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BT to sell off red phone boxes

A British Telecommunications (BT) phone box in Parliament Square, London. BT is selling 60 of the famous phone kiosks with a starting price of $3,100.

Ferran Paredes/Reuters/Ferran Paredes/Reuters

BT Group PLC is putting its iconic red telephone boxes up for sale for the first time in 25 years, giving private buyers a limited opportunity to invest in a piece of British design history.

The K6 or "Jubilee kiosk" – so-called because it was introduced to commemorate King George V's silver jubilee in 1936 – was designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott.

The telecommunications group will initially put 60 boxes up for sale, although some of the remaining 11,000 are expected to be gradually sold off.

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Prices start at £1,950 ($3,100) for a basic empty phone box, plus delivery and VAT, the proceeds being split between BT and X2 Connect, a payphone contractor which carries out payphone refurbishment.

Hundreds of boxes were auctioned off in the mid-1980s, fetching between £50 and several thousand pounds. As mobile phones reduce demand for phone boxes, many of the 92,000 payphones in use in 2002 have been "adopted" by local communities for £1 or turned into cash machines and WiFi hot spots. Today just 51,000 BT payphones remain in use.

Sir Giles only reluctantly agreed to paint the K6 boxes "Post Office red," preferring silver or grey exteriors.

The architect was also responsible for many public buildings and landmarks, including London's Battersea and Bankside power stations (the latter now housing Tate Modern), Liverpool's Anglican Cathedral and Waterloo Bridge.

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