Start Collecting Telephone Cards

Maybe you are looking to a start collecting telephone cards for the first time? Maybe you started collecting years ago when phonecard collecting was a hobby enjoyed by many people and you want to continue yours? Whatever the reason, right now with fewer collectors and prices down from their peak in the nineties, it's a great time to start collecting telephone cards. The used Phonecard green bins within telephone kiosks may have long gone, but the endless stream on eBay makes up for them, you never know what will be listed next!

5unit Asterix BT Phonecard

Pictured above - 5unit Asterix BT Phonecard, in total four different Asterix BT Phonecard designs were released in 1995.

Did you know? A person who collects telephone cards is called a fusilatelist.

Things to think about before starting

If you're completely new to collecting, the first thing to consider is what exactly you'd like to collect. It could be a specific countries phonecards, e.g. France, Switzerland, the UK. Or it may be a specific telecoms cards e.g. Mercury (UK) or Telecom Eireann (Ireland) Callcards. Or it could be themed cards from around the world e.g. planes, wildlife or cards that feature cars or transports. Or it could be public, internal or service cards? With thousands upon thousands of telephone cards issued over the years, the list as you might imagine is pretty much endless - just don't try and collect them all!

Question from a new collector...

I'm loving your website but can you answer my question? I've started buying some cards off e-bay of aeroplanes. The cards are made by companies around the world. I just love looking at them and have bought an album, from your site, to put them in. I don't want to get carried away by buying anything on offer, or should I, if I like the look of them? Sorry to ask your advice but being new to this hobby, I don't want to get ripped off by buying anything I see so I'm not sure what to purchase. Everything looks so good. Is it just a gut instinct what to buy or SHOULD I buy what I like or just anything to do with aeroplanes to start my collection?

Reply from

If your collecting habits are anything like my own, your collection will be very personal, individual and unique to yourself, and may over time will evolve - mine certainly has.

Many fusilatelists collect cards with a theme, I know of a collector in France who also collects telephone cards with an aviation theme, so you are not alone. I would say that right now is a fantastic to buy collectible telephone cards, as the prices that the vast majority of cards command are some of lowest in the hobbies history. To find out why please read more about the current market and prices.

In terms of what to buy, I would say buy cards that appeal to you and within a budget you can afford and/or wish to spend. There are three types or classes of Phonecards, these are mint sealed, mint and used. Some collectors, collect mint copies only, while others collect mint and used. I myself have two collections running alongside each other a mint card collection and a used card collection. If you get more seriously into collecting telephone cards it's also a very good idea to buy a Phonecard catalogue(s) that cover the cards you are collecting. The wealth of information contained within a catalogue can really help to aid you in deciding what to spend. Catalogues often include the print run for a specific card and the value when the catalogue was published, giving you insightful information and helping you decide what to buy and/or pay.

The two most recent catalogue editions for the UK are:

World Phonecard Catalogue UK 1 - covers British Telecom optical cards, Prison cards and Oil Rig cards.

World Phonecard Catalogue UK 2 - covers British Telecom chip cards, Mercurycards, Paytelco, New World, GPT, among other UK issues.

As well as the two most recent catalogues, there are also a number of older catalogues which can be useful and these often appear secondhand on eBay, read more about the back catalogue of UK catalogues.

If you end up collecting telephone cards from around the world, then it may not be possible or simply too costly to buy catalogues covering all the country or telecom cards that you collect. In this instance the website Colnet is a very useful and has a category for Phonecards which includes more than half a million different Phonecards from around the world. You can search Colnet by 'Phonecard name', 'Countries', 'Systems' etc. It is even possible to search via theme e.g. 'Aircraft':

Coming back to continue a collection?

If you're coming back to Phonecard collecting after many years away the first thing your notice is that prices have fallen and some previously scarce cards are now almost common place. Of course some cards have remained pretty elusive and do command a higher price tag, but even these aren't the telephone number prices they once were. To bring you up to date with the hobby and prices from a UK in 2023, please see the Phonecard current valuations.

Don't collect blind

Once you know what you'd like to collect, the next thing I'd strongly recommend is that you buy a copy of the most recent telephone card catalogue. The latest catalogues that covered UK phonecards were printed in 2001 (BT optical cards) and 2006 (BT chip and Mercury cards). While their prices may be well of the mark, they are still a good indication of the rarity of cards, plus catalogues provide you with other useful information including, how many cards were issued, the cards name, the category and sometimes some background information, which is still as relevant today as it was then. Certainly without one, you'd be buying blind. The catalogues are now all out of print, however if you'd like one contact me and I'll put in touch with someone with copies.

Read more about the UK's telephone card catalogues. Visit the online shop to buy a copy of either or both of the two most recent UK Phonecard catalogues.

Where to buy?

The most obvious place today is on the online auction website eBay, gone are the days of the phonecard collector magazines like "TeleCard Collector" and the endless list of dealers filling the classifieds. However, there are still a number of dealers that use eBay to buy and sell cards. You can often spot them, as they are the ones starting their prices or their bidding at a more reasonable (higher) figure, rather than 99p from someone who has come into the phone cards and wants to sell them.

Pictured right - modern way to collect phonecards via a smartphone using eBay's app.

My advice on cards being listed on eBay and other online auction websites at a higher price would be unless it's a really rare card or you want it as soon as you see it, wait. As there are currently more Phonecards out there than collectors and next week, who knows, the same card make come up much cheaper?! Though with many cards being issued in numbers as low 500, there's only enough for 500 collectors (and that's if they all have just 1 copy)!

Ebay prices often start at just 99p (as it's free to list at that starting point) often for a single card, but sometimes for multiple cards. Ebay allows you to search by country and by new and used cards. You can also save your preferred search criteria and even receive daily emails, alerting you when new cards are added that match.

I've also added a swap section to this website for duplicates of cards I have in my own collection - view my BT swaps.

Other places to buy or swap telephone cards are at Phonecard fairs, there are fewer these days, but they do take place 3 or 4 times a year in the UK.

Storing and displaying your phone cards

Once you've started collecting or have new cards to add to an existing collection. You'll be looking for an ideal way to safely store and display your phonecards that keeps them in A1 mint condition (or at least) the condition they were in when you first brought or received them.

The best way undoubtedly is in albums with transparent album pages or sleeves which accommodate depending on the size and configuration 6 to 9 phonecards per page. In the height of collecting the options for storing phonecards in albums/pages were endless, these days it's a very different story as phone cards aren't as widely collected as they used to be.

When buying an album or binder and leaves for your collection you need to be very careful what you buy and use to store your phonecards. Why? Well depending on the cards in your collection some plastics found in album sleeves/leaves/pages can cause harm especially to Landis & Gyr (L&G) optical Phonecards. Oxidisation can occur on the cards silver edges and the white strip found on L&G thermatic cards can turn yellow/brown over time. Chip cards and magnetic cards don't seem to have the same issue. Though I have seen examples of the micro chip embedded into the cards surface becoming marked too, though thankfully this is quite rare.

Last updated: 1st January 2023

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