COLUMN: Jade-coloured phone is a gem of a discovery

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Our phones are practically glued to our hands nowadays – in fact many of us suffer from nomophobic (no mobile phone phobia). 

I confess, I am as bad as everyone else, flicking through my Twitter feed and constantly replying to texts and emails.

Bakelite phone in jade green

Bakelite phone in jade green

Now our phones can do everything - play music, do banking, turn on the heating… you could even use yours to buy the Bargain Hunt band’s new Christmas single, Sleigh Ride, for BBC Children in Need. Apologies for the blatant plug!

But back to the humble phone. In the 1930s, very few people had one and those who could afford to rent one - you never owned your phone, it was rented from the General Post Office (GPO) - were offered the standard model in any colour they liked, as long as it was black!

When the GPO introduced the country’s first all-in-one telephone in 1929 it was revolutionary and replaced the previous clunky candlestick-types. 

This new model, the 200 series, was moulded entirely in gleaming Bakelite with the ear and mouthpiece as one unit. Meanwhile the body of the phone was an elegant pyramid form, echoing the Art Deco style of the day. 

Now considered a design icon, the standard British phone of the 1930s sits alongside the likes of the anglepoise lamp and VW Beetle among design aficionados.  You can even buy a modern plastic version.

Back in the 1930s, if you were affluent, a member of royalty or lucky enough to be a film star, you could apply to the GPO for a telephone in a colour other than standard black.  Only three official additional colours were on offer - ivory, Chinese red and jade green.  These were more expensive to make and incurred substantially increased rental fees.  They were a luxury few could afford in the depression era.  To have one was a statement of wealth.

Consequently, Hansons’ associate director and vintage telephone enthusiast, Adrian Rathbone, was thrilled to uncover the holy grail of telephones – a jade green 200 series dating from 1934. 

Most old Bakelite telephones went into the skip when the GPO updated them with plastic, mass-produced models from 1959 onwards. 

However, some savvy GPO workers saved some from landfill and kept them for posterity.  The green phone just discovered by Hansons was such an example.  One sold for more than £2,000 a few years ago. 

They look timeless and make a great statement in any interior.  They are also proving to be a good investment. The jade models are considered to be the rarest of all the coloured models.

The one we have found has some cracking to the mouthpiece, not uncommon for a device which is more than 80 years old.  It is in Hansons’ Christmas Fine Art Auction on December 19.

Own a classic phone like this or any rare object? Then get a free valuation at Hansons in Heage Lane, Etwall, on Wednesdays 5pm to 7.30pm, Fridays 9am to 4pm and Saturdays 9am to noon. Plus, on December 7, our valuers will be at The Stutts Centre, Derby Road, Belper, from 10am to noon. To find out more, call 01283 733988 or email