Revival of seventies love affair with retro moderne

Cobra phones were in vogue in the 1970s
Cobra phones were in vogue in the 1970s

Listening to the news this week it came to light that it was 100 years ago yesterday that the first transatlantic radio-telephone call was made.

It was by AT&T from Virginia in America to Paris and was the first time speech had been transmitted across the Atlantic.

Whenever I think of phones I think of cobra phones. I’d guess it’s not a term many of you are familiar with, but for collectors, their ears prick up at the sound of it.

It was back in 2001 when I first really started getting interested in telephones. We had been trading here at GB Antiques Centre for 11 years and in the November of 2001, we made the decision to stock collectables which were in complete contrast to the antiques which were there.

To be classed as a true antique, the item must be at least 100 years old, and whilst our visitors loved them, I knew there a real interest in more modern collectables, gadgets, retro pieces and technology.

It was in response to the public’s interest that we dedicated a space to the gleaming chrome, shiny vinyl and lurid colours of the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. It was an instant hit that enriched the centre and we’ve carried on with this eclectic mix of to this day.

Cobra phones were in vogue in the 1070s at the time of moon lava lamps. Colours were wild and anything went. Cobra phones were featured in The Professionals show and collectors see them as a real sign of the times. One in good condition could fetch between £100 - £150 now.

The “retro-moderne” era was a post war period when new materials were readily available, giving designers a chance to really experiment with different shapes and unusual colours! This whole style is very contemporary, innovative and unusual.

Good, original retro moderne pieces can be difficult to find. The movement ended abruptly during the 1970s energy crisis when plastics production plummeted.

By the time production had recovered, those trendy style setters of the fifties were middle aged, respectable and preferred Mock Tudor to curves and chrome.

It’s a real shame but a lot of pieces were just thrown away, People no longer saw the fun in quirky items. The retro love affair is now rekindled and we are lucky enough to have dealers who travel far and wide looking for fabulous pieces to sell at the centre.