A QSL? Or Postal Pocket Lining for Foreign DJ'S?
Volume #2 - Article #1 May 16, 1999
Copyrighted By Magical Dimensions Unlimited
Written By: Duane B. Fischer, W8DBF

This article, and all subsequent ones, are written for the exclusive use of the Hallicrafters Collectors International. They may not be reprinted, reproduced or otherwise copied and/or distributed, without obtaining prior written consent from the author.

Many of us shortwave listeners like to collect QSL cards from the stations we log and decorate the walls of our listening posts with them.  Well, at least some of us do! Others are just too cheap to send an airmail reception report overseas with an international return coupon stuffed inside! These are probably the same guys who save their tattered old stained underwear and donate them to a local charity each Spring to make kite tails out of!  Nevertheless, there are certain procedures one must follow to qualify for a QSL card. Hopefully these suggestions will keep you from wasting that precious postage, so you have more cash to buy more Hallicrafters with!

              It is critical to take detailed notes when you are listening to a broadcast.  You may do this with traditional pencil and paper or a cassette recorder.  Note the time an announcement is made, when a song is played, when a newscast is given, when a program segment starts etc. Additionally, take notes during the newscast, mail bag readings and program segments.  Write down the song title and artist, name of the program host, key word notes on news items etc.  They want to hear details of their broadcast as proof positive that you really did hear them!

              Now you are probably thinking.  "Hmmm, I could just mail them the cassette tape and save myself all of this note taking business." This is true.  However, all sorts of strange mail restrictions come into play when one tries to mail a cassette tape out of the United States.  It even requires a customs form to Canada!  It gets expensive, complicated and there is no delivery guarantee.  When you mail anything overseas, it is not ever guaranteed to arrive! Mail theft is not uncommon and the lost letter ratio looks like a lottery number!  We take prompt and correct delivery for granted with our postal system here in the United States, but it is not true in the vast majority of the world.

              The absolute cheapest way, is to purchase an airmail letter from the post office, type your report on it and mail it.  It folds to become its own envelope.

              There is one big disadvantage to using the postal airmail letter.  You can not put an IRC, (International Reply Coupon), inside it.  These are used for return postage, as well as to bribe the secretary who reads your letter to send you a QSL.  Many shortwave stations operate on a low budget supplied by their government and will not answer mail unless return postage is included! Including an IRC is a small investment for the potential reward.  Don't get stupid like I did, and send them a U.S.A. dollar!  My overseas delivery rate was thirty-eight percent! Hope they enjoyed spending my dollar!

              It is generally sufficient to provide a station with fifteen minutes of detailed program notes.  Be sure to state the date you heard the broadcast, the time in GMT/UTC, (not your local time), the frequency in kHz and the language the transmission was in.  Don't forget to include your return address!  Dah!

              Then you need to include a reception report to let them know how well their signal was being received at your location.  The SINPO system is quite nice for this.  It is widely accepted and commonly used.  However, it is by no means mandatory, feel free to use your own techniques.

S: Signal Strength.  1-5.  One is very poor and five is very strong.
I: Interference.  This is interference from stations on adjacent frequencies.  1-5.  One is none and five is severe.
N: Noise.  this is atmospheric noise, not station interference.  1-5.  One is none and five is severe.
P: Propagation.  This refers to band conditions.  How well    the transmission is being received; considering strength, intelligibility and noise factors.  1-5.  One is very poor and five is excellent.
O: Overall Quality.  This combines the first four reception categories with the program content.  1-5.  One is very poor and five is excellent.


              It is important to be honest in all assessments!  Their station engineers are not club waiving cave dwellers and have a pretty fair idea of how the station is heard in other countries.  They are especially interested in knowing about unusual propagation, attempts to jam the transmission and your receiving equipment.

              Tell them what you are using for an antenna, a receiver and your geographical location.  If you know the longitude and latitude, it never hurts to include it.  Be brief!  They don't care about your family tree, personal opinions or political viewpoints.

              When you have completed your detailed summary of a fifteen minute segment of a broadcast and added the SINPO information, write a brief personal commentary about the station.  Naturally, they like to be praised!  Now you can lie!  Color the truth, rant and rave about their wonderful choice of program material and promise to be a faithful listener.  Just don't waste your time with the BBC, as they don't QSL anybody anyhow!

              If you actually do like some of their programs, you should ask for a current program schedule.  typically there are two per year, Spring and Winter.  Roughly from May through October and November through April.  Return postage for these is not generally requested.

              Most stations will give their e-mail address or "snail mail" address at the conclusion of a program or end of a particular language transmission. There are also different web sites that deal with dxing where many station mailing addresses can be found.  It is also helpful to consult such reference sources as; the World Radio and Television Handbook and Passport To World Band Radio.

              Because most of the world does not move at the life style speed of Americans, don't expect your QSL in two weeks, or less!  It is more apt to be four to six weeks, if ever.  But do not be discouraged if a station does not reply! Send them another report.  Some stations file them away until they have heard from a person two or three times.  Then they respond.  Other times, well ... The mail is cooking somebody's food in the hearth!  Or it is being used as coloring paper by school children or in place of the Sears catalog in the outhouse. Persistence pays off in the pursuit of the allusive QSL card!

              The quest for QSL cards is really great fun. It is quite a thrill when you get the mail and find a letter or card from another country bearing your name.  Especially if Ed McMann's name isn't on it!  I would much rather struggle through the static to hear that far distant voice, than to log onto the Internet and listen to real audio.  Like what's the challenge there?  Give me a real shortwave receiver, a length of copper wire and let me hear radio the way it was meant to be heard.  When I look up at that beautiful QSL card on my wall, I know that I earned it and nobody can ever take that wonderful moment away.  Great DX and happy QSL hunting!

By, Duane Fischer W8DBF

This page last updated 26 Mar 2001.