People from the past just don't understand the overwhelming panic that comes with forgetting to put your phone on the charger when you go to sleep, and it's this special brand of obsession that we have with our phones that makes antique phones so intriguing. There's something about holding an old telephone that puts you right into the past; but they're good for more than just a trip down memory lane. Some antique and vintage phones values are in the thousands, and you'd be silly not to grab a piece of the pie.
Antique and Vintage Phones Worth a Fortune
|Valuable Antique and Vintage Phones||Estimated Value|
|1890s Candlestick Phones||$100-$400|
|Electric 3-Slot Rotary Pay Phones||$300-$400|
|Motorola DynaTAC 8000x||$500-$5,000|
|IBM Simon Personal Communicator||$500-$2,000|
|Apple iPhone 1st Gen||~$20,000|
|Motorola Aura R1||$2,000-$4,000|
For most, old telephone purchases are driven by nostalgia, but there are some niche collectors out there who'll pay the big bucks for these pieces of the past. Surprisingly, newer doesn't necessarily mean cheaper for these collectibles; really, whether it's boxed or unboxed and is hard to find are the main two driving factors for setting antique and vintage phone prices. Now, the old landline with the never-ending curly cord might not be worth a fortune, but these older phones certainly are.
Candlestick Phones from the 1890s
There's nothing that'll make you feel like you jumped through time more than picking up that dusty candlestick phone in the thrift store you pass every time you visit. These antique phones are immediately recognizable thanks to their little detached megaphone that you hold to your ear. While examples from the early 20th century include the rotary dial, the earliest ones from the 1890s don't have a dialing system because people used switchboard operators to connect them to the proper line.
Pristine examples with their cords and receivers intact are worth a lot more than most of the corded and cordless phones that followed. Generally, these phones from a bygone era are worth about $100-$400, on average, like this American Bell rotary dial candlestick phone from the 1890s that sold for $125.
Electric 3-Slot Rotary Pay Phones
You've probably heard your grandparents slip into one of their "back in my day" diatribes about how difficult it used to be to call someone on the phone. When you were out and about, you had to make sure you had change on you and the phone numbers you wanted to call memorized (if the pay phone didn't have a phone book available) to make any kind of call. Hilariously enough, these electric pay phones that were a dirty fixture of every train station wall that no one ever gave a second glance to are worth a lot more money now.
Whether it's Western Electric, Northern Electric, or another phone company, these electric 3-slot wall-mounted pay phones are typically listed for around $300 online. Take this vintage Northern Electric 3-slot pay phone in a lovely mint green, for example; it's listed for an impressive $349 on eBay.
Motorola DynaTAC 8000x
Strap your brick of a cell phone around your shoulders, we're heading back to 1983 where Motorola debuted the first commercial cell phone, the DynaTac 8000x. This wildly impractical device was literally shaped like a brick, bright white, and cost nearly $10,000 of today's money to buy. Thankfully, cell phones have come a long way since then, but these delightful reminders of just how far they've come are still bringing in thousands of dollars at auction. For instance, you can find a 'museum' quality one listed for almost $4,000 on eBay. Even nonworking, beaten up ones are worth a few hundred dollars, like this brick listed for $499.
IBM Simon Personal Communicator
Before Steve Jobs blew the world's mind with his futuristic take on the smart phone, the computer giant IBM created the Simon Personal Communicator - the predecessor to our beloved smartphone. Much closer in functionality and design to the PDAs that were everywhere in the 1990s, the concept of building a tiny computer that could fit in your pocket was truly ahead of its time.
If you come across one of these black devices with its green screens, you might mistake it for a grungy Pokedex instead of the cell phone it was meant to be. Either way, unused and boxed examples of these are usually worth around $500-$2,000. Recently, one manufactured in 1994 sold at a Bonham's auction for $1,875.
Apple iPhone 1st Generation
The smartphone that changed it all; Apples' first iPhone debuted in 2007 and quickly turned into a massive and critical success. Once cell phones were around, every few decades was defined by one particular brand and model. For example, if you were a teen in the 2000s, you probably slept with your slim Motorola Razr slipped under your pillow. Cell phones like the Blackberry and Razr became a thing of the past with the iPhone, and nothing has trumped it since. With new generations coming out every year, you might just want to return to the original, where holding it in your hand felt like you were looking directly into the future. Early Apple products are super collectible, and you can find mint condition 1st gen iPhones listed for thousands of dollars, like this completely sealed one listed for $23,000 on eBay.
Motorola Aura R1
While most people revere Motorola for bringing the Razr into teenage hands everywhere, the company did have a diverse catalog that often gets overlooked. One of the most infamous among collectors today is their Aura R1 phone, that was released in 2009. This luxury phone was incredibly slim, featured a sleek design reminiscent of Art Deco, and cost a few thousand dollars to buy (which, at the time, was a small fortune for a cell phone). Nowadays, these luxury phones have only increased in value, ramping up to somewhere between $2,000-$4,000 in mint condition.
Tips for Selling Antique and Vintage Electronics
Selling vintage electronics can be a bit of a nightmare since there's not a lot of consistency in how things are priced and the market is incredibly niche, particularly for outdated phones. But, so long as you follow a couple of rules, you should be able to make a little cash on that old Motorola that's been taking up space in your junk drawer.
- Test it before listing it - Unless the phone is factory sealed, you should test it to see if it actually works before listing in. Inevitably, someone's going to ask you about it, so it's better to just go ahead and know.
- eBay is your best friend - Honestly, most auction sites aren't filled to the brim with old phones, and eBay is one of those places that frequently has phones come through their platform, so it's a great (and easy) place to sell your old electronics.
- Look for corrosion - In cordless phones and cell phones, you want to check that they don't have any corroded batteries inside of them as it's not only dangerous but also something you don't want to accidentally send through the mail.
- Be realistic about your profits - Very few old phones actually sell for thousands of dollars, so unless you've got an incredibly rare one in your collection, then you need to make sure you go into selling any vintage phone with the right frame of mind. Managing your expectations will make the experience all the more joyful.
These Vintage Phones' Minutes Aren't Up
As Elle Woods would probably put it, vintage is the new pink. People just can't get enough of all things analog from the near past, and these hilarious simple devices (compared to today's tech) are all the rage with some collectors and other nostalgia-driven TikTokers. All you have to do is add some extra cash to your rainy day fund by selling the antique and vintage phones taking up space in your cabinets.