The 300 series range of GPO telephones were first introduced in 1937 and they were the first British desk telephones to contain an integral bell. All desk telephones before the 300 series used a separate bell.
When the 300 series telephones were designed the GPO thought that these integral bell telephones would be popular in offices because of the smaller footprint. However, it soon became apparent that normal telephone customers (subscribers) also appreciated this integral bell design.
What many people do not realise is that the earlier 200 series GPO telephones also remained in production and so these two vintage telephone models were both available until 1959.
There were 20 different models of the 300 series telephone and strangely enough the number range did not relate to the date they were introduced. For example the standard model was designated Tele 332 and was introduced in 1937, yet the model Tele 312 (shared service) telephone was not introduced until 1949.
Of the twenty 300 series telephone models twelve were desktop models and eight were wall mounted telephones. Nine of the desktop models had "magneto bells" that can work on a normal telephone line and three had DC bells that required separate complex equipment.
Looking at the nine Magneto Bell 300 series desktop models only four were in common use on direct exchange telephone lines (normal telephone lines as we know them today). These four 300 series models are the Tele 332 (standard) telephone, the 312 (Shared Service) telephone, the 328 extension telephone with bell on/off functionality and the 314 telephones extension telephone with bell on/off plus shared service.
The 332 telephone (standard model) is still a must have for antique telephone collectors. This is the Bakelite GPO telephone that most telephone subscribers would have had in their homes in the 1940's and 1950's. Many regard the Bakelite 332 as the iconic British Vintage Telephone.
The 312 model (shared service) with its "Call Exchange" button and badge is slightly more collectable (about 10% more expensive) than the standard 332 telephone. It is slightly rarer and although the extra chrome button serves no purpose today (shared service disappeared in the 1980's) collectors like this extra feature.
The rarer "Bell on/off" 328 and 314 vintage GPO Telephones are significantly harder to find than the 332 and 312 telephones. These phones also have a working bell on/off set of chrome buttons that telephone collectors like. These two things combined make these vintage telephones significantly more desirable. Usually a Black 328 phone is about 35% and a 314 telephone is 40% more valuable than a standard Black Bakelite 332 GPO telephone.
In simple terms the 314 telephone is a shared service version of a 328 telephone however the extra shared service button on a 314 phone has no function on a modern telephone line apart from decoration.
Bakelite 300 series GPO Telephones started life with a pull out drawer at the front under the dial. In the late 1950's the GPO decided that these drawers were a maintenance hazard as papers placed in the drawer could get stuck in the telephone bell mechanism. So when these vintage telephones were refurbished by the GPO before reissue to a new customer the drawers were taken out and replaced with a drawer blanking plate. This is why only about 25% of 300 series telephones around today still have pull out drawers.
Because drawer blanks (rather than working drawers) are regarded by collectors as normal and in character, the lack of a drawer only makes about a 5% difference to its collectable value.
Please note the relative values mentioned above only relate to Black Bakelite 300 series phones, the coloured 300 vintage telephones such as Ivory, Lacquer Red and Jade Green will be covered in a later section.