These are the larger chunky Bakelite telephones issued by the GPO and made by various manufactures. They came as table or wall models in four colours: Black, Ivory, Red and Green. That's the genuine article on the right.
They vary more than the 200 types as they come in a variety of models, generally with extra press buttons or with trembler bells installed. All models will work on a standard exchange line, but the trembler bell models will not ring on an incoming call from an exchange line.
As these phones were also sold by other companies and used on internal telephone systems, there are a lot of them on the market. Most will have the company model number stamped on the base. The GPO used a three digit model number (i.e. 332).
Ericsson, who also made the 300 type telephone for the GPO, generally had the their model number stamped on the base of non-GPO telephones and these normally started with an N plus at least four numbers i.e. N1014. You will also find phones that start with L - these are ATM/ATE, whilst those with TEL or ST on them are GEC models.
To the right is an
from the base of an actual GPO Telephone No. 162. A 300 type telephone
would have similar markings.
Inspect the inside of the telephone to ensure that it has the original wiring and components. Check the diagram pasted to the base plate and look at the markings on the components. GPO parts always had a description and number (i.e. Coil Induction No. 29) whilst privately supplied telephones generally just had numbered parts. If any of the part numbers start with the prefix N then they are Ericsson models and not GPO models.
Also check the dates on these components, this will indicate whether the phone is totally original. Expect some parts
to be dated differently as many phones were repaired at GPO factories, with parts replaced and then returned to the
field. If you are offered a telephone that is supposed to be totally original then check the component dates and
manufactures name. These should be the same code and the dates within a couple of years of each other. In particular
check the dial - you will have to release the dial from the case to find the date of issue and manufacturers code under
the outside edge. The dial should be stamped with a 10 or a 12. The dial finger plate should be stainless steel on this model - no
brass dial finger plates were used by the GPO. Later GPO factory
refurbished telephones can have a plastic dial and this will have a black finger
The chassis could have either cotton covered wiring or PVC covered wiring - check that this is laid out nicely and laced professionally.
Most British-made 164 handsets (as used on 200 and 300-type telephones) have an oval-shaped depression on the underside of the hand grip. This normally contains a Post Office code (e.g. 164 - H47) or the manufacturer's emblem (e.g. ETL, ATE) and is always recessed, with embossed lettering within the recess. Occasionally the lettering is ground away; the Irish Post Office tended to do this and usually engraved the letters P&T in its place. Handsets made in the UK for export to Portugal often carry APT or APTOPHONE here. None of the replicas look like this.
Please note that coloured handsets used by the GPO in 1954, 1955 and 1956 carry no manufacturer code, only the type (164) and year. They were made by Siemens Brothers, which was the only firm making them by that time.
See the picture below - note that the left hand picture has no GPO markings (this was a later handset).
Recent production plastic cases have a shade and appearance totally different from original British-made parts, due no doubt to the modern moulding powders and pigments used. The red is very garish, whilst the green is too deep and the ivory is almost white. Distinguishing them from genuine British-made cases takes some skill but in general the real thing has colours that are more muted (and often faded to some degree).
It's worth noting that the pre-war cases, made of a urea-type material have a very different 'look and feel' to those of post-war manufacture. The pre-war parts tend to have an eggshell sheen (a few are more shiny) and a granular feel to the touch; the green and red colours are quite muted too.
Another common distinguishing factor is a filigree crazing of the surface and dirty cracks along stress-lines where the moulding material has shrunk.
The post-war cases were moulded in a cellulose acetate material and have a gloss looking quite like moulded Perspex, which is more or less what they are. The red and green colours are more vivid too.
Check the quality of moulding. The Indian moulds used for producing 300-type telephone parts became quite worn and the sharp lines along angles have become quite soft (rounded) and irregular. Replica components have pronounced ridges along the joints between the two halves of the mould.
Edges and holes often show irregular edges or visible file marks and just do not look clean. Many of the reproductions carry a dark, greasy film (probably a mould release agent). The moulding material is rather brittle, especially around the mouthpiece where it is reduced in thickness for the bayonet fitting (look out for cracking). The mouldings are also under-sized, with an Indian design of receiver akin to the BPO Receiver No. 1L which is rather poor. Some people have tried to jam in a BPO Receiver No. 2P, causing further cracking. The electrical connections within these handsets also tend to be suspect; many have already gone open circuit and those which have not yet done so - may fail later.
Other identifying marks
The only garish thing done to 300 types was a mirror inside the instruction draw with a red GPO insignia (very rare) or a mirror without the GPO insignia (not quite so rare). There are no GPO transfers on the cases of GPO 300 type telephones.
The picture below shows the internals of a genuine GPO 300 type telephone.
The pictures below are of a GPO Telephone No. 332.
How to spot a non-GPO 300 type
The telephone above is a reproduction and the following explain the differences to that of a GPO 300 type:-
These phones are normally from India and can have "Supplied by India" printed on the base. Click here for more on Indian Telephones
Here's a picture of the internals:-
Similar chassis with different components
And here's some more:-
The two telephones above look like reproductions. The dial finger stop should be next to the 0. The left hand phone has a white press button above the dial - these were always chrome. In front of the button there would have been a label explaining the function of the button (i.e. Recall), this label would be fixed to the case by two screws - can you see the screw holes - I can't. The right hand phone has the wrong dial.
As prices vary all the time do not expect this document to reflect the current market prices for any telephone mentioned above
Remember - BUYER BEWARE
I do not give valuations!
Last revised: December 26, 2022