Russell Hobbs K2 kettle - a collectors' guide

Russell Hobbs K2 kettle, c1963
  • Production run: 1960 to 1982
  • Designer: William Morris Russell
  • Where was it made: Croydon, South London, later Wombourne, Staffordshire
  • Value today: £20 to £200
  • Buy:

The Russell Hobbs K2 was the first kettle that switched itself off when the water boiled. To many people it was a much loved old friend. In recent years it has become the most desirable kettle that everyone wants in their kitchen.

The K2 was a premium product; it was just about the most expensive kettle you could buy at the time. Before the mid-1970s it was the only kettle that could switch itself off, known in the trade as an automatic kettle. It was well made and had a reputation for longevity that the jug kettles which superseded it could not compare with. Many people are still using K2s more than thirty years after they first bought them.

Today it is by far the most collectable mass-produced kettle.

Short history

The Russell Hobbs Company was the partnership of William Morris Russell and Peter Hobbs. They both served as majors in the army during the Second World War and they both joined Morphy Richards soon afterwards, with Peter Hobbs becoming managing director of Morphy Richards in South Africa and William Hobbs working as an engineer and designer.

Peter Hobbs parted company with Morphy Richards to join another firm. He later contacted Russell to help develop a ceramic electric coffee percolator. Both men decided they would do better on their own and formed Russell Hobbs, the perfect partnership of salesman and engineer.

Although the coffee percolator did quite well in the prosperous 1950s, it was their next product, an electric kettle, which really took off. Russell's first electric kettle, the K1, had a vapour control system which switched the kettle off just as the water came to the boil. This was revolutionary; no other kettle had such a system and it was so easy to forget and leave a kettle to boil dry. Later advertising called the K2 the Forgettle.

Russell Hobbs K2 box, 1978 (image colour_boxx)

The K1 was a bit of an ugly duckling and Russell, who always believed that well designed products sold themselves, improved the design to create a design classic in the K2.  The company launched the K2 in 1960. It achieved a place on the coveted Council of Industrial Design (COID) index, only one of two kettles in the 1960s.

In 1963 Russell and Hobbs sold Russell Hobbs to Tube Investments (TI) which ran the firm as a separate business until the 1980s. The K2 also continued and was improved along the way. A new model the K2R, 'R' for rapid, had already been launched in 1962 and a new stainless steel model, the K2S, joined the K2R later in the 1960s.

In 1982 Russell Hobbs finally replaced the K2 with the K3. A similarly solid and well engineered product, the K3 continued to sell well against modern opposition in the form of the plastic jug kettle.

Models

Over its lifetime, there were several variants of the K2:

  • K2 - Chrome plated copper
  • K2R - Chrome plated copper, rapid heat element
  • K2S - Brushed stainless steel, rapid heat element
  • K2SPW - Chrome plated copper with white handle, switch cover and lid knob
  • K2P - Polished stainless steel

All K series kettles have the model number on the base so they are easy to identify.

Curved spout on early K2 and K2R

K2 (1960)

The first version was launched by Russell Hobbs in 1960. It was made from chrome plated copper. In the post-war era chrome plated copper replaced traditional Victorian style copper.

The original K2 had a 1750 watt element and could hold three pints of water.

Later in the 1960s the K2 was phased out. So all K2s date from the 1960s.

How do you identify a K2?

Russell Hobbs K2, rear view of switch

The K2 is marked on the base 'VAPOUR CONTROLLED ELECTRIC KETTLE MADED IN ENGLAND BY RUSSELL HOBBS LIMITED TYPE K2 CAPACITY 3 PINTS'

K2s are always chrome plated copper. They have a curved spout (see photograph, above left).

Very early models have a 2 pin electric plug socket connector. Later versions have the round 3 pin type. Look out for early versions that have 'Patent Pending' on the base. The patent was granted in 1962. It is likely that the patent would have been stamped on the base soon after.

Also look out for blue lettering and the fancy script Russell Hobbs logo on the back of the plastic cover above the plug socket connector (see photograph, right).

Later kettles had white lettering and the logo disappeared (see photograph, right below).

K2R (1962 to 1982)

Russell Hobbs K2S, late model with straight spout (image colour_boxx) Russell Hobbs K2S, late model, rear view showing different Russell Hobbs logo (image colour_boxx)

The K2R was the definitive Russell Hobbs kettle. It was an improved version of the K2, with a 2400W, element and it remained in production from 1962 until the K2 was phased out in 1982.

Older versions, pre 1979, had a curved spout; later versions had a straight spout. Otherwise it was pretty much unchanged from the original design.

K2S

Sometime around the end of the 1960s, Russell Hobbs added a new model to the K2 range, the K2S. 'S' stood for stainless steel. It had the same 2400W element of the K2R and was finished in brushed stainless steel (see photograph, left).

Like the K2R later versions had a straight spout (as in the photograph, above left).

K2SPW (1970s)

This must be the rarest K2. It was finished in chrome plated copper and had a white handle, white cover for the thermostat and a white knob for the lid. I have seen pictures of a copper one as well. This may have been a factory one-off.

Russell Hobbs K2P, note the straight spout and different handle on the lid (image theopotaxi)

K2P

I know very little about the K2P (see photograph, left). It appeared towards the end of the K2 production run, probably in the 1980s. I am surmising that P stood for polished and it was stainless steel in a polished finish. The K2P had a straight spout and a squarer handle on the lid to the older versions.  There also appears to be no vent on the lid.

Values

K2 values have increased in recent years. It is important that kettles are in working order with no leaks and have no major damage. Some signs of wear on older models are acceptable.

Unused in original box

Box in good condition, kettle as new

  • K2R - £100 to £200
  • K2S - £60 to £160

Good condition

Kettles in working order, presentable condition and no leaks or other faults:

  • K2 - £30 to £60
  • K2R (curved spout) - £30 to £50
  • K2S (curved spout)  - £20 to £30
  • K2R (straight spout) - £15 to £30
  • K2S (straight spout) - £10 to £30
  • K2P (straight spout) - £15

Poor condition

Kettles with faults or poor condition

  • All models except K2SPW or early 1960s K2 - £10

Can you repair broken K2s?

You can source on eBay.

Useful links and reference material

Article by Steven Braggs, March 2014

Your comments

"I never realised there were so many variants." Melanie 26/03/2014
"thank you for your info page i have been collecting k2 kettles for some time i have all the models apart from the k2p
the white handle one i imported from the US its still got its 120 volt element so its unsable, i also have a copperfinsh one,
the earlist one is a k2 with bakerlite feet which are held on with small screws
best regards andrew
ps do you know where i can find out how rh dated kettles by serial number?" andrew knights 09/08/2014
"Hi Andrew, Thanks for your comment. I wondered about the copper finished ones. I wasn't sure if someone hadn't removed the plating, but I guess they must be genuine. I wasn't able to find any out about serial numbers. If it helps the chrome one used in these pictures has serial number 2293557. I've assumed its an early one as there is no indication of TI and it is still patent pending, but does not have the two pin plug. So I dated it at around 1963." Steven 10/08/2014
"Hi. Thanks for this info it has been very helpful in identifying a rare find handed in to a PPWH charity shop - a BNIB K2/K2R Kettle. I want to make sure I have the correct details to maximise the sale value and wanted to ask your thoughts. It's in a brown branded box which has model K2 printed on it with the R stamped on beside. The warranty card in the box says KR2. However the base says just K2 not K2R with the wording exactly as you have written above for the K2. It has a curved spout, patent pending on the base and the blue lettering and script. I can see the element is stamped 2.4kw. Can I assume that this was probably a model from 1962 just as the K2R was being introduced - K2 body with new 2400w element? Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks" Carolyn Davidson 13/11/2014
"i have a 54 yr old k2 it never fails wife bought a britta cordless and its the most awfull kettle" Ade lewis 14/11/2014
"Hi Carolyn, If it's got a 2400w element it is definitely a K2R. I've had a closer look at the kettle in these pictures and it also has a 2.4KW element, as yours does. However, it is possible that the element was replaced at some point and upgraded. However, yours sounds a mint example, so I think that is unlikely. The guarantee card and box confirm it is a K2R. The Patent pending means it dates from around 1962. However, I don't know when Russell Hobbs changed the base. I can confirm yours was made in the 60s. It is not a very early example is it is a K2R, it must have been made after 1962. I assume that there are not dates on the guarantee card. As to value, I would say if it is mint and unused in the original box it should be worth around £100. best regards" Steven 15/11/2014
"hi there can anyone help i have the k2 russell hobbs kettle and i need to change the element ,the problem i have is the round nut underneith the earth pin were will i get the tool to remove this kind regards everyone jimmy" jimmy 20/11/2014
"I have a brand new in the box with guarantees ( obviously not valid ) model K2 P...Never used..
I also have a brand new in the box again with the guarantees...Model K2RCW , which is Copper with white fittings...
I don't know the value of these as I would like to sell them...If somebody had an idea of the worth? ...I would appreciate it..Thanks" Jimmy ONeill 19/12/2014
"I should say £100 to £200 for the cooper K2RCW, probably more. The other kettle, is probably a bit less collectable, say £50 to £100. Best regards" Steven 19/12/2014
"Thanks Steve, I appreciate that...All the best Jimmy" Jimmy ONeill 21/12/2014
"hi steve tought you would like to know i have just found a very early k2 , yes the one two pin connecter if you would like a photo just ask regards andrew" andrew knights 24/02/2015
"My parents bought their first Russel Hobbs kettle (a K2) in UK around 1963, if I remember well, and it is still working every day, even if some wear is now visible (the small bars fixed by bolts are slightly moving and some drips of water sometimes leak there, nothing serious really).

We bought three other K2R, one still in its box, and I keep them should my "old" one ever fail, but I believe it will live longer than me (I'm now 67).

I'm just looking for the small black plastic feet as a stupid maid once tried to boil water putting the kettle on the electric stove! It still worked afterwards but the feet are seriously damaged, showing the metal underneath.

I think I'll never find any better and reliabler electric kettle in the world and regret that no one ever decided to build again such great products!" Bob J. Ward 03/04/2015
"That's a great story. I'm glad to hear your K2 is still going strong. The feet are also missing from the one in these pictures. I think it is a common problem. Getting parts for these is very difficult and they often cost more than a complete K2." Steven 03/04/2015
"I have a K2SPW (white handle, lid, thermostat cover) that my parents bought in late 1970's-early 1980's (lived in the US, fell in love with tea on a trip to Scotland). It is in very good condition, still works (although the cord gets pretty hot, straight spout and without the box it came in. I no longer use it and am considering selling it. What would be a reasonable estimate? Is there a venue for selling such unique items? BTW, there are no cracks or chips in any of the white plastic, no dents in the metal. Only some light mineral buildup in the interior. Thank you." Robert 22/08/2015
"Hi Robert, eBay tends to be the best place to sell this kind of thing. Alternatively some people post their contact details with items for sale on this site. Value would be around £100. Best regards" Steven 06/09/2015
"Copper version recently sold on eBay:
http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/RUSSELL-HOBBS-K2R-COPPER-WHITE-VTG-ELECTRIC-AUTOMATIC-KETTLE-ULTRA-RARE-GWO-/272007782554?hash=item3f54ed609a%3Ag%3AoWUAAOSwAodWE8F9&nma=true&si=uFXk0d6In0ahg9ni2ug7KfmeJeY%253D&orig_cvip=true&rt=nc&_trksid=p2047675.l2557" Kes 13/11/2015
"H1,your article is riveting. I'm using daily an inherited K2 with 'Patent PTOending' on the base. It doesn't have any lettering, but there is an indent where a label might have been placed instead." Jocelin 02/12/2015
"Hello Steven, I recently found a new, unused, still in the box K2S in my mothers loft. I notice in an earlier comment that you recommend eBay to sell this kind of thing. What would be a fair price to ask for this? Thank you." Tom 03/01/2016
"I Tom,

For unused in the original box, I would expect to get at least £100. best regards" Steven 04/01/2016
"Can anyone please tell me where to get replacement plastic 'snap-on' feet for a K2P." Peter Barker 26/02/2016
"Good morning Steven

I have a K2R. I need to reassemble the switch unit after a screw came loose and I had to retrieve it. Do you know if there a diagram is available showing how the internal parts fit together.

Roy" Roy Westerby 08/04/2016
"Unused K2P now on Ebay. Lid looks like it is plastic but I think that may just be the reflection. Shows that it is actually vented with the vent integrating into the squarer handle.
http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/Russell-Hobbs-K2P-Vintage-Automatic-Electric-Kettle-In-original-box/162046023264?_trksid=p2045573.c100033.m2042&_trkparms=aid%3D111001%26algo%3DREC.SEED%26ao%3D1%26asc%3D20131017132637%26meid%3Dd3fe4984b340476084b94ff44a02c06b%26pid%3D100033%26rk%3D1%26rkt%3D4%26sd%3D162046023264" Rolf 23/04/2016
"I saw this one too. I agree it looks like plastic. I wonder if later ones had this lid. It does not match the pictures on the box." Steven 25/04/2016
"I have and use every day a Russell Hobbs K2 Kettle marked on the bottom Patent Pending" Roy 17/10/2016
"We moved to the States from London in 1971. My father had a local repair shop re-wire our K2 to work on 120 volts, and we used it into the '80s when it finally died.

It's still what I think about when someone mentions a kettle." Rich 09/01/2017
"Hello Steven, I have been asked to sell a boxed, unused K2S kettle with a curved spout for an elderly lady who does not have a computer. It has the the fancy script Russell Hobbs logo and name engraved on the back, but is not coloured in, and it has no plug. The box is plain brown cardboard but printed with Russell Hobbs logo and kettle capacity and rating, 3 pints, 2.4kw, 240v. Can you tell me its approximate age, what I should ask for it and whether I should fit a plug ? Any advice would be appreciated.
Thanks,
Ray." Ray Dean 26/01/2017
"I am trying to find a price for an electric kettle that could be used as a prop for a play set in the early 1960s. Would be really helpful if anyone knew a price range for this or where one could be sourced?
Thanks" Honor 13/03/2017
"Can anyone please tell me where to get replacement power supply lead for a K2R plug socket connector? "Grace" Grace 29/03/2017
"Fascinating website! I'm really pleased I've found it.

I have a Russell Hobbs kettle, which I must have purchased sometime in the seventies. It has never been used. I also have the original box but not, unfortunately, the internal packing pieces nor the labels. I am trying to work out which kettle I have. The base is marked Type K2 but the box says K2R. Is it possible that, when the K2R was produced, the kettles were still marked with just K2? The kettle has a curved spout, as per the photos on the website, and is chromed, so I guess it must be copper. It's definitely not stainless steel; from what I can remember, and it was a long, long, time ago, now, stainless steel versions were available at the time I purchased mine, but I wanted a copper one. Although I have never used this kettle I've always kept it with a view to, one day, it could become quite collectable. However, I don't now believe I could ever part with it! The box is older than the box featured on this website, it's a dark brown colour and it has the Ti logo on the top. I'd be extremely grateful for any information you may be able to give me about my kettle, and, in particular, the K2 and K2R discrepancy. Many Thanks" John 01/10/2017
"I have had a Russell Hobbs K2 series since 1981 which needs a replacement 13amp 23v plug socket connection cable. Can anyone tell me where to get one of these? Shirley 1/10/2017" Shirley Whitworth 01/10/2017
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