What Do You Do With an Old Phone?

I have an old telephone. I mean, a really old one.

It’s from the days when there was just one Telephone Company — in fact, the sticker on the bottom says “Property of the Wisconsin Telephone Company.” (No, I don’t know the details of how it got from there to here.) As you can see, it’s a rotary, and it’s heavy as all get out. It could double as a defensive weapon; if you swung it at someone, it would definitely put them out.

I don’t want to just throw it away, in part because I’m pretty sure it contains the kinds of metals that contaminate the water table. But I don’t know what to do with it. We thought of maybe donating it to a theater company, for use as a prop, but I don’t have connections with any locally. Does Goodwill take these kinds of things? Is there a better use for it?

15 Responses to “What Do You Do With an Old Phone?”

  1. Robin Says:

    Does it still phone? I bet the ring is nostalgically charming. Perhaps a props department of your local school theatre department?

  2. Ray Cornwall Says:

    Try eBay. Might be a collector out there…looks like it’s in nice shape.

  3. David Beard Says:

    At least into the 1908s, it was common to lease your phone from the phone company as part of your service, rather than buy it. If you bought it, it made getting repair work (then very expensive, I guess) more complicated. This was before the days of the dollar-store phone.

  4. Brigid Says:

    You could try posting it on Craigslist.

    Alternatively–and this is a good tip for just about anything–join your local Freecycle group (go to http://www.freecycle.org). It’s a Yahoo mail group where people post stuff they don’t want and stuff they are looking for.

    Goodwill or Salvation Army may take it from you, but unless your local thrift shop is unusually well run, they will probably throw it out. If you really want to keep it out of the landfill, Craigslist and Freecycle are good ways to find people who might actually want it.

  5. Brigid Says:

    And depressingly, that phone (although not in that color) is my default mental picture when I think of the word “phone.” Way to make me feel old!

  6. Johanna Says:

    As far as I know, yes, it works. We thought about keeping it around just for emergencies (because all of our other phones are cordless, and wired phones will still work in a power outage), but we found an old-but-newer touchtone to use instead.

    Something else this reminded me of: when AT&T used to have mall phone stores. They’ve sure gone the way of the dodo.

  7. Tom Beland Says:

    Paint it red and place and glass dome over it.

    Lily just rolled her eyes when I told her my idea and said… “I married a comic nerd.”

  8. Johanna Says:

    Hee hee hee! Funny, Tom.

    Thanks, Brigid! Turns out there’s a fairly recent posting on Craigslist in my area looking for old phones. I’ve emailed and we’ll see what happens.

  9. Ralf Haring Says:

    These guys made good use of their old phones … http://www.sparkfun.com/commerce/product_info.php?products_id=287

  10. hgl Says:

    Definitely Ebay. Figure out what’s it’s worth before listing it, no matter where you sell it.

  11. odessa steps magazine Says:

    Sad. I also had the “bat phone” idea before I read the comments. Us nerds think alike.

  12. Johanna Says:

    Ebay’s such a hassle, and I don’t think it’s worth the trouble when you consider shipping and fraud potential. But you’re right, I definitely need to check out the value.

  13. Kelson Says:

    A museum might be interested, I suppose.

    As for just throwing it away without putting it in a landfill, you could see if there’s a household hazardous waste facility in your area. We’ve got one in a nearby city that will take everything from old batteries and CRT televisions to paint, and then they figure out how to dispose of it properly.

  14. James Schee Says:

    Not much of a demand from what I could see, ebay they go for about $10 or so. Apparently a lot of people still use them from a couple of google searches.

    Goodwill will take everything, I saw an 8 track player in there the other day. I’d ask friends if they’d like it.

    Its hard to find phones that’ll work even with the lights off.

  15. Johanna Says:

    I found a solution! It turns out my brother, now teaching college, does something on the history of the telephone, and he would love to have it for a visual aid. Problem solved, and close to home, too! Thanks, everyone, for your help and advice.




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