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Western Electric Model 500 – Is It Really From 1957? #4

In previous articles I have pointed out some important factors to look for when searching for that nice Vintage Rotary Phone. I have talked about handsets, cords, dials, modular plugs and the foot pads. In this article I have chosen another telephone from a completed eBay listing to point out just a few more examples of clues that can be gleaned from the photos alone. This time our example telephone was advertised as being from 1955. Let’s take a look at this one. We must decide how picky we want to be but it’s better to be overly critical and then decide what you as a buyer are willing to accept. On the surface this looks like a nice phone—and remember, even with replacement parts it is probably over forty years old. There are a couple of things that jump out at me when I look at the phone that is said to be from 1955.

Looking at the handset cord we see that the piece that extends from the handset has a tapered end. This is a sign of a replacement cord. Original cords from 1955 had a short, stubby end. Now, again that is not a big deal because cords would get stretched and wear. A service person may make a replacement in the field, at the home of the customer. Also this cord is a bit stretched—-but again, this is not a NEW phone. Also as in the previous phone we see the round feet, definitely replacement feet, not the feet you would see on a phone from 1955. Thirdly on this phone the modular line cord was added to make it easier for the buyer to connect the phone. There are other phones out there with the original black, round line cord. A plug adapter will have to be purchased in order to make the original cord work but the original cord in my opinion looks much nicer.In the second photo of this phone from 1955 it is worth mentioning two items that indicate vintage. The clear “plungers” or hook switch buttons. On a telephone from 1955 those plungers were black in color and made of Bakelite. If the buttons are clear, you can bet the farm that the case is from a later date. Another indication of a change in plastic are the handset caps. The handset itself appears to be an original G1 Bakelite handset but the original Bakelite caps were replaced with plastic caps produced years later. There are seven holes in the receiver cap. Original Bakelite caps from 1955 would have only six holes in the cap and the mouthpiece cap would not have a hole directly in the center. So again we can conclude that this phone was refurbished and is NOT entirely from 1955. The final photograph will confirm this information. In what is called “vermillion” red, two repair dates have been stamped on the bottom of this phone. Twice this telephone has been repaired/refurbished. There is an original model and date code stamped (just under the top arrow) that reads C/D 500 (the model number) and a month and 55. That is the date the seller probably used to determine the date of this phone. Again we confirm round replacement feet. Notice the rust around each of the foot pads. In the later years when plastic feet were used for some reason they often rusted. I have been told that the acid in the plastic reacts with the steel causing the rust. I also believe it is because moisture gets trapped between the steel base and the plastic, but that’s my unscientific hypothesis. With the older suede pads the suede more than likely wicked away humidity and the rusting did not occur, but obviously they don’t contain the acidity that the plastic and rubber pads do.
So once again we have a phone that was advertised as being from a specific date in the 1950’s only to discover that it was refurbished, more than likely with parts from much later years. This telephone sold for over $80, plus shipping costs! For a telephone that would be all original from 1955—not a bad price. But for one with a mixture of much later parts and rusty feet—someone paid too much.

Tomorrow I will sum up points that I have made in this series. I will discuss those points in list form so that the reader may use the information when searching eBay for a nice Vintage Rotary Telephone. Don’t settle for less that what you want.

There are many phones out there and surely one that lives up to your expectations. I have been lucky enough to run into many phones that have all parts with similar dates, but they are getting rare. But to expect to find a phone that is all parts from the decade of the 1950’s is not difficult to do, it just takes a little education and some shopping.
Come back tomorrow when I will finalize this series and answer the question—Is It Really From 1957?

2 responses to “Western Electric Model 500 – Is It Really From 1957? #4”

The way the products are decorated and provided in an auction, people go crazy and start bidding for that with out caring about its actual price. But after buying they realize that the product was not as what they showed there. This even happened many times in my case. Thanks for providing the tips that help in choosing the product before I pay for it.

You are welcome. The purpose of the series was to help educate the potential buyer as to what to look for when shopping for a Vintage Rotary Phone, whether their purchase is from eBay or elsewhere. Thanks for the comment.

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