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Telephones

The telephone was invented in 1876. Most people are familiar with Alexander Graham Bell and his famous first words to his assistant, Thomas Watson, over the telephone: "Mr. Watson, come here. I want to see you." What most people do not know is that another inventor, Elisha Gray, had also invented a device that could transmit speech electronically. Both Bell and Gray rushed their designs to the patent office on the same day, and Bell was awarded the patent first. Gray initiated a lawsuit over the invention of the telephone, which Bell eventually won.

The first telephone exchange and switchboard were introduced in 1878. Early telephones were battery operated or used a cranking device to generate power. They were primarily used by businesses. In the 1890s, the candlestick telephone was invented, making telephone use much easier. After Bell's patents on the telephone expired, telephone use in the United States exploded, and by 1914, the United States led the world in telephone ownership.

The rotary dial phone was introduced in the early 20th century. Telephones changed in appearance and function to accommodate improvements in technology and changes in home fashions. Touch tone dialing was introduced in the '60s. The first cellular phone call was placed in 1973, and today, cell phones have overtaken landline telephones as the primary method of communication.


Quick Facts

  • In 1876, plagued by lawsuits, Bell offered to sell his patent rights to the telephone to Western Union for $100,000, but Western Union said no
  • Disney's famous Mickey Mouse phone was introduced in 1976 and sold throughout the '80s. A Mickey Mouse phone in excellent condition currently sells for $50 to $100
  • An L.M. Ericsson desk telephone from 1895 sold at auction for $19,200. This model had a cylindrical shape and ornate lithographs, earning it the nickname Coffee Grinder

Recommended Items at Auction

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A box lot of various phone cables
Dec 16, 6:00 PM AEDT
A box lot of various phone cables
by Theodore Bruce
Est: AUD0- AUD0
AUD202 Bids
A Blackview A70 Smartphone 32GB (3GB RAM) Black
Dec 16, 6:00 PM AEDT
A Blackview A70 Smartphone 32GB (3GB RAM) Black
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Western Electric Co Pole Style Table Top Telephone. C. 1904,
Dec 14, 11:00 AM EST
Western Electric Co Pole Style Table Top Telephone. C. 1904,
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Est: $100- $150
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Unusual 1957 Boxed Ideal Roy Rogers Telephone
Dec 14, 10:00 AM EST
Unusual 1957 Boxed Ideal Roy Rogers Telephone
by Weiss Auctions
Est: $60- $120
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A Blackberry Smartphone
Dec 16, 6:00 PM AEDT
A Blackberry Smartphone
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Est: AUD0- AUD0
AUD151 Bid
Bell System Wall Mount Phone
Dec 10, 9:30 AM EST
Bell System Wall Mount Phone
by Old Barn Auction
Est: $40- $1,000
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Group of 2 American Landline Rotary Candlestick Phones
Dec 17, 9:00 AM CST
Group of 2 American Landline Rotary Candlestick Phones
by Matthew Bullock Auctioneers
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VINTAGE BLACK PHONE 1930'S WITH WIND-UP MAGNETO BOX
Dec 08, 9:00 AM AEST
VINTAGE BLACK PHONE 1930'S WITH WIND-UP MAGNETO BOX
by Albion Antique Auction Centre
Est: AUD80- AUD150
AUD801 Bid
Vintage Racal Cell Phone - made in Japan Model UM9003, comes in original case, manual etc.
Dec 08, 7:00 PM AEDT
Vintage Racal Cell Phone - made in Japan Model UM9003, comes in original case, manual etc.
by Bargain Hunt Auctions
Est: AUD0- AUD0
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A Blackview A70 Smartphone 32GB (3GB RAM) Black
Dec 16, 6:00 PM AEDT
A Blackview A70 Smartphone 32GB (3GB RAM) Black
by Theodore Bruce
Est: AUD0- AUD0
AUD151 Bid
A Blackview A70 Smartphone 32GB (3GB RAM) Black
Dec 16, 6:00 PM AEDT
A Blackview A70 Smartphone 32GB (3GB RAM) Black
by Theodore Bruce
Est: AUD0- AUD0
AUD151 Bid
A Blackview A70 Smartphone 32GB (3GB RAM) Black
Dec 16, 6:00 PM AEDT
A Blackview A70 Smartphone 32GB (3GB RAM) Black
by Theodore Bruce
Est: AUD0- AUD0
AUD151 Bid
An Optus X-Lite 4G & Telstra Essential Smart 3 mobile phones
Dec 16, 6:00 PM AEDT
An Optus X-Lite 4G & Telstra Essential Smart 3 mobile phones
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Est: AUD0- AUD0
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Two SMARTDEVIL vent mobile phone holders
Dec 16, 6:00 PM AEDT
Two SMARTDEVIL vent mobile phone holders
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Est: AUD0- AUD0
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PLEASE READ - Phone & Pickup
Dec 10, 10:00 AM CST
PLEASE READ - Phone & Pickup
by Matthews Auctions, LLC
Est: $0- $0
$250 Bids
Apple iPhone X Space Grey 64gb unlocked
Dec 11, 7:00 PM GMT
Apple iPhone X Space Grey 64gb unlocked
by James Auctioneers London
Est: £175- £225
£1700 Bids
PLEASE READ - Phone & Pickup
Dec 09, 10:00 AM CST
PLEASE READ - Phone & Pickup
by Matthews Auctions, LLC
Est: $0- $0
$250 Bids
PLEASE READ - Phone & Pickup
Dec 11, 10:00 AM CST
PLEASE READ - Phone & Pickup
by Matthews Auctions, LLC
Est: $0- $0
$250 Bids
Telemania Musical Animated Dixieland Band Telephone
Dec 10, 9:00 AM CST
Telemania Musical Animated Dixieland Band Telephone
by Matthew Bullock Auctioneers
Est: $30- $300
$150 Bids
HEAVY DUTY BRAIDED 6 FOOT LIGHTNING CABLE PHONE CHARGING CORD
Dec 13, 10:00 PM EST
HEAVY DUTY BRAIDED 6 FOOT LIGHTNING CABLE PHONE CHARGING CORD
by Weatherham Estate Treasures
Est: $20- $30
$150 Bids
HEAVY DUTY BRAIDED 6 FOOT LIGHTNING CABLE PHONE CHARGING CORD
Dec 07, 10:00 PM EST
HEAVY DUTY BRAIDED 6 FOOT LIGHTNING CABLE PHONE CHARGING CORD
by Weatherham Estate Treasures
Est: $20- $30
$150 Bids
HEAVY DUTY BRAIDED 6 FOOT LIGHTNING CABLE PHONE CHARGING CORD
Dec 15, 10:00 PM EST
HEAVY DUTY BRAIDED 6 FOOT LIGHTNING CABLE PHONE CHARGING CORD
by Weatherham Estate Treasures
Est: $20- $30
$150 Bids
HEAVY DUTY BRAIDED 6 FOOT LIGHTNING CABLE PHONE CHARGING CORD
Dec 20, 10:00 PM EST
HEAVY DUTY BRAIDED 6 FOOT LIGHTNING CABLE PHONE CHARGING CORD
by Weatherham Estate Treasures
Est: $20- $30
$150 Bids
Heavy Duty Braided 6 Foot Lightning Cable Phone Charging Cord
Dec 22, 10:00 PM EST
Heavy Duty Braided 6 Foot Lightning Cable Phone Charging Cord
by Weatherham Estate Treasures
Est: $20- $30
$150 Bids

Sellers Who Sell Telephones


Theodore Bruce

Theodore Bruce

Grant Zahajko Auctions, LLC

Grant Zahajko Auctions, LLC

Weatherham Estate Treasures

Weatherham Estate Treasures