Monday, June 6, 2011

Ham Radio QSL Card

Ham radio operators send QSL cards to each other as a way of verifying contact between stations. QSL is what's known as a Q code used in radio communication. As far as I know, it stands for Query Station Location.  The cards would include the call signs of both stations as well as other information, including the date, time, mode of transmission, frequency and a signal report. Occasionally, they also include information on the equipment used. Although some cards are very simple, others are very creative and colorful, like this one.

This operator sent his card from Moscow, USSR in 1959.

The cards are sent in envelopes, either directly to the recipient or through QSL bureaus, which forward them on to recipients. Use of the QSL bureaus cuts down on postage costs, but delivery time is longer. Nowadays, people can also send the QSL cards electronically as .jpg files.  While there is no postage cost with this, and the confirmation is very quick, it lacks the quality of a paper card that has traveled across the country or around the world.

Many ham radio operators have large collections of QSL cards. I think the hobby is not as widespread as it used to be though. Sadly, technology has diminished the role of the ham radio for communication in emergency situations as well as for recreation.
Here's a link to a website that highlights old QSL  cards.


  1. Cool! Why don't I find a box of QSLs, dirt-cheap at some garage sale...:)

  2. Guess I'm sort of surprised to see ham radio operation condoned in the USSR in the 1950's. I always thought it was a way to communicate, perhaps covertly, with people around the world- something I wouldn't expect in cold war Russia...

  3. I've never seen a QSL card, this one is a beauty.

  4. I haven't seen one of these cards either. Another first for me thanks to you Christine! Gotta keep my eyes out for some now.

  5. How interesting! Love the image on the front.

  6. Actually, ham radio is very much alive and well. There are now more than 700,000 licensed radio amateurs in the U.S. alone. And, we still do exchange QSL cards. :)

    QSL is really not an acronym for anything. It's just one of a list of Q-codes ( that are often used in radiotelegraphy to reduce the number of characters needed to send a message. QSL stands for "I confirm that I am in contact with...." So, if I sent "QSL W1ABC" that means "I confirm that I am in contact with the amateur radio station W1ABC."

    My collection of QSL cards contains a section of QSLs from stations whose callsigns spell words. I go out of my way to contact these stations and then swap QSL cards with them. My most recent acquisitions, for example, include W3PIE and W0ANT. I now have close to 150 of them.



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