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Telecommunications, Telephone, Paperweight, Belgian Two-Frank Piece, Antique, c. 1914
Bell Telephone Manufacturing Company of Antwerp Belgian Two-Frank Piece Telecommunications Paperweight
Antwerp, Belgium: October 1914
Plated metal with inset coin
1.25 inches high, 3 inches diameter
Souvenir telecommunications paperweight incorporating a rotating Belgian 2-frank coin from 1912. The circular object with a stepped design may have been based on the base of one of the candlestick telephones in use at the time. The coin is encased and mounted in a circular opening at the top so that it can be rotated to display either side of the coin (heads or tails). The paperweight is inscribed on the top, “Belgian 2 Frank Piece Coined by the Bell Telephone Mfg. Co. of Antwerp, October 1914.” The origin of this item is unclear, but inasmuch as the inscription is in English and the date coincides with the temporary closing of the company at the beginning of World War I, it might have been made as a memento for American employees who had been working there at the time.
The Bell Telephone Manufacturing Company of Antwerp was founded in 1882 to produce phones for the European market and was jointly owned by the U.S. firms American Bell and Western Electric. Several years later it became an operating company of Western Electric. Bell Antwerp brought the telephone to Europe and accomplished many “firsts,” including the very first inter-city trunk line, which was between Antwerp and Brussels (1884) and the first international telephone link in Europe, which linked Brussels and Paris (1887). After the German Army invaded and occupied Belgium during the opening months of World War I, the company was shut down in October 1914, and remained closed for the next four years until the war ended.
Estreich, Bob and Jan Verhelst. “The Bell Telephone Manufacturing Company of Antwerp, Belgium.” Bob’s Old Phones. http://www.bobsoldphones.net/Pages/BTMC/BTMCHistory.htm (19 September 2011).