Superman & Wonder Woman Vintage Phones
by Jamie Reigle
Some of the most sought after collectibles out there among Superman and Wonder Woman fans are the old vintage figural telephones. Seeing how they were only produced a couple years and some companies producing them were shut down, finding these phones is not easy. Here is what I believe to be the true history of the phones from all my years of research into them.
In 1978, the first Superman and Wonder Woman telephones were made by MicroCommunications Corp. of California. Model #42-85 was the Wonder Woman version, and Model #41-85 was a Superman version. They made a brown wood grain base version of both characters as well as a red plastic base with Superman and a yellow plastic base with Wonder Woman. Both were available in rotary and touch tone. I believe they just came in plain cardboard boxes with foam inserts as the company did not have the Superman or Wonder Woman license. Very few of these phones were actually released and made it to the public. MicroCommunications did not have the license to sell them, so DC Comics shut them down for copyright infringement. After sales were halted, the leftover phones were ordered to be destroyed; however, the production manager took the original molds, the statues, and unused phone bases home with him. Eventually he sold them all (with the exception of the original molds) to a private collector in Florida in 1979-1980, and that collector eventually sold them all to other dealers and collectors. There was approximately 50 Superman statues and 20-25 Wonder Woman statues. The loose statues do not have any holes in the bottom of the feet. Some sellers out there claim to have ‘prototypes’ because there is no holes drilled, but any of the leftover statues did not have the holes in them as they were never used. If you have one with a hole under the feet, it would have been at one time used on a phone. Plus any of the statues out there all originated from the same guy who bought them all back in 1979-1980. He never attached any of the statues to the bases or tried to sell them as phones as some rumors have stated. He never sold any of the leftover bases either. He believes he ended up throwing them away when he moved. It has always been believed that the original molds were then sold to Allied to produce the phones.
In 1979, Allied Telecommunication Equipment Co. (ATE) located in NY, made the Superman and Wonder Woman telephones which were fully licensed by DC Comics. They were supposed to also make a Batman version, but as far as I know it was never done. They did both phones in 2 versions: rotary and touch tone. They had the white/cream bases with red undersides. Their Superman phones came in white boxes with a sticker photo of the phone on one side. The same sticker was used on both versions with a checkbox that showed which version was inside. There was an option for a ‘Bronze’ version but as far as I know it was never produced. On the back of the white bases of the Superman phones, it is stamped in the plastic, “TM & © DC Comics, 1979”. Also on the bottom side of the phones, there is an ATE sticker with all the FCC license info, etc. if you look you will notice it actually states ‘Superman’ on it as well. On the Wonder Woman versions, the stickers have been “cut down” to only show the FCC info and numbers. They have been cut right below the word ‘Superman’, so I believe they never actually made a ‘Wonder Woman’ sticker to apply and just cut down and reused the Superman ones. Note: There were also several of these phones at the 1980 Consumer Electronics Show (C.E.S) that had a special sticker added to them that read “No. 149 C.E.S. (Consumer Electronics Show) Show 1980 Premiere Edition.” or “No 162, CES Show 1980, Premiere Edition, President A.T.E.” I have seen several different numbers on them, not sure how many of the numbered ‘Premier Editions’ were actually sold this way.
In 1981, Character Phones Inc., took over the licensed Superman and Wonder Woman phones. ‘Character Phones’ was the same company as ‘ATE’ just under a different name. Their sales ad clearly shows the white base ATE phones in the photos, and if you look at the stickers attached to bottom of phones, it has ATE on them as well. They produced the red base/red underside phones in both touch tone and rotary of both characters. They came in a plain white box which was factory stamped on the top with the 4 phone options and they could check off which phone was enclosed. The rotary phones sold for $129.00 and the touch tone sold for $149.00.
No one will ever know for sure just how many of each phone was ever produced and sold, and even out of those that did make it to the market, a lot of them were broken and destroyed over the years. The figures would break off at the feet, the backs where the phone hung up would crack and fall apart, the Superman capes were lost, etc.
I have tracked down and talked to as many of the former employees I could locate, the collectors who bought out the phones and statues, collectors who have the phones, guys who had photos, flyers, etc. and Google’d until my fingers bled to find all this information, and unless something else eventually pops up on the phones, this is the best history I have been able to piece together so far.
So enjoy the photo album below as it should help you understand everything I have written above. There has been all kinds of ‘rumors’ on these phones the last 30 years, but I think the the pics below will back up my version of the story.
If anyone else out there has anymore info, pics, paperwork, etc. please contact me.
And thanks to everyone has has helped me with pics of their phones, or other info to put all the pieces together.
Kyall, Kim, Kristin, Renny, Susan, Art & Allie, Cameron …you guys were WONDERful!
Charles…my buddy and one of the ‘Original’ Superman Collectors who was collecting Superman before collecting was cool, who took the time 35 years ago to collect all the loose statues and phones and photos from Micro and get them back in the hands of collectors instead of thrown away or destroyed…SUPER job!
And to the old former ATE employee who contacted me out of the blue several years ago as he wanted me to have the file copies, prototypes, boxes, etc he has stored away for the last 30 years since they shut down for my collection he read about online. I was the right guy in the right spot and the right time I guess. That is really got me going to figure the history out.