Callcards Blog

Do Callcards still work?...

A question I am quite often asked, do Callcards still work? The answer may surprise you. Callcards lost popularity back in the late nineties due to the increase in affordable mobile phones. Gradually shops stopped stocking Callcards and Eircom (now Eir) started to decrease the number of public payphones.

By the end of 2009, Eircom have already removed half of all phoneboxes. The current payphone type Eir implemented back in the early ‘00s function as both a coin and card payphone. Even to this day the cardphone functionality is still active. This means that Callcards with remaining units can still be used today!

Just after the millennium Eircom produced a new variety of Callcards, rather than the Callcard containing a Unit for credit, a cash value was used instead. Prior to the euro changeover earlier Callcards displayed the price in Irish Punts (£) and can be seen on the early Simply Talk series.

This in itself brought some interesting changes. Rather than blocking earlier Callcards with Unit denominations eircom decided to convert the Unit values to cash ones. As a result of this changeover the Callcards value was changed as below:

  • 5 Units – N/A
  • 10 Units - €4.00
  • 20 Units - €7+€3 Free
  • 50 Units – €15 + €10 Free
  • 100 Units – N/A

Behind the scenes of the public Callcard rollout

Before Callcards became an iconic symbol of nineties Ireland, an advanced trial and rollout took place by Telecom eireann in the late eighties. This roll out saw trials conducted in cities Dublin, Galway and Limerick.

The cards tested during these trials relied on magnetic and optical strips which held the credit or “units”.

Introducing the chipped Callcard

After the short 2 year trial Telecom Eireann decided to test the relatively new chip based smartcard technology for their Callcards. These cards were durable, modern and most importantly more secure. In a bold move by Telecom Eireann Ireland became one of the first countries in the world to implement chipped phonecards. These cards were more expensive to produce than magnetic or optical cards.

Prior to the nationwide Cardphone rollout many cards were produced by different manufacturers to test that their cards would be compatible. These cards were usually marked “SAMPLE” or “TEST”.

Unlike private Callcards test cards were never available to the general public. They were produced in very limited quantities and provided to engineers in charge of maintaining and deploying the cardphones. As these test cards were never intended for public access they mostly contained very plain designs. Some also had larger unit values than available to the general public, including 120 and 150 units for example.

The first known test cards were produced by manufacturers Schlumberger and Gemplus. These were catalogued as Telecom Eireann Demo 1, Telecom Eireann Demo 2, and Telecom Eireann Demo 3 "Ireland's First Callcard" (pictured). These cards, particularly Demo 1 and 3 are extremely rare. Many test cards, particular the early ones were returned to the manufacturer after testing was conducted to be retested and then destroyed.

Telecom Eireann and Eircom phoneboxes in TV and film!

Throughout the years, many great Irish films and television series have been produced. From Father Ted to Intermission many of these television programmes and films featured Telecom Eireann or Eircom phones at some point. Have we missed any..? Do let us know either in the comments section below or email in to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. :) .

 Father Ted - Speed 3

Dating all the way back to March 1998 the Father Ted Episode Speed 3 features the villain towards the end using a Telecom Eireann phonebox. It is not obvious if a Callcard or coinphone is being used during this short clip! 



A History of Cardphones used in Ireland

Throughout the years Telecom Eireann and Eircom implemented four different Cardphone hardware models. Initially starting off with separate coinphones and cardphones Eircom was to later bring out a hybrid coin and card payphone, which is still in use today. The Cardphone manufacturers used over the years were produced by both Schlumberger and Landis and Gyr.

In the image to the left you will see a Telecom Eireann cardphone. This is identifiable by the yellow sign. This sign stated "Telecom Eireann Cardphone - Calls without coins".

Four different models supporting are known to have been used by Telecom Eireann and later Eircom.


The Irish Management Institute Callcards

While most collectors will be aware of the extremely rare Irish Management Institute (IMI) Callcards, for many it is a mystery as to why three private Callcards were produced for two different IMI conferences in the years 1989 and 1990. The IMI Callcards are among the first of all private issue cards, with only the Cork FITCE being the other trial Callcard to see a private card produced.

Many collectors have often wondered why the IMI conferences had Callcards produced? What was the objective of the conferences and also how many delegates would have attended? Fortunately today, we have talked with a person who spoke at the infamous Ireland’s Europe conference! We have answers (well some at least!). :)

Back to Top