How to buy a Trimphone
So you want to buy an original Trimphone? This guide is about how to get a good working model.
We usually recommend eBay as the best place to get a bargain. However, great care is needed to make sure you get a genuine original phone, rather than a modern reproduction, or a phone made up from a selection of new and old parts.
Courtesy of BT Heritage
The most obvious visible clue is the colour of the phone and handset. Trimphones were originally supplied in only the following three colour combinations (see right):
|Olive green||Darker green|
(*)Fading can make the colours look different. The white/grey phone usually appears ivory with a light beige handset.
The Snowdon Collection (1982) added a new range of colours:
Trimphones in any other combination of colours are not genuine. There may have been a few one-off trials of phones in different colours, but these are exceptionally rare.
Since new Trimphones were launched a few years ago opportunities for customising older phones have presented themselves, so check the colour combinations very carefully before buying.
Numbers and letters on the base
Letters and numbers on the base are a very good guide to the age and model of the phone and can help greatly in determining if the phone is genuine.
All GPO phones and early BT phones were stamped with a model number, a manufacturer's code and a date, year. For example,
is stamped on the base of a white/grey Trimphone. 1/722L is the model number and L means it has a lettered dial. TCH means STC in Larne, Northern Ireland and 69 means 1969.
Sometimes the month is given as well as a number.
I have seen TCE (STC in Enniskillen, Northern Ireland), TCH (STC in Larne, Northern Ireland), GEN (GEC in Newton Aycliffe, County Durham), SPK (Plessey in Speke, Liverpool) stamped on Trimphones. There may be others.
Read our guide to Trimphone models to get an idea of what model numbers to expect.
Phoenixphones (Snowdon Collection) were refurbished telephones. They therefore carried a special type of model number. You should find TELE 8776 or TELE 8722 together with BATCH SAMPLED FWR 82. FW refers to BT's own factory GPO in Cwmcarn, Wales. 'R' stands for 'refurbished'. All Snowdon Collection phones were made up from parts from older phones. This label is a black sticker with white writing. It can be removed, probably revealing an older label referring to the original phone. So you can see Snowdon phones with older dates. This may lead to some collectors thinking they have an old phone in an unusual colour.
Type of dial
Most dial Trimphones had a clear plastic dial fingerplate. There are very few with a lettered dial. Most had just numbers.
Look for phones in good condition. Avoid heavily faded examples. You can usually tell if a Trimphone has faded badly because the part of the phone hidden by the handset will appear to be a different shade.
Most have been rewired for modern use, but you can usually get a bargain if a phone has not been rewired and is in good cosmetic condition.
There are a number of reproduction Trimphones on the market made by 'Wild and Wolf' and by Steepletone. The seller should make it clear that the phone is a reproduction, but if not, look out for unusual colours. Wild and Wolf phones have push button dials, but arranged in a ring, like a dial phone. Steepletone phones have a standard type dial.
If you want to buy a reproduction Trimphone, the 'Wild and Wolf' Trimphones are pretty good copies of the original. Steepletone Trimphones, in my opinion, are less so.
What to pay
Based on a review of sold prices on eBay this is our assessment of Trimphone prices.
- Other models - £20 to £30
- Snowdon Collection Trimphones - £40 to £90
- Deltaphone - £50+
You should not need to pay more than £30 for a standard Trimphone in good cosmetic condition and in working order. Snowdon collection phones are worth more.
Rare models such as the 712 Trimphone and Trimphones with lettered dials will be worth more.
By Steven Braggs, April 2014
"I deal in telephone have collected and sold them for around 20 years. I would like to add some more useful information. The Trimphone had a problem with the carbon granule microphone and the nearly always hiss and crackle and fade in and out. It is essential you change this for an electronic one and you will transform the telephone into a wonderful usable item with near perfect speech quality. The prices you quote seam to be Ebay as found or amateur restorations. I have to charge Â£99 for a near perfect restoration with a lifetime of ownership guarantee and of course the essential electronic microphone. Common faults are the switch, the ringer and of course the microphone. www.antiquetelephones.co.uk" Neil Carpenter 09/07/2014
Thank you for your comments. Yes you are right the prices I quote are based on eBay sold values. In my view this is the most reliable guide to what something is worth. I agree dealer prices may be higher as dealers will offering more than a typical eBay seller would. best regards" Steven 10/07/2014
"Am interested in purchasing a trimphone. Would someone please contact me who has one for sale. White or blue preferred." J.Phillips 20/03/2017
I have 2 trimphones with the base and handset clad in leather - one in black and the other in red.Both work fine. both have 2 labels.
black -TELE.SR.1016A STC80/1 OVERSTICKERED WITH SR8016 A FW8/82 BRITISH TELECOM SUPPLIED.
RED - SAME OVERSTICKER but cant remove to reveal under numbers without wrecking the top sticker.I want to sell but not sure what price to advertise. Can you help?" DAVID VALLIS 19/11/2017
"We have an original trim phone which we’d like to get converted/updated (lack of a hashtag makes phoning large companies difficult) - can you help?
email@example.com" Daniel Robertson 05/01/2019
You can't fit a # key on an old Trimphone. You could either go for one of the reproductions, Wild and Wolf or Steepletone, which will have the # key or buy an original push button one from the 1980s.
Many years ago we tried using an old button trimphone. We found it unreliable. I think the circuitry was quite advanced at the time. Using one 30+ years later is probably not going to work on a day to day basis. So I'd probably get a reproduction one.
I hope this helps." Steven 05/01/2019
"Recently purchased trimphone described as vintage two tone grey
Dial label reads
Please advise - thank youKK" Wayne Lawton 11/08/2019
"This is a standard 1970s trimphone. It was refurbished by the GPO in 1978. I guess it was originally installed from 1971 on wards. best regards" Steven 11/08/2019