The Republic of Ireland's then-state owned telecoms company Telecom Eireann (now privately owned and called Eircom) first introduced telephone cards into Ireland in August 1988. These phonecards were branded "Callcard".
Like others initially the Irish Callcard used a units for value system. Irish Callcards came with the following unit denominations: 5 (Complimentary), 10 (£2), 20 (£3.50), 50 (£8), 100 (£16). Prices for these cards are in Irish punt. Most Irish Callcards came wrapped in a plastic wrapper.
Ireland's launch of telephone cards in 1988 was not a nationwide rollout, rather three separate field trials took place in three major Irish cities, namely; Dublin, Galway and Limerick.
The Dublin field trial tested Plessey/GPT magnetic cards, the same company and technology that Mercury Communications utilised in the UK for their Mercurycard. The Limerick trial used Autelca magnetic cards and finally the Galway trial used Landis and Gyr's optical card system, the most secure of the lot and the same system British Telecom used with their BT Phonecards up until 1996 in the UK.
Pictured above: The three different Republic of Ireland trial Phonecards. Each card was supplied by a different telephone card manufacturers.
Two years after the field trial Telecom Eireann decided against magnetic and optical phonecard system, instead introducing the more secure chipped phonecards instead. The chipcard, first introduced in France by France Telecom was invented by French inventor Roland Moreno.
The Republic of Ireland was one of the first countries in the world to introduce chipped telephone cards in 1990. Ireland used just four different chipset manufacturers throughout the years, these were: Gemplus, Schlumberger, ODS (Landis & Gyr) and a very small number of Irish Horse Racing cards used the ORGA chipset.
The Republic of Ireland's first chipped phonecard was a complimentary card issued to delegates at a business conference run by the Irish Management Institute (IMI). The Telecom Eireann MD was chairman of the IMI at the time.
Pictured right: First Irish chipped Telecom Eirean callcard issue from 1990.The privately issued Callcard had a print run of 2,500.
The first Irish Callcards accessible to the general public were the 5 unit Teddy Bear Callcard,10 unit Irish Horse Racing Callcard, 20 Unit Cottage CallCard, 50 unit EC city of Culture CallCard and the 100 Unit Rock of Cashel Callcard. These were part of the early definitive set of cards, some cards shortly replaced by others.
What makes Irish Callcards interesting and also highly collectable is that Telecom Eireann and Eircom never produced many Callcards - with just 324 confirmed Callcards to date. In comparison British Telecom, like a number of other countries telecoms issued thousands of different cards. In addition, all privately produced cards were always available while stocks lasted from the Callcard Collector's Club for a slightly higher price.
Pictured left: Eircom final Callcard issue (Simply Talk €15) was produced in the mid noughties.
Collector's club membership was open to collectors worldwide, with many collectors in the UK and the rest of the world joined to the Callcard collectors club. They also enforced a strict one card per member rule, meaning dealers could not buy all the private cards and sell them at highly inflated prices.
Irish Callcards saw a great variety of themes through the years, from advertising Alcoholic drinks, special World Cup edition cards when Ireland made it into the World Cup (1994), music cards including the infamous Garth Brooks Callcard and also Callcards solicitors had produced to issue to potential clients.
Pictured right: Garth Brooks Callcard was issued by EMI Music to advertise the country singers various albums releases. Although the card says 'Limited Edition', it is actually very common, with some 400,000 copies being produced.
As with BT Phonecards, Disney also used Callcards to advertise their latest movies including Aladdin, Pocahontas, Mulan, Hercules and Tarzan.
The final Irish CallCard (SimplyTalk €15) was produced in 2006, before Eircom, like many other public payphone operators decided to stop producing telephone cards as a means to make telephone calls from their payphone network.
The above article was kindly written by Nick Rankin of IrishCallcards.net.
Nick is also keen to hear from people with Irish Callcards, be them collectors, former engineers, Telecom Eireann/Eircom employees etc. You can contact Nick by clicking here.
Last updated: 24th May 2016
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