back before the 'modular' phone jacks of today, where you actually had to wire the damned telephone right into the house, instead of simply plugging it in to a box.

Now, look at the back of the phone in the photo and notice the 12-59 in red letters. This phone was actually manufactured in December of 1959. But little green tag bears the date of November of '64. What the hell does that mean? Does it mean that the phone sat around in the warehouse for five years? Well, not exactly.

Back in the olden days, electronics weren't as disposable as they are nowadays, which means that it was actually economically feasible to send old telephones back to the manufacturer for refurbishing and subsequent reinstallation. And that's just what happened in the case of this phone... except that it never got reinstalled. For some reason, it ended up shoved away somewhere, still in the box, where it sat for over forty damned years.

But why all the collector interest? It's important for you to understand that this telephone is actually only a small part of the equation. What this box of goodies really represents is a perfect 'snapshot' of a tiny segment of the 1960's - a telephone, still in its original box, with all the original paperwork (there I go with the paperwork thing again) that would've accompanied it right out to the customer's house.

The important lesson here is not so much about collectable telephones, because this telephone by itself would be a rather poor example of collectability. The real lesson here is about the packaging. The desirability of any collectible is always enhanced when the original packaging is present, and can actually multiply an item's value.

This snapshot of the past sold on eBay for $108

Photo of 1959 Western Electric Bell black wall telephone