According to AntiqueTelephoneHistory.com, the Western Electric No. 85 Fiddleback was the “first of the common-battery phones produced for the Bell System. This type of phone had no magneto nor did it require batteries because the 'common-battery' phones were provided with the electricity from the local telephone company as are today's phones.”
What this means is that earlier Fiddleback phones produced their own alternating current for power using a magneto, or small electric generator, and the direct currents needed to operate them came from by batteries housed within the phones. Early examples powered like this are referenced as “local battery” phones.
The transmitters, or mouthpieces, and receivers used with Fiddlebacks are often similar to later phones but the overall shape of the back and box are very different from more common Picture Frame Front and Plain Front wooden wall phones. Even though these were made for a shorter period of time and are a bit more unusual than Picture Frame and Plain Front models, they sell for similar prices usually in the $100-450 range depending on the condition. Unusual components and some variations of the style can be a bit pricier.
About the Example Shown Here
The phone above is an oak Couch & Seeley Mini Fiddleback intercom model. In addition to serving as a telephone, it also operated as an intercom using the buttons below the transmitter (mouthpiece). It is marked on the transmitter identifying the maker. It has a single gong ringer (where most early wall phones have two), and a traditional unmarked pony style receiver. It measures 17” tall and its width is smaller in comparison to most Fiddleback models, which makes it "mini." Even though the transmitter plating is worn on this phone, the condition is very good to excellent overall. It sold for $300 in June, 2012 at Morphy Auctions.
Other Types of Antique Telephones