I had never been to a swap meet before. My friend Andy suggested it to me and I could sleep on his sofa. Sounded like a good idea. Visit a friend, check out his telephone collection, and bring him some more phones J, go to the swap meet, meet some people in the flesh, that I only met on line, meet some new people, rummage around for much needed parts, perhaps buy a phone and pop back.
So that is what I did. Booked a cheap flight to Luton on a Friday evening and a return flight the next Saturday evening. Just a quick visit.
The swap meet was organised by THG, the Telecommunications Heritage Group (click here for more info on THG swap meets). It was held in a room at a community centre in Milton Keynes. There were about 20 tables with collectors selling and swapping telephone stuff and other things related to telecommunication.
But my trip started of course with taking a flight to Luton on a Friday evening and arriving at my friend Andy’s house, bringing him four more telephones. Andy is an avid collector of various things. He has an extraordinary house packed with several collections, among which are radio’s, phonographs, shellac records, tractor ads, clocks, etc etc.
He runs a facebook page called Andy’s radio/gramophone/telephone classics showing his latest finds, so please give his page a like.
The house is full of these things, all nicely displayed. The living area is in the kitchen, where I slept on the sofa for one night. Please mind it is a sofa, not a couch, as it is located in the UK. J Here is a link to Andy’s facebook page, where he posts new additions to his various collections.
The swap meet
The next morning we went to the community centre and although we were early, there were a few dozen visitors already. And of course there were tables full of all kinds of display goodies.
Please note that I do not have many British telephones in my collection. They weren’t used in the Netherlands much. Of course a red telephone is always welcome in my collection, no matter where it comes from.
I did require some parts for the British telephones that I do have: feet for 300-series telephones, 200 series telephones, handset and dial for a Gecophone, wires, etc.
So that was my plan: find parts, perhaps buy a nice red phone, books or other documentation and keep an eye out for something interesting of any kind. But most importantly I was actually going to meet some people I had had only digital contact with, so far.
I did find a lot of the parts I needed. That means I can go ahead restoring a couple of telephones I have. I also found a small GPO binder with telephone diagrams. That was a really nice find, as it cost me only 3 pounds. And other collectors told me that it was quite a bargain. 🙂
Unfortunately there were no red telephones in my price range. There were 2 red bakelite telephones, but the asking price exceeded my budget by quite a lot.
But as I entered the room, I almost immediately spotted a nice and intricate device I had been curious about for quite a while: a key sender! They were not used in the Netherlands so we do not see those here too often. I did a quick survey of the room to make sure there wasn’t something else higher on my must have list and bought it!
Unbelievably I got something even better than that key sender: a TEFAG 1920s metal desk telephone, here pictured on the left. It was totally unexpected and I have been looking for a good one of these for years. Several slipped to my fingers when I tried to outbid other collectors on the internet. I was very pleased to finally own one. Even without this TEFAG, the trip was really worthwhile, but this beauty was really the cherry on the apple sauce. It does need some restoration and I need to replace the dial and handset, though.
Not only did I meet up with my friend Andy, but also his partner Jan. And as I had announced on Facebook that I was going to attend this swap meet, I had already been contacted by a couple of other collectors that they were going to attend as well. There was Jason Workman, with whom I had a great chat about starting up my old telephone exchange from the 60s (a project I will start on next year, probably). And there was Andy Irving, a fellow collector and Andrew Emerson, the founder of THG. To my delight he brought an old Atea telephone, I asked about, for me to inspect up close. Unfortunately I was not able to bring a copy of his book, to get him to sign it. J I also met people I had not had contact with before, like Bob Angel http://antiquetelephones.co.uk/index.html who does great bakelite restorations and Chris Elliot from www.vintagetelephony.co.uk who does, among other things, great cords.
Visit to the museum
After a really good Chinese lunch with Andy and Jan, we met up with the people from the swap meet again at the Milton Keynes Museum (http://www.miltonkeynesmuseum.org.uk/).
It has among many other things, a great section with telephones and telephone history. You can actually touch and use many of the exhibits there, a bit like the German Telephone museum in Morbach, about which I wrote a review of my visit in 2016.
Flying home again: drugs or explosives?
As to be expected the security check was great fun at the airport. I already anticipated they would not be able to make heads or tails of that key sender. And so, after my overnight bag went through the security check x-ray machine, it was taken to the side for an extra inspection. I was asked by the guards if they could open my bag and after I explained what was in there, they checked the contents of my bag with a special sniffer device. After enquiring about it, it turned out that the sniffer checks for explosives and drugs. I was relieved that my key sender was neither explosive nor high. So after an hours flight and a short train ride, I arrived home after a full day, reeling from all these impressions and dizzy with a lot of new information. And to the delight of my wife 3 telephones lighter.