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Western Electric Model 500 – Is It Really From 1957?

For the next several days I am going to post a series of articles on what to look for when browsing eBay in search of a Vintage Rotary Phone so that you make a purchase that will leave you satisfied. Very often sellers mislead buyers (perhaps not intentionally) by information they put in their listings. My intent is not to identify and criticize those sellers but to make the reader more educated about what is out there and help them buy the best phone for their money. I think that bringing such information to light will be helpful to those that may be looking for a presentable, working telephone to display and use in their home or office.

For purposes of this discussion I will analyze the most popular telephone of the 1950’s and 60’s, the black Western Electric model 500. I will explain in detail what the words AND photographs in an eBay listing are actually telling us. The old saying, “A picture is worth a thousand words” holds true. I believe more information can be obtained from several good photographs than the actual description of the phone for sale. The text of the listing only confirms what the photo is telling us.

Knowing what to look for and what NOT to buy can not only save you money but also heartache and disappointment with your purchase. So for what telephone will we be searching?

We are on a mission to search eBay to find a nice 1950’s black Western Electric. So where do I look first? Vintage Rotary Phones are categorized in three main areas on eBay. They are listed under Collectibles>Radio,Phonograph,TV,Phone>Telephone and then there are three sub categories. They are Pre 1940, 1940-1969 and finally 1970 – Now. Most telephones will be found in this area of eBay but some are listed in a more general “antiques” category. There is even one for corded desk phones. For our discussion we will stick with the three aforementioned categories.

Because sellers often list their telephones in the wrong section it is wise to search all three. That fact alone is an indication that sellers themselves don’t always know what they have when they list their phone for sale. Categories can be browsed by auctions “newly listed” or by auctions “ending today”. There are several ways that the category can be browsed but I prefer to check newly listed items and work backward through the category.

In searching I have found one! The title of the auction reads “Vintage 1957 Black Western Electric 500”. Exactly what I’m looking for—or is it?

Check back tomorrow and we’ll analyze photos and text. We will answer the question: Is It Really From 1957?

3 responses to “Western Electric Model 500 – Is It Really From 1957?”

When we were installing both 302’s and the new 500’s, we installed 302 close to central office and the 500 further out specified on the order as 3 zone or 5 zone. One time I installed a phone in the 3 zone near the central office in a poor neighborhood, the man of the house said I want one of those new phones, I did a poor job of explaining by saying we go by zones The man said I know you save the new phones for the rich neighborhoods. John P. Lock retired exchange repairman retired 12/31/83 Tulsa, Oklahoma

Thank you John for your comment and your memory from a day on the job. I enjoy hearing the stories from those of you that lived and worked during the hey-day of the vintage rotary phones. As a ten year old in 1965 I don’t remember our family having anything but your basic set, a black 500 and a beige 554 wall phone. Being one of nine children we never seemed to want for anything but we didn’t even know the “fancy” phones existed. I wonder how common it was for a customer to get a colored 302, or maybe a colored 202 back in the early 1950’s. It would be fun to hear from your perspective memories of installing such telephones. Thanks again for your comment.

Dennis I have just seen your posting nearly 6 years ago, will be 85 in October

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