What is my old telephone worth? My theory of relativity

Silver and cristal phone
Silver and cristal phone

Wow! An old phone from the days of yore. It must be very valuable! Let’s ask Arwin how much exactly. One out of focus picture should be enough.

Yes, let’s do that. I have got a list with every phone model ever made with its current value, accurate to the cent. So with that single shady photograph which is not enough to tell me the exact telephone model I can determine that your phone is worth precisely 47 euros and 23 cent. You are very welcome.

I get a lot of questions about value. People seem to expect that it can be established absolutely and it means money in hand. I have increasingly more trouble responding to it with something concrete. There are so many variables, that the question is almost nonsensical.

Please appraise my phone

Money money money
Money money money

Because I am rather conspicuous as a telephone collector and restorer, people contact me for information about their old telephone. I gladly help them finding out more information about it. That is one of the main reasons why I made my website in the first place.

Some people ask me how much their phone is worth from the beginning, others after a few questions. I find it hard and often impossible to give a specific and concrete valuation. I feel it is meaningless and useless.

A picture says less than a thousand euros…..

Spot the telephone
Spot the telephone

Some people send me a photo. It is really easy to do as everybody has a mobile phone with camera and flash. So they wait until after sunset, find a dark back ground and take a close up picture, with some parts of the telephone out of the frame. Or they take a picture from the other room, with their dog in front of it, the phone on the coffee table next to an ashtray, a packet of cigarettes and a beer, with the TV on in the background.
All perfect for an in depth valuation of their priceless item.

Sometimes people send me more pictures., even good pictures. Pictures of the front, back, base, inside. Some people are even smart enough to take pictures of labels, writing, company logo’s, cords or even terminal boxes.

And even then it is very hard to tell in what state the phone precisely is. It can be repainted, waxed, bakelite may be cracked, electrical circuits fried. And these are just aspects that may decrease the value.

Perhaps the bakelite is like new, just dirty. Or there is this detail that makes it a sought after collector’s item that is not in the picture. Even pictures do not say it all.

“I have one exactly like yours!”

same same but different
same same but different

Some people do not send me a picture at all. Sometimes they just quote the writing that is on the base of their phone. That is moderately useful information. At least it tells us what kind of phone it is and when it was made.

Others refer to a picture or article on my website, stating they have the exact same one. They probably don’t. Mine was restored down to the very last nut and bolt and theirs is not. That is a significant difference.
Or mine is very rare so it is unlikely they have one too.

Or theirs is in better condition, or worse. As we are talking value here, it is of course not exactly the same.

It takes 2, babe!

2 bidders go mad
2 bidders go mad

Sure, there is this on line auction where 2 people have bid like crazy on the same phone as you have. It went for a gazillion euros and now you think yours may fetch the same. It will not.

There were 2 people wanting to spend so much money on that particular phone. Now there is only one left.

So next time such an item will be put up for auction, it will not fetch that much. It takes two nutcases to want to pay that much.

Again, such an auction does not tell you very much.

Rare is not the same as sought after

Heemaf 1955 intercom telephone
Heemaf 1955 intercom telephone

I have many rare phones. Some are bordering on the unique. I have versions of phones that were made in very small numbers. Like that intercom version of the Heemaf 1955 made for Philips. But rarity does not always impact the market value. They are only of interest to only a few people. There a huge number of rare phones. But only a select few are sought after.

I live in the Netherlands!

The Netherlands are not the same as the USA, or the UK, or France or Lebanon. I do not keep tabs on foreign markets. What may be valuable here, may not be as prized in Canada and vice versa.

Theory of relativity

Arwin's theory
Arwin’s theory

What you can get for a phone depends very much on where, when and how you sell it. Prices not only vary per country, but even different websites give a different yield. I used to sell on a website for design objects. It gave me double of what I got on www.marktplaats.nl, where I usually sell.

Also prices vary during the year: in summertime I sell very little and from february to may is the busiest time of the year, with prices varying accordingly.

Of course the state the phone is in, affects the price. Also the way you describe it and the quality of the accompanying pictures have a huge impact on the price.

And let us not forgot: value is affected by who sells it. If I sell it as a collector/restorer I will get more for a phone, than a non-collector.

So the question: “what is my telephone worth?” is extremely hard to answer. I cannot give a short answer to that, even if I can answer it meaningfully. And it probably is not what you want to hear.

And the only correct answer is really very short, but it is even worse. It is an answer you really really do not want to hear. Because my good sir or madam, your telephone is invaluable!

4 Comments

  1. Hi Arwin. Good article! Requests for valuations are the bane of my life! To the point I wrote an article which i published in a couple of local club newsletters and recently on my site. You will need to scroll to the bottom of the page to find it. It is an Australian perspective but very similar to your own. It is a worldwide issue. Best regards John

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