|Do your old phones plug into modern phone
All of our phones -- with the exception of a few
New Old Stock phones -- have modern "modular" plugs and are
ready to instantly plug into the jacks in most homes. Some purists prefer that
these phones remain as they were made, but if you prefer, we can equip them with
modern modular plugs.
|Why are modular phones and cords called
In the mid-1970s American phone
companies started using phones with parts (i.e., a handset module and a base
module) that connected together with plug-in cords, instead of the older
"hard-wired" cords that required tools to connect. Modular cords were also
introduced to connect from the phone base to a modular jack on a wall.
Previous "portable extension phones" used a much larger plug with four
prongs. Modular plugs can be attached by machine. The four-prong plugs
require human hands for installation, cost much more than modular plugs, and
had to be made and stocked in multiple colors. The original Trimline phones
used plug-in cords but they were bulkier and costlier than modular cords.
Variations of the American modular connector system are used in many
countries, and are used for computers, test equipment and even radar
|(above) A: Modern handset with built-in modular jack and its handset cord. B: Ancient hard-wired handset cord
with spade lugs. C: Original Trimline five-conductor handset cord.
D: Ancient four-hole jack and four-prong plug. E: Ancient "42A" terminal
block with hard-wired line cord from phone. (Upper item is the cover.) F: Modern modular
"surface jack" with modular line cord from phone. Modular jacks are made in many colors and formats, including surface- and flush-mounting.
|How do I install a wall phone?
designed for wall mounting usually have sliding modular plugs that fit into
specialized wall jacks. These jacks have mounting studs that look like
flattened mushrooms that fit into slots on the back of the phone to support
the phone, and a "female" connector that protrudes from the face of the jack
Some wall phones (see photo farther down) have short cords with plugs,
instead of plugs that slide up and down in a slot as shown in the photo.
Those phones will work with this type of jack, also.
The phone in the photo at the left has a security lock
(lower right) that helps keep the phone in place by latching over the lower
mounting stud. Some phones don't have it.
We have heard about, but never seen, a jack like
the one illustrated at the left.
Apparently jacks of this type are designed
to work with "convertible" corded and cordless phones that can be
used on a horizontal surface or mounted on a wall.
Those phones come with
short cords, not the sliding plugs shown above which are used with most wall
phones. If your phone has a sliding plug, you will not be able to
attach it to a jack like the one shown here, and you should replace the jack.
(above) Older wall phones, produced before
modular jacks became common, were designed for "hard wiring." Wires from
inside the wall entered the phone through an opening in the back and were
connected to the "L1" and "L2" screws on the terminal block inside the
(left) Adapters were made to convert hard-wired wall
phones to modular, but are hard to find now.
Some wall phones, particularly convertible models that also work as "desk"
phones, come with short cords that connect from the back of the phone to the
wall jack. Slots on the back of the phone fit over mounting studs on the
Do your wall phones have chrome or plastic switch hooks?
Back in the 1980s American telephone makers
switched from using chrome-plated steel switch hooks (left, above) to
transparent, translucent or opaque plastic switch hooks. We have a mixture
of chrome and plastic in stock. NOTE: just because you order from a page
that shows chrome, don't assume you will get chrome. If you specifically
want chrome, or specifically want plastic, ask us. We'll try to supply what
you want. Keep in mind that these phones are no longer being made and the
available stock decreases every day. We have never seen a phone with a
broken plastic switch hook, but we have seen some badly corroded chrome.
What's the difference between a ringer and a
Just the name. What normal
people call a "bell," telephone people call a "ringer." It's a thing that
rings. The sound is generated when a "clapper" bangs a "gong." The three
ringers above are functionally the same, but show evolution. "A" has a metal
frame. "B" has a plastic frame to save weight. "C" is also plastic but is a
compact design that saves even more weight. Any of the three types will work inside a standard #500, #554, #2500 or #3554 phone.
I bought a phone on eBay but it doesn't ring.
I can't return it. What should I do?
The problem can have several causes:
(1) There is no ringer in the phone.
(2) The ringer is defective.
(3) The ringer is connected improperly.
CLICK for some
(4) The ringer is "frequency selective," designed for ancient "party-line"
service. Ringer "A" above is for normal service. Ringer "B," with the
strange clapper, is for party-line service. There are other strange clapper
designs, too. If you have one of those ringers,
|I have touch-tone service. Will I be able to
use a rotary-dial phone?
88.3847% likely. If you have VoIP phone service
or DSL service or phone service from a cable TV company, ask your service provider before you order a rotary-dial phone.
HOWEVER, you may get bad information. Some AT&T tech support people will
tell you that their U-verse service will not work with rotary phones. It
will. So will Cablevision. We've heard conflicting reports about Verizon's FiOS, Vonage and Cox. The different experiences are probably caused by different equipment
installed at customers' premises, not by corporate policies or equipment
back at the 'mother ship.' Even if a rotary-dial phone can't dial out, it
can still ring and be used to talk on. We hope to start selling
|Why doesn't my touch-tone phone dial out?
There are several possibilities:
- It's defective. (Clues: you don't hear
tones or they are "sour", i.e. off-frequency)
- (Unlikely, clue: you hear normal touch-tones
but you can't "break" dial tone to make a call) Your phone company doesn't provide
- (Most likely, for an old phone made
before about 1985. Clue: when you press a button, instead of hearing a
tone you hear a click or a dull "thud.") The wires inside your phone
phone jack, or somewhere in your house, or outside on a pole or
underground or at the phone company -- have "reversed polarity."
Open up the phone jack (you may have to temporarily remove it from the
reverse the red and green wires. [See below.] Some jacks don't have red and green so you may have to
reverse the wires in a different-colored pair, usually white with blue
stripes and blue with white stripes, or maybe solid blue and solid
white. It's quite possible that your phone company has accidentally
reversed polarity in the wires feeding your home. You restore touch-tone
service by deliberately reversing the accidental reversal, canceling-out
the mistake. It's possible, however, that the phone company may make
another reversal in the future, usually while splicing a cable, and you
may have to reverse your previous reversal. This is why modern
touch-tone phones have "polarity guard" circuits.
Can I use your old phones in my office phone system?
should work fine if your system has "analog extension
ports" or "hybrid extension ports." Ask the person or company that installed
or maintains your system. If you have VoIP phone service or DSL
service or phone service from a cable TV company, ask your service provider before you order a rotary dial phone.
Will your phones work during a power failure?
Yes, and that's part of their appeal. Unlike
cellphones and cordless phones that require constant AC power or periodic
charging, our phones get their power from the phone company. They don't use
batteries, and don't have power cords. As long as you have dial tone, you'll be
able to make and receive calls. NOTE: If you use VoIP phone service, make sure
your VoIP terminal adapter is connected to a back-up battery ("UPS," or
Uninterruptible Power Supply).
What's New Old
The term probably originated in the antique car parts business, and refers to products that were made years ago, but never sold to an end-user. Our
"NOS" phones range from about two to 50 years old. Most of our NOS phones have their original boxes, which show some wear and tear. Some have new boxes.
|Are your phones made by Western Electric?
We've been surprised that some customers said
that they were surprised when they received phones from us that were not
made by Western Electric. Except for a few rare phones, we do not specify
brands. Our rotary-dial phones are made by multiple North American
manufacturers including Western Electric, Northern Telecom, Comdial/Stromberg-Carlson
Why are there so few New Old Stock Western Electric
Most Western Electric phones were built to be
rented by local Bell phone companies, not to be sold as retail products; so they never entered the new phone distribution pipeline with other brands like ITT. Some later AT&T phones were made for AT&T in Singapore or China, but collectors consider them to be less desirable than phones made by Western Electric in the USA. In the mid-1980s, WE made phones for sale under the names of former AT&T companies, such as BellSouth and PacTel, that were identical to the AT&T-branded versions
except for the labels and packaging.
What's a refurbished phone?
Refurbishing is just another word for reconditioning or
rebuilding. Traditionally, when a rental phone was taken out of service, it was
disassembled, cleaned, tested, and made to look and work like new, and then
rented to another customer. A refurbished phone may contain parts made in
different years, and even by different companies, but should be as good as a new
phone. Rental phones were built to last for many decades. Many people who
thought they got "new" phones from their local phone company, actually got
refurbs. Some phones were refurbished several times, and some 50-year-old phones
still work fine. Some refurbed phones were repainted, either with the original
or a different color.
Should I get New Old Stock or Refurbished?
It depends on what's important to you. If you crave
perfect appearance, NOS is a better choice than a phone that's been used. If
you're not a perfectionist and like to save money, get a refurb. If you want a
style or color that's not available in NOS, get a refurb. Our Nearly New phones
look as good as NOS, but are less expensive. They all have the same one-year
Who refurbishes your phones?
It varies. Some were refurbished by their manufacturers, such as Western Electric. Some were refurbished by local phone companies
in the US and Canada. Some were refurbished by companies that specialize in refurbishing. Some were refurbished by us.
We started refurbishing phones in 1977.
What's a Nearly New phone?
Our Nearly New Phones are less expensive than New Old
Stock, but look better than most refurbished phones. Nearly News usually have
new plastic shells, new dials, new handsets and new cords. Their internal
electronic and mechanical parts are carefully tested, and replaced if necessary.
Nearly News look and work just like New News. Unless you turn them over or take
them apart, you'd think they just came from the phone factory.
|What's an Almost New phone?
Our Almost New Phones are color conversions. They contain parts from two or
more phones that were never sold to an end-user, or some parts that were
never on a complete phone. No factory makes rotary dial "500" phones
anymore, but lots of people want them. We recently discovered some new
plastics, and we put them on never-sold phones that had been other colors.
They are absolutely gorgeous, and we don't have a lot of them.
Some phones are labeled "Bell
System Property. Not for Sale." Is it legal to buy or sell them?
Since the Bell system has not existed since the end of 1983,
nothing is Bell
Many phones with the "property" label were sold by local phone companies to
the people who had been renting them, and were subsequently given away,
junked, or sold.
What's a mechanical ringer?
That's the official phone industry term for a plain old bell that rings, as opposed to a new-fangled electronic ringer that warbles, chirps, beeps or purrs.
What's mechanical hold?
It's a simple hold circuit used on older 2-line and 3-line phones that puts a call on hold by placing a short circuit on the phone line. It's simple and inexpensive; but only the phone that put a call on hold, can take it off hold -- so it can be a PITA in a multi-phone environment. It's fine for a single user.
What's full modular?
Full Modular desk and wall phones
allow the handset cord to be unplugged from the phone body and from the
handset. On full modular desk phones, the line cord can be unplugged from the
Half Modular is a
description that applies to desk phones only, and is a relatively uncommon
configuration. The line cord can be unplugged from the phone body, but the
handset cord is permanently attached ("hard wired").
Quarter Modular is
a description that can apply to desk or wall phones. The phone is designed to
connect to a modular jack, but the handset cord is permanently attached ("hard
Non-Modular phones have not been made since about 1980. Both handset and line connections are hard wired.
Where are your phones made?
New Old Stock, Refurbished, Almost New, Nearly New, and Rough & Ready phones were made either in the US or Canada. Most traditional-style new wall and table phones are made in the US. New Trendline phones and reproductions of Western Electric phones are made in China.
Do you repair old phones?
Do you buy old phones?
Yes, but we usually buy in large quantities, not one or two at a time.
When was the last rotary dial phone made?
Cortelco (the company that used to be known as ITT) stopped in 2006. Other manufacturers stopped before then.
Many companies make phones with circular touchtone dialing pads, that look
like rotary dials from a distance.
When did people stop renting phones in the US?
A few thousand people still rent phones. Renting was mandatory until the late 1970s.
Today, AT&T is the name for the company that used to be called SBC. Who makes AT&T-brand phones?
In 1996, AT&T sold off its phone equipment manufacturing
operation as Lucent Technologies. Lucent was granted the right to use the AT&T brand name for several years until the Lucent name could be established. Initially, Lucent consumer phones carried both Lucent and AT&T labels.
In 1997, Lucent joined Dutch electronics giant
Philips (parent of Norelco, Magnavox, Sylvania and others) in a joint venture to make and market consumer phones.
The partnered companies had planned to use the Philips brand name, but neither "Philips" nor "Lucent" meant much on the shelves at Circuit City, so after a few months, Lucent got permission to keep using the AT&T name. Regardless of the brand name, the joint venture was a very bad idea, and was killed after less than one year.
AT&T once ran an expensive ad campaign -- possibly the only TV commercials ever broadcast for consumer phones -- promoting the virtues of "Genuine Bell." The campaign was a sham because many Bell (and, later, AT&T) phones were made by others. Sometimes an AT&T-made plastic shell contained non-AT&T innards. Sometimes a phone was AT&T inside, and the shell came from someone else. Often, it was all from someone else, but the quality was usually quite good. Lucent was in an ironic situation, as it tried to sell its consumer phone business in 1999. There was nothing very special about its factories and product designs. Its biggest asset was the AT&T label, which it twice planned to give up, but could not live without.
In 2000, the Lucent/AT&T package was sold to VTech, an Asian company that had previously made cordless phones that carried AT&T labels (and lots of other labels),
as well as electronic toys.
What happened to ITT?
Cortelco can trace its roots back to the Kellogg Switchboard and Supply Company. It began operations in 1897 near Chicago, and became a division of the International Telephone and Telegraph (ITT) in 1952. During the 1960s and 70s the business name and its affiliation with various other ITT divisions underwent various changes, but the changes had
very little impact on the day-to-day operations of the ITT telecommunications factory in Corinth, Mississippi.
During the 80s the Corinth facility was part of a joint venture between ITT and CGE, transferring the majority of
ownership to the newly-formed Alcatel, the world’s largest telecommunications manufacturer, based in France. Shortly after this merger, the American operation was named Cortelco – an acronym for Corinth Telecommunications
Corporation. In 1990, Alcatel sold Cortelco to former ITT executive, David S. Lee.
Comdial? What happened to Stromberg-Carlson?
Stromberg-Carlson was a telecommunications equipment manufacturing company formed as a partnership between Alfred Stromberg and Androv Carlson in 1894, when Alexander Graham
Bell's patent for the telephone expired. Stromberg and Carlson were employees of American Bell Telephone Company, and each invested $500 to establish a firm to
manufacture equipment for sale the non-Bell telephone companies.
Stromberg-Carlson was originally located in Chicago, with Carlson managing manufacturing and Stromberg responsible for marketing. In 1904, Stromberg-Carlson was purchased by Home Telephone Company, a relatively large service provider which was based in Rochester, New York, and which relocated all of Stromberg-Carlson to New York.
In 1955, Stromberg-Carlson was purchased by General Dynamics. In 1982, General Dynamics sold the phone system and telephone division of Stromberg-Carlson to Comdial Corporation. Comdial went bust in 2005 and was bought by Vertical Communications, which also bought phone system maker Vodavi.