Through the years there have been several varieties of payphones.  The old style rotary payphones, late-model touch-tone payphones, and newer “smart phones” (which cost over $1000).  

Payphones are a dying industry in America.  So many people have cell phones, that the people who own a "route" (many payphones in an area that they periodically collect the money from) - simply are not making a profit.

There is a cottage industry online for sales of payphones to people who put them in their gameroom.  They often want the older rotary phones - but the problem with the old rotary payphones is that they don’t have the intelligence to accept modern “smart cards” which supply a “rate file” and intelligence.  Therefore they can’t handle modern-day coin calls To get around that limitation, the dealers gut the phone, so that you can put coins in if you want to . . . they just drop down into the vault harmlessly.  But the coins aren’t needed and they don’t do anything, since the phone has no intelligence.  The call will go through even if no coins are dropped.  Here is a good source for the purchase of remanufactured payphones: 

Touch-tone payphone are still available - for example, a “Western Electric” remanufactured model sells for about $400.

The phones are very heavy, because they are made to withstand a beating.  They are installed with a pedestal that holds the phone in place, and an enclosure.  They are normally mounted flush against a wall or pole.  Here is my own payphone in my basement gameroom:


The Rate File

Payphones have memory that holds all the 740 or so area codes, and the cost for calling those places.  

CAUTION:  the typical touch-tone payphone (most popular for gamerooms) has two batteries (3.6v and 4.8v) which are difficult to find.  So if you own a payphone in your home, it will not get much usage.  But the battery requires usage to charge (it charges only when the phone is Off-Hook).  So do not let the phone go for several months without being used.  If no one is using the phone, every month you need to lift the receiver off the hook and let it dangle for an hour or two.

They also have a built-in modem.  The payphone has a default factory setting that will allow local calls only.  The way the phone is configured is:

  1. the tech downloads a recent rate file from the phone company's

  2. using a special software program (such as Protel's Panoramas program), the tech customizes the rate file for that particular payphone.  He must configure the cost for local calls, set the time allowed and the cost for incoming calls (but usually the setting used for incoming calls is either free or blocked), and customize rates (prices) for specific long-distance area codes.

  3. the technician resets the phone to factory default, and enters it's own phone number - the phone automatically toggles ON it's modem to answer calls with it's modem

  4. the tech calls the payphone from a computer modem (or he can call his computer from the payphone)

  5. the payphone answers the call

  6. the rate file is downloaded from the computer to the payphone

  7. the phone is now configured - and toggles off the modem, so that it can receive calls

So, the payphone is completely configurable.  For gameroom payphones it is best to configure them at 25˘ for local calls.  When people pick up the receiver and dial, they hear that familiar woman's voice that says, "Please insert 25˘".  The voice a recording that is stored in the payphone's memory (it's Rate File).

The payphone's rate file makes it smart enough to deal with all types of happenings.  For example, if a kid drops 15˘ and dials a number - then a pre-recorded lady tells them to “please deposit 10˘”.  For long distance calls, the rate file will playback the same voice to tell the caller the total amount that must be deposited for that particular call to that location.