A Word About Irish Phonecards

I dont collect Phonecards. Again its a “preservation” and “conservation” thing. Irish Telecom introduced phonecards around 1988, initially as very functional and plain to be used in telephone kiosks in Ireland. Soon they became colourful and interesting.
There was a set series…in stamp collecting terminology “definitives” and again in stamp collecting terminology “varieties” were noticed.
I first saw these phonecards, carelessly disposed of in phone kiosks in Dublin around 1992. Understandably the nature of stamp collectors is to be interested in small colourful pieces of paper.
I think they also fascinated children who kept an eye on phone booths to get cards and swap them with friends.Most cards which I found were in isolated phone kiosks in rural Ireland. Indeed, much against the advice of my wife, I used to rummage for them in litter bins.


As well as the “definitive” cards, there were cards issued to commemorate events and people. And this of course made them more attractive to stamp collectors. Indeed for a very short period around 1992 to 1995, Phonecards were hailed as the “New Stamps”.
Dublin “freesheet advertising” printed wants/swaps/sales lists on a weekly basis. New Collectors outbid each other to get their hands on earlier issues.
But there was a problem.
Many commemorative issues had a very small print run.
Many events had their “own” limited number cards.
This meant that they became instantly collectible and the consequence was inflationary.
Indeed the suspicion grew that the market was being deliberately manipulated with “special events” and “limited issues”.
Factor in that some of the commemoratives were merely advertising for concerts, movies and alcohol (the latter being particuarly inappropriate) and this was a radical departure for (say) stamp collectors who saw Irish Stamps as being a reflection of the History, Culture, Folklore, Religion, Spirituality, Mythology, Sport, Music of the Nation.
An Irish Stamp Collection represents the best that Ireland hoyas to offer.
In comparison Irish Phonecards were…venal.
After enthusiastically throwing myself into Phonecard Collecting for maybe three years, I just gave up. I think others did too.
But they are a kinda footnote to mainstream “Irish” collecting…Stamps, Postcards and Coins.
In researching for this post, I came across an “online” dealer. Telecom Ireland do not seem to have issued phonecards after 2003. Changes in the industry itself perhaps.The telecoms industry is now in several “private” hands. Phone kiosks are rare. Everyone seems to have a cell phone and the Internet and Texting and the likes of Twitter have taken over.


About John

Dia Duit! Hello. My name is John. I am retired. I live in Ireland. I am on a five year mission to visit every city, town, village and place of historic and scenic interest in Ireland.
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3 Responses to A Word About Irish Phonecards

  1. Anthony says:

    I have quite a number of Japanese telephone cards. I collected them more as a reminder of my time in Japan rather than as a collection–though, I did note there was a “collector scene” at the time. I guess it has completely dried up now.

    • John says:

      I think it was a fashion. At the time. it was believed that the Phonecards would supercede stamps. And it certainly looked that way.
      We used to travel around Ireland an stop at every “card” phonebox, hoping that someone would have left behind a used one. And my wife would complain about the “germs” that I might pick up.
      I think phonecard collecting died because for a few years it looked like cutting edge technology but was replaced by cell-phones and they just were not needed anymore.
      also a lot depicted advertising, especially movies and concerts.
      and the privatisation of the Telecom industry so that there was no real “official” involvement as there would be with the Postal Service.

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