First I thought it was only a fantasy telephone. When I started collecting telephones and trying to find information about them, I noticed that in some posters and promotional material by the Dutch PTT a certain type of telephone was used quite often.
Never actually having seen one in an actual photo, I first thought it was a fantasy phone. But then I visited an exhibition on the work of N.P. de Koo, a famous graphic designer. He in particular pictured this telephone a lot. I noticed that most of what he pictured was quite an accurate representation of actual objects. So I started to look for a photograph of an actual telephone that looked like the one in the pictures. And I could not find one…………untill one was offered for sale on the internet.
It looked very similar, but the handset was quite different. And a while later I saw one, also advertised for sale, with the correct handset and dial. And after fierce bidding it soon after dissappeared again, being sold for quite a high price. So I learned that an original one was rare and rather wanted by collectors.
So what was this telephone?
As time passed I learned more and more about it, although it’s origins are somewhat murky. It is a telephone made by TEFAG, but it was called a Berliner in the Netherlands. Berliner was the original name of TEFAG. It was produced from 1931 until about 1938, only for the Dutch market.
It comes in several different versions: the regular desktop version, a wall version and several multi-line versions for small business installations.
As the Dutch telephone network was automated from 1922 onwards and the number of subscribers increased, dial telephones were needed in ever greater numbers. Many models were refurbished with an added dial.
In the 1930s a few models were used in the Netherlands that were designed with a dial, like the Siemens modell 27 (W28), the BTMC 2712 and this TEFAG Berliner.
And that is probably why Nicolaas de Koo and PTT were so smitten with this model: not only was it a telephone designed with an integrated dial, but it was the only one made of the wonder material bakelite (Ericssons telephones were only introduced in the Netherlands in the late 1930s). That made this telephone the ultimate symbol of modernity and the vanguard of high technology.
So during the 1930s it was featured heavily in PTT printed materials and documentation. It was on the cover of manuaks, in posters, flyers, etc etc usually in silhouette form. It was even on the cover of the telephone guide for decades. It was during this period The Telephone!
What happened to them?
After the war a large part of the Dutch telephone system was devestated. Because it was made up of a lot of former independant networks that were merged with PTT there was a huge range of models in use. So there was an urgent need to standardise, but also to make due.
A lot of equipment was phased out during the 40s and new standards were issued to which equipment was to conform culminating in the final standard, Norm 51.
The Berliners could not conform to this standard so they were phased out, at least the normal desk and wall versions were. Phased out in this case means being scrapped.
The multiline versions were still used for a while, with new dials and handsets, made by Ericsson. It is these refurbished versions that are the most seen these days.
Nevertheless, survivers are rare, in their original state superrare and many collectors haven’t even heard of this telephone, so they are not even aware it existed.
Even in PTT publications on their history this telephone is not pictured, mentioned or written about. Which is strange, as it once was their proud symbol of modernity and technological development.
So now it is almost gone, and almost forgotten………
In my collection
Through the years I have been able to find some of these Berliners. There is of course the most abundant muli-line version, although I had to do a very thorough restoration before it was in an good original state. I wrote an article about how I merged 2 telephones into one.
I also have acquired a single line desktop version. I have only seen that version in contemporary photographs and do not know of any collector owning one.
And of course there is the wall version: still a project to do. Somebody has replaced all the wiring with newer threads, of only one colour. So that will be quite a job to correct.