20 totally novelty phones worth picking up in the 1980s
Ring-ring, the past is calling, and it wants to talk vintage telephones.
Now that cellphones have taken over everything, it gets harder and harder to remember how completely crucial our landlines used to be for us back in the day. Before every phone was a sleek thin screen that could only be customized by its case, these novelty phones from the 1980s helped remind us just how much care we took to pick out the perfect phone that suited our personalities.
From phones modeled after our favorite foods (hot dogs, hamburgers, apples, bananas!) to ones that featured our favorite characters (Mickey Mouse, Bugs Bunny, Garfield, Pac-Man!), in the '80s, there was a phone for everyone. Here we've gathered 20 awesome phones that almost make us want to put down our smartphones and transport to the era where the telephone only worked if we happened to be home, sitting right there next to it.
1. Mickey Mouse Phone
The classic Disney character Mickey Mouse has had phones modeled after him since the late 1960s, but that was all the more reason for different Mickey Mouse phones to be cranked out in mass in the 1980s. Each Mickey model is different, but we're sure they were all real swell telephones.
2. Bugs Bunny Phone
We're guessing it was practically impossible to pick up this phone without immediately asking whoever was on the other line that Bugs Bunny's signature greeting, "What's up, doc?"
3. Snoopy & Woodstock Phone
In the mid-1980s, the Snoopy and Woodstock phone arrived thanks to the folks at Determined Productions who cranked out all of Charles Schulz's Peanuts products.
4. Kermit the Frog Phone
In 1983, the Kermit phone was introduced to your favorite catalog thanks to the American Telecommunications Corporation, which was rumored to have designed a Miss Piggy version too, but it sadly never surfaced.
5. Garfield Phone
One of the most memorable phones from the 1980s was this Garfield phone, which included a fun feature where Garfield's eyes open when you pick up the receiver.
6. The Incredible Hulk Phone
Superheroes have been used in novelty phone designs, of course, but our favorite might be this Hulk phone, which strikes us as the perfect tool for when you have to communicate with telemarketers.
7. The Real Ghostbusters Phone
Who you gonna call? In 1987, the Ghostbusters got in on the novelty phone business with this cool release from Remco Toys made to market the animated series The Real Ghosbusters. It was a real phone you could put on your desk or hang on a wall.
8. Pac-Man Phone
In 1982, Pac-Man was at peak popularity and that meant he got his own one-piece novelty phone, too. The phone was originally produced by Bell System.
9. Gumby Phone
This Gumby phone has a pretty heartwarming origin story. The creator of Gumby, Art Clokey, didn't want to make Gumby products at first because he didn't want parents to think he was exploiting their kids. The overwhelming demand for Gumby toys proved to him that parents did not see it that way at all. So he created Prema Toy Company to create Bumby merch, among which was this pretty sweet 1985 Gumby phone.
Image: Ebay / drelly05
10. Ronald McDonald Phone
Another thing that happened in the 1980s was a trend that saw the telephone become a promotional device, and not just for telemarketers cold-calling houses. This Ronald McDonald phone is a good example, a collectible released by McDonald's in the 1980s to feed their customer base beyond their burgers.
11. M&Ms Phone
M&Ms is another major brand that started pushing novelty phones in the 1980s, including unique features like this model that also includes a candy dish.
Image: Ebay / arrogantlyshabby
12. Keebler Elf Phone
Keebler kept people coming back for their snacks by creating the now-iconic Keebler elves in 1968. Fans of The Andry Griffith Show probably recognized the voice of the 1970 head elf Ernie Keebler as Parley Baer, the actor who portrayed Mayor Stoner on the show. Super-fans of Parley Baer (or simply Keebler cookie fans) likely couldn't resist this collectable Keebler Elf phone released in the 1980s.
Image: Ebay / jonsb_2001-5
13. Tyco Big Blocks Phone
Maybe our favorite phone from the 1980s was this LEGO-esque phone from Tyco that's fully functional and includes a drawer for extra pieces.
Image: Ebay / madeintheshade888
14. Columbia Tel-Com Pump Phone
Columbia Tel-Com released a ton of novelty phones in the 1980s, but one of the ones that seems to stick the most in the minds of retro enthusiasts is a model made to look like a woman's high-heeled shoe. These came in various colors, but most commonly red or pink.
Image: Etsy / thegroovevintage
15. Translucent Phone
Clear phones became a real thing in the 1980s, sold by novelty companies and serious consumer technoloy shops like Radio Shack alike. The most popular model might be the colorful Conair version depicted here.
Image: Etsy / goodmerchants
16. Hamburger Phone
Popularized in the 1970s, The Hamburger Phone was a tradmarked thing that remained popular through the 1980s. The craze likely inspired copycat phones in the shapes of other foods like bananas, apples, hot dogs and even ketchup bottles.
Image: Etsy / retroandme
17. Hot Lips Phone
Like the pump phone, the "hot lips" phone came in many colors, including pink, red and nude lips. It is probably the most ubiquitous of any novelty phone. If you didn't own one, you might remember making kissy faces at them at the mall. Many manufacturers released versions of this 1980s novelty phone, but the one shown here is Telequest's model from 1984.
Image: Etsy / vintagefromthe50s
18. Jumbo Button Phone
Webcor came out with this phone in the 1980s, blowing up the numbers to comically huge proportions that would likely make today's smartphone users struggling with tiny numbers on touchpads weep.
Image: Etsy / retrowarehouse
19. Neon Lucite Phone
In the 1970s, Kneider Electronics put out a neon lucity rotary phone, but the touch-tone phone from the 1980s was more popular and can be more commonly found today.
Image: Ebay / dadcollectstoys37
20. Swatch Twin Phone
The most '80s phone on this list is definitely Swatch's twin phone, marketed as a gossip tool that allowed two people to use the same phone at once to listen to the same conversation. How novel! Hands up if you ever let a friend be your "twin" to secretly listen in.