Bakelite

In our dining room we have a Bakelite telephone. Once upon a time this was connected to our extensive ‘two phone’ telephone system. The problem was because of a fault on the receiver we were forced to shout to be heard, resulting in conversations being somewhat stilted. Repair was always discussed but never enacted so a modern replacement now graces our dining area. The Bakelite telephone is still around though and the grandchildren love it.

Plastics and Bakelite really epitomise the energy of modern design between the wars. Their bright colours, exciting styling and new affordable materials caught people’s imagination at the time and now their appeal is being rediscovered because these early plastic items are an easy inexpensive way to achieve the Art Deco look.

Bakelite, the first synthetic plastic, was developed in1907 by a Belgian, Dr Leo Baekeland. In the 1920’s and 1930’s it hit its peak in popularity and was known as the ‘material of a thousand uses’. Bakelite and its imitations ushered in a new age of colourful and stylish, yet inexpensive household goods.

Bakelite can be identified by the strong carbolic smell it gives off when rubbed. It was made in mottled and plain browns, black, green, red and blue. Colours other than brown and black make any plastic object more desirable and larger objects, particularly in Bakelite, are rare and so more valuable.

Styling is also very important and pieces that reflect the Art Deco style of the 1930’s – typified by stepped forms, streamlining and clean lines- are especially collectable. Plastics from the 1950’s onwards tend to be less desirable and so less valuable as styling is not as strong and the quality is generally poorer than the early plastics made between 1910 and 1930.

Senior Valuer Michael Dowse

For more information or if you have similar items you’re thinking about offering items in auction or you simply would like a valuation, please get in touch with us, full details can be found on our company website

Telephones

I wonder what Alexander Graham Bell would make of the modern all singing all dancing mobile phone, because it was he who set the ball rolling in1876 when he patented the speaking telephone. Since then all manner of designs for this amazing invention have been made. An early design for the telephone was the ‘candlestick’ model made with a separate mouth piece and ear piece, synonymous with Al Capone.

It was however, the invention of Bakelite that saw the development of telephones take a new direction, beginning with ‘pyramid’ phones which are now Art Deco icons. Commonly made in black, the rarer green, white and red versions make much more at auction.

A beautiful copper, brass & bakelite telephone
A beautiful copper, brass & bakelite telephone

All Bakelite telephones show their date and manufacturer on the base and their value increases if they still have their original chrome dial, plaited cord and pullout drawer in tact. Like most things, the telephone also had it designers styles; the first of these is largely credited to the ‘Ericofon’. It was the first one piece telephone and was developed by Ericsson in the early 1950’s. It came in fourteen different colours but pink and orange still are the rarest and most collectable.

The production of the ‘Ericofon’ was world wide. The British one piece telephone, the ‘Trimphone’ and the Italian version ‘Grillo’ never achieved the success of the ‘Ericofon’ and very few are available on the auction market today. Obviously though, this only increases their value if you are lucky enough to find one. The value of a telephone lies in the desirability of the model and the rarity of the colour.

Senior Valuer Michael Dowse

For more information or if you have similar items, please get in touch with us, full details can be found on our company website

Bakelite

As a schoolboy I was never allowed to answer the telephone in our house when it rang, it was an adult only prerogative. Oh how I longed to be an adult and lift that heavy, beautifully modelled, Bakelite receiver.

Plastics and Bakelite really epitomise the energy of modern design between the wars. Their bright colours, exciting styling and new affordable materials caught people’s imagination at the time and now their appeal is being rediscovered because these early plastic items are an easy inexpensive way to achieve the Art Deco look.

A beautiful copper, brass & bakelite telephone
A beautiful copper, brass & bakelite telephone

Bakelite, the first synthetic plastic, was developed in1907 by a Belgian, Dr Leo Baekeland. In the 1920’s and 1930’s it hit it’s peak in popularity and was known as the ‘material of a thousand uses’. Bakelite and it’s imitations ushered in a new age of colourful and stylish, yet inexpensive household goods.

Bakelite can be identified by the strong carbolic smell it gives off when rubbed. It was made in mottled and plain browns, black, green, red and blue. Colours other than brown and black make any plastic object more desirable and larger objects, particularly in Bakelite, are rare and so more valuable.

Styling is also very important and pieces that reflect the Art Deco style of the 1930’s – typified by stepped forms, streamlining and clean lines- are especially collectable. Plastics from the 1950’s onwards tend to be less desirable and so less valuable as styling is not as strong and the quality is generally poorer than the early plastics made between 1910 and 1930.

Senior Valuer Michael Dowse

For more information or if you have similar items, please get in touch with us, full details can be found on our company website