Farewell to the QSL card

Here’s my routine when I get an envelope from the W5 bureau:

Check for new band-country confirmations, read the details of the other guy’s gear, check the “Y” box in my logging program, mark the sending station as needing a reply card.

And then they go into a box. Forever.

Earlier this evening I read ON5ZO’s recent posting about QSLing. Then I read Dave AA7EE’s post about about the ARRL not requiring QSL cards for proof of QRP DXCC.

Both posts echo my own sentiments and make me re-ask a question that’s repeatedly entered my mind lately, “Why QSL?”

Like most of you, I too have shoeboxes of QSL cards that will never be seen. Those boxes are located in the same closet with the boxes containing other old relics – photographs…numerous envelopes of photographs, impossible to sort through. Remember negatives?! They’re in there too.

Ask me to find a particular QSL or photograph and I’m likely to go mow the yard, clean the rain gutters or some other task that’s actually worthy of the time required to perform it.

In LoTW, I have 5000+ virtual QSL’s and my RAID’ed hard drives contain 20 GB of photos. Thanks to search functions, I can find whatever I want of either in a matter of seconds. The virtual QSL’s are as equally valid as their paper counterparts and the digital photos won’t age, yellow or be used as coasters.

Neither cost me a dime. I can shoot photos all day with no film, processing costs or smelly Dektol and I can confirm QSO’s from the latest DXpedition without financing anyone’s failing postal service. Better to donate the costs to the DXpedition itself.

I have perhaps 700 QSL cards left of the 1000 I ordered last year. They’ll be used to reply to cards received – I don’t want to be a deadbeat! – but I won’t send cards out unsolicited anymore. Those days are over and I doubt I’ll ever have to order QSL cards again.

How much I’ve spent over the years…enough for a subreceiver for my K3, I’ll bet. And for what? My cards are probably in shoeboxes around the world. What’s the point?

Having said all that, I do like getting cards – they just don’t make financial sense when there’s another (free) option.

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  10 comments for “Farewell to the QSL card

  1. January 17, 2012 at 6:30 am

    Saw ON5ZO’s post before yours, so cross posting:

    For the Christmas season, my wife and I sent out about 50 Christmas cards and received about the same number. On Facebook and via email, there were a lot more electronic equivalents – but the sending and reception of those physical Christmas cards still has meaning and value – with a cost, of course! But I still enjoy meals my wife cooks in the oven, too – even though microwave ready made meals are available and cheaper…

    I find the eQSL is a nice middle point between physical cards and LotW’s lack of any kind of card image. It would be nice if those two systems would combine, or if LotW would add card images.

    73, John K3TN

    • January 17, 2012 at 9:39 am

      The one thing I have against LoTW is that it’s proprietary – I can’t use LoTW confirmations to apply for CQ Magazine’s WAZ. If things ever progress to the point of a universally valid QSL-equivalent, I think traditional paper QSLs would become the realm of sentamentalists and nostalgia buffs.

  2. January 17, 2012 at 10:22 am

    John,

    I also find it just too darned expensive to conventionally QSL. I used to religiously. The postal rates will rise once again soon, and DX QSLing – unless it’s via the Bureau is WAY too expensive. Some of these guys refuse to send a card unless they get green stamps. When it’s a rare entity, I can fully understand that – but 2 bucks for a QSL from, let’s say, Germany? No thanks.

    Like you, I will gladly send a QSL if one is sent to me. For DX, I use the ARRL Outgoing Bureau – quite a bargain in my opinion. And I will only send the green stamps if it’s a DXer in an entity that I really need the card for that refuses to use LotW. DXpeditions? Yeah, they deserve a donation – so I will forward those folks some dinero.

    Larry W2LJ

    • January 17, 2012 at 11:12 am

      But besides the expense my question is – why? After you look at and log your cards, what do you do with them? You must have hundreds if not 1 or 2 thousand – we’ve both been in the hobby since the 70’s. A shoebox seems to be an unceremonious end to something meant as a personal token of a QSO. And I do value cards from good meaningful QSO’s but do I really need yet another JA card for a brief contest exchange on 20 meters?

  3. Seth NF6Q
    January 17, 2012 at 4:50 pm

    Once again I feel a little bit like someone who is slightly out of sync with his time :) I’m young(-ish) and new to ham radio, but I absolutely love getting QSL cards.

    It’s so rare these days, but I love opening my mailbox to find something that isn’t junk mail. Seeing one of my SASE’s is always a thrill. Sure, I may not look at the card again after opening the envelope, but I always read them and get a little thrill out of it. And given how few QSOs I have, it’s not really a financial burden for me to send out SASEs or green stamps or IRCs.

    I certainly understand the pragmatic aspect of wanting to limit QSLs, and I do use LOTW and eQSL as well, but I really hope paper QSLs won’t disappear entirely. I’d hate to think that I missed out on that part of the hobby!

    • January 19, 2012 at 2:07 pm

      Seth, the first cards you get are special. I remember my first card from the USA. And then Japan, harder to work and seemingly further away. The oldtimer said: “Wait until you have a shoebox full of JA cards alone”. I couldn’t even imagine working 100 JA’s let alone filling a box with QSL exclusively from the land of the rising sun. Ten years after, I say to you: “Wait until you have a box full of…” HI.
      The thrill of the cards goes away. The thrill of working the DX and logging it never goes away. That’s what counts! Every DX contact still is a thrill today, even after (only) 11 years. 73.

  4. Andy - N1ORK
    January 17, 2012 at 5:11 pm

    I agree that paper QSLing is getting too expensive especially when they ask for IRCs or $$. Now I only use LOTW for confirmations and http://www.eQSL.cc for electronic QSLs. I have a better return rate with LOTW, but I enjoy getting eQSLs too. I look at the eQSL pictures and if they are unique, I save them to a thumb drive and then display them in an electronic picture frame. eQSL has their own eAwards and are also accepted for CQ awards.

  5. Will - AE6YB
    January 17, 2012 at 10:51 pm

    I like receiving QSL cards and display them in binders. (and look at them from time to time) I don’t think I have thousands of them, but I will QSL a couple from each country, state, Provence and DXpeditions and Special Events. Is LOTW free? I have heard it is hard to set up and has many snags, so I have shied away from it. Like others have stated, I always reply to all that I receive, with return postage or not. I stopped using eqsl because I end up with too many from the same stations, foreign and domestic, contacted in contests. I am not interested in collecting WAS or WAC type awards, the QSL card is award enough for me.

  6. Robert - N9EF
    January 18, 2012 at 6:49 am

    I still love getting DX cards but I do realize that it is a financial burden especially for non-US hams. Not only are their postal rates very high but now even the biggest EU stations that are on the air all the time appear to always have a pile-up. That’s a lot of cards to print and mail. I’d be willing to go the electronic route but I agree with John – AE5X, there has to be a universal standard that is as widely accepted as a card is. Maybe a marriage between LOTW and eQSL?

  7. Larry
    March 15, 2012 at 1:18 am

    I enjoy getting paper QSL’s in the mail. Also sending them.
    It seems as tho the issue is over the cost of mailing, which is somewhat ironic, because most hams will spend $2000 or more w/o blinking an eye on equipment. Also they will attend hamfests and buy stuff they may not use, if very much at all.
    FYI, I buy my postage on EBAY at a discount and often the seller will pay postage.

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