There Is a Vibrant Market for Used (er, Vintage) 212 Phone Numbers


If you have an iPhone 4, you’re sort of cutting-edge, but if you have an iPhone 4 with a 212 number, you’re a walking statement of ironic cool, one toe in the future with a nod back to the landlines of yesteryear, because 212 area codes are the techy rich kid thing, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The Journal‘s Metropolis blog spoke to several forward (backward?)-thinking young people whose attachment to the area code brings us back to the days of trying on our mom’s ’80s-style heels as a little kid. Here’s a collection of 212 sentiments:

“I swapped my number to something new — 646 — to match my New York billing address, but I really secretly wanted a 212,” says Foursquare co-founder, Naveen Selvadurai.

Ashley Granata, 29, the chief marketing officer at start-up Fashism, a fashion advice site, puts it succinctly: “212 numbers are the new rent-controlled apartments.”

“Since your phone number is quite literally your calling card, those numbers can say a lot about you and connote a certain savvy,” says Allison Mooney, a media and marketing theorist at Omnicom’s MobileBehavior.

“On the tech scene, retro connotes authenticity,” says Web content strategist Peter Feld. “And 212 means you’re an authentic, old-school New Yorker. The irony is that 212 cell phones are a little phony, like fake vintage T-shirts. Real Manhattanites use 917 for their cell phones and 212 for their land lines.”

Then, someone puts it all in perspective…
“Physical talking on the phone is something old people do.” Game. set. match.

The demand for 212 numbers is largely because they’re all used up — hence the reason we’ve advanced to 646, 917, etc. And when someone cancels a 212, it must be taken out of circulation for 60 days before it can be recirculated a/k/a adopted by a techy new kid on the block. This dynamic has led to a new business — selling 212 numbers to trendy suckers for hundreds of dollars on sites like 212 Area Code, eBay, and Craigslist. Easy-to-remember numbers with double zeros on the end can cost over $1,000 — justify it as you will, a piece of New York history or a big, fat money-suck.

But wait, what if the 212 number is 212-646-9170 — is that steeply discounted? Or does it gush I <3 NY so strongly that it’s extremely valuable? Well, I tried calling it, and it appeared on my (212 landline) screen as “invalid” with a busy signal, so perhaps somewhere it’s up for grabs!