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Identifying Antique Pot Belly Candlestick Telephones

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A Variation in an Early Phone Style
Antique Pot Belly Telephone, ca. 1900, Sold at Morphy Auctions in June, 2012 for $4,200

Antique Pot Belly Telephone, ca. 1900, Sold at Morphy Auctions in June, 2012 for $4,200 (Click on the Photo for a Larger View)

Photo Courtesy of Morphy Auctions
There were many different variations of candlestick telephones made in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Identifying them properly isn’t just of importance to those who collect them, but to sellers as well. In fact, mistaking a pot belly candlestick treasured by collectors for a more run of the mill model could cost you a few thousand dollars in the secondary marketplace should you decide to sell one.

Pot bellies are described as such because of the bulge in the stick portion of the phone which resembles the shape of an old pot bellied stove. Among the brands of pot belly candlesticks sought by collectors are those marked as North Electric, Samson, Couch and Seeley, and Western Electric.

Out of the Ordinary Features Can Increase Value

Unusual variations and features usually increase the value of the phone as a unit. Some pot belly models have large round dials in the center giving them a district appearance. Transmitters, or mouthpieces, are usually black, but can sometimes be made of white porcelain.

A number of different types of receivers were used on these phones as well, including the traditional/common style known as a "pony receiver.” Variations called “long pole” receivers, which are basically elongated versions of pony receivers, have also been found as original components with varied pot belly bases.

Researching the specific components included with a phone and describing them with appropriate terminology will attract buyers who are looking for phone rarities, especially when you’re writing online auction titles and descriptions.

About the Model Shown Here

If you have a phone like the one depicted here, consider yourself lucky. This pot belly model has a cast iron “watchcase” receiver (enlarge the view by clicking on the photo), since it looks a bit like a pocket watch at first glance. In spite of its condition issues – worn nickel plating, frayed cord, missing base plate – it brought $4,200 (not including buyer’s premium) at auction in June, 2012 at Morphy Auctions. A pot belly example with a central dial and porcelain mouthpiece sold for $2,700 at the same auction.

Other Types of Antique Telephones

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