The phone that even muggers don't want

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The going rate for flip phones is so low that even thieves reject them.

According to a report in the New York Post, a Central Park mugger returned his victim's cellphone when he saw that it was an older-model flip phone.

"I guess he didn't think he could get anything for it," the victim told the Post.

Probably not.

"Flip phones, or feature phones, do not have that much resale value anymore," said Anthony Scarsella, chief gadget officer for trade-in site Gazelle.com.

Comparison site SellCell.com, which lists offers by model from various resale sites, paints a dismal picture for those looking to unload a basic feature or flip phone. Only two sites will buy a Sony (Tokyo Stock Exchange: 6758.T-JP)Ericsson Z520a, offering a quarter to 50 cents. A Nokia (Helsinki Stock Exchange: NOK-FI) 6086 in good condition might sell for as much as $2. Property Room-where police departments auction confiscated items-consigns flip phones to multi-item lots, some of which start as low as $1.

Things don't change much for the few flip phones in wireless carriers' inventory. CellSell.com puts the going rate for an LG (Korea Stock Exchange: 6657-KR)Revere 2-available through Verizon (VZ) for 99 cents with a two-year contract or $149.99-at just $8 once it's out of the box.

Flip phone values have tanked as more consumers lust after the latest smartphones. Nearly 150 million people in the United States owned a smartphone in the third quarter, up 4.1 percent from the second quarter, according to comScore. That's 62.5 percent of the overall phone market.

(Read more: Apple's iPhone trade-in program to add consumer choice )

Even developing countries are more interested in Android and iOS devices, Scarsella said.

"Although feature phones are prominent in emerging markets like China and India, the growth of low-cost smartphones is increasing at a dramatic rate, which is cutting into feature-phone demand," he added.

Flip-phone holdouts tend to be in an older (30-plus) demographic, according to Eddie Hold, vice president of connected intelligence for NPD Group.

"There's a certain segment of the market that just wants a phone to be a phone," he said. "They're much cheaper to own ... and you're not butt-dialing anyone, which is a huge advantage."

Resale sites might not be interested, but eBay (EBAY) still has a market of sorts. A search for "flip phone" turned up 1,029 listings that ended on Dec. 29 alone, about 25 percent of which sold. Among the cheapest was a $5.99 Motorola Barrage V860. Several fetched more than $50, including a Samsung (Korea Stock Exchange: 593-KR) Rugby III that sold for $69.95 and a Pantech PG C3b at $70.30.

Hold turned to eBay earlier this year when he decided to take a temporary smartphone break, buying a $50 Motorola Razr.

"After you get over the deprivation of apps, it was actually quite freeing," he said. Flip phones that tend to sell for better prices on eBay are models, like the Razr, that are recognizable and have a fan base.

But, he said, "it's still not mugger-worthy."

-By CNBC's Kelli B. Grant. Follow her on Twitter @Kelligrant and on Google .



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