- Last Updated on Wednesday, 19 May 2010 05:00
- Published on Wednesday, 19 May 2010 05:00
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A gentleman in Lancaster recently purchased this antique telephone at an estate sale for $175. It is an oak box, and the metal work is in excellent condition, showing no signs of rust or deterioration. The piece came to the Northern Neck many years ago from a home in New Jersey. The label reads “Western Electric”, and the finish, although somewhat alligatored, is original. The bells are operable manually, and have good tone to them.
Antique telephones have retained their popularity through the years, and this one is especially fine. In this case I recommend against refinishing the oak, which is the most common wood used in such telephones. If the alligatored finish is bothersome, applying Kotton Klenser should smooth it without removing the original varnish. If not available locally, it is on the Internet, and the company has a web site. A quart costs less than $10. In the past The Burgess House at Burgess regularly stocked Kotton Klenser.
The demand for these telephones is constant, and they always sell well. This one is worth $250, in large measure because of its superior state of preservation, thus the purchase was a good buy. I have seen many of them that owners have adapted for modern use, but that requires stripping the machine of the mechanical parts that are the source of much of its value, and installing modern equipment. The latter meets the needs of contemporary communication, but takes from the authenticity of the piece.
Often these old phones find their way to restaurants and other establishments that are trying to effect a “look”, whether the instruments work or not. Possibly this one came from the wall of a general store. Great demand also exists for the old telephone booths, particularly the red English ones, which can go for upwards of $2,500.