Phone cards were first introduced in Italy in 1975 when a vending machine company issued cards worth a half lira a piece. Now, collecting phone cards has become a hobby with thousands of followers around the world. The hobby is called telegery and hobbyists refer to themselves as fusilatelists. The rarest phone cards are those produced in limited quantities to test the market but then discontinued before catching on.
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From 1971 to 2001 Vista United Telecommunications was 51 per cent owned by Disney, with Sprint owning the rest of the company. The company handled telecommunications for Disney and in 1994 began issuing calling cards to Disney cast members. These cards were also available to the public through mail order. These cards have increased 250 per cent in value and are now highly sought after by collectors. Disney began selling calling cards to the public in 1996 in vending machines at the Disney World theme park in Florida. These phone cards were discontinued in 1998.
Saudi Arabia first experimented with selling phone cards to use with public phones in 1984. The cards, created by the Swiss firm Landis and Gyr, came in two denominations and 33,000 and 21,000 were printed, respectively. Although this may seem like a large printing, few of the cards survived and they are now among the rarest phone cards in the world. Future trial cards in Saudi Arabia, such as the Alcatel cards released in 1991 or the Japanese Anritsu cards that were made in 1991 but never released, are also sought by collectors.
Turkey first offered phone cards created by Landis and Gyr in 1986, but in 1989 a number of other providers were allowed to test their products in the Turkish market. These other offerings were released in small numbers and are now rare. The Italian manufacturer Urmet issued 10,000 copies of a phone card with the image of a vase on the front side and British GPT issued a set of nine cards, but the rarest of these Turkish cards may be the card issued by Japanese company Tamura.
In 1994 the Italian company Urmet created two phone cards with a run of 5,000 each but it accidentally wrote telefonique on the cards instead of telephonique. The cards were all supposed to have been destroyed but around 300 were kept for internal testing purposes. Only a few of these cards have made it to the collectors market and it isn't clear how many actually survived.
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