Red mercury in vintage telephones part 1: what is it?

Red mercury crystals and liquid

Finding red mercury is the holy grail for many. They look far and wide to find it, as it is the stuff of myths. People are prepared to pay high prices for it. It was invented by the soviets during the cold war and allegedly has wonderful and special properties.

Lately I have been getting a lot of questions about this and requests for old telephones to extract the red mercury from. So I decided to do some research and what I found blew my mind.

I wrote a 2 part article about this substance, explaining what it is, its value, what it is used for, how to recognize, how to get it out of a telephone and more importantly how to sell it and additional sources with more information about it.

The selling part is especially significant, as the applications of red mercury are high tech, very specific and it is highly valuable. There are lots of buyers, but most of them are traders and brokers who want to make big bucks. You need to find a good party for your red mercury so you can top dollar for it. How? Read on and all will be revealed.

Suddenly lots of questions……

My stash of liquid mercury
My stash of liquid mercury

A couple of months ago I started getting questions from South East Asia about and request to buy phones my telephones. The people asking these questions were especially interested in pictures of the inside or send me photo’s of models they were looking for.
This was a bit surprising as there usually is not much interest from that corner of the world and people usually do not ask for pictures of the inside of my telephones.

After chatting with some of these people I got some pictures sent to me of electrical components containing a red metallic fluid: red mercury. So that is what they were looking for!

What is it and what is it used for?


In 1993 Pravda, the state newspaper of the Soviet Union, wrote this about it: “…..super-conductive material used for producing high-precision conventional and nuclear bomb explosives, ‘Stealth’ surfaces and self-guided warheads. Primary end-users are major aerospace and nuclear-industry companies in the United States and France along with nations aspiring to join the nuclear club, such as South Africa, Israel, Iran, Iraq, and Libya.”

It is a red metallic fluid, which of course gives it its name. As stated above it is highly explosive and super-conductive, so it is applied in nuclear bombs and also high capacity micro electronics, such as high end processors. It allows you to make small and compact atomic bombs and high capacity super CPU’s for military applications such as guidance systems and today high speed data analyses.

Why is it so valuable?

Red mercury is heavy stuff!
Red mercury is heavy stuff!

It is a relatively rare substance with many special properties and of course it is in high demand. It is worth about 100.000-250.000 euro per kilo at the moment, depending on its purity and age.

Yes, age is important. Because of the half life of some of the isotopes, it becomes more potent with age. The stuff you find in old phones and other electronics is decades old. The older the better it is and of course more valuable.

How to find it in old telephones?

Capacitor with Red Mercury
Capacitor with Red Mercury

Not all telephones contain red mercury. Telephones produced before the 1950s never contain this material, as it was only discovered somewhere around 1953. Obviously telephones from the former Soviet Union and other Warsaw pact countries never contain red mercury, as it was difficult to produce and much needed for military applications.
You do however, find them in phones mainly from highly developed industrialized countries such as the USA (not often), the UK and Belgium and other Western European countries.

You find it in metal box-like components, see picture and glass like blocks or tubes. These contain the liquid kind.

It is sometimes used in high sensitive microphone elements, in which you find the crystal form of red mercury, which looks like red sugar.

How do you get it out of a telephone and how to sell it?

Red mercury crystals
Red mercury crystals

Well, this is the cliff hanger. You will need to read part 2 of this article.

Curious? Interested? What is your experience with red mercury? Please leave a comment below!


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