Hints Tips and Suggestions Kerry Viney VK4MZ
The increasing cost of postage and International Reply Coupons or the purchase of $US 1.00 currency notes, commonly referred to as ‘Green Stamp,’ has prompted many amateurs to re-evaluate their own QSLing practices. The following information is provided to ensure that the confirmation of that rare DX country QSL card is among the pride of your collection.
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The Contact: When switching the radio on be sure to always have your log book or note book handy, together with a pen or pencil, or your computer terminal up and running with your favourite logging program on the screen. Do not use individual sheets of scrap paper as they tend to disappear amongst the other items in the shack. When on the frequency listen, listen, and listen before announcing your own call sign. This will often reward you with, not only the call sign of the station, but also the name of the operator, his location and the QSL route and at the same time write down the signal report that you are going to give when he acknowledges your call sign, the band, and if you wish, the frequency to which you are currently tuned to. Making this part of your operating policy, ensures that vital information is not lost during the QSO and the after excitement of having secured that rare contact. Be sure that the station has your call sign correct ALWAYS acknowledge the signal report and, during contests, the serial number. ie ‘I QSL 59 and number 143 thank you 73’
As the minimum requirement check that you have written down the following:
Contest exchange number
If you are not sure you have the call sign correct, continue to listen on the frequency as a station with a strong signal to your location, will possibly say the call sign in his QSO.
Should you feel the DX station did not log your call sign correctly, that is, he called you VK4MS when it should be VK4MZ, I suggest that you put a ‘sticky note’ on your QSL card alerting the QSL manager to that fact. In many such cases the manager will wait a few weeks, and then confirm your contact.
The DATE is ALWAYS written in Universal Coordinated Time. In Australia, the new day commences at 12 o’clock midnight, BUT in UTC time the new day does not start until 10:00 o’clock in our morning. Be sure you enter the date correctly.
Valid date formats are: October 9 1996 , Oct.9.1996, 9-10-1996, 09-10-96, 09/10/96, and, if in North America, the month is written first..10-09-1996, 10/9/96. The time, like the date, is ALWAYS written in UTC time, and starts at the same time as the new UTC day and is expressed as 0000z. There are no spacers between the hour and minute numbers and it is a good practice to always have four digits. When the time is , say 245 it is written with a 0 preceding the figures, eg. 0245z. The small ‘z’ at the end indicates that it is definitely Universal Coordinated Time. NEVER enter your local time. To do so is courting a no reply, and a waste of time and effort. The BAND can be entered as meter band (20m), as frequency band (14 MHz), or as your transmit frequency (14.195).
THE REPORT: Traditionally, the readability and signal strength figures that were exchanged, were reasonably accurate. However, the improvement in the technology of transceivers and the advent of computers with their ability to run sophisticated contesting programs, has seen the universal acceptance of the 59 report. It is easy to repeat hour after hour during a contest. It is easy to hear through QRM and computer programs accept it as both the default receive and sent report.
Should you be given a report during a contest that is different than the standard 59, immediately note it together with the call sign on the log pad. Receiving a non standard report could well indicate to you that the operator is new to contesting and, if it is a new DXCC/band contact and you will need a confirming QSL card, it is advisable to put the non standard report on your QSL card. Be sure to note the contest serial number sent to you, for later insertion on your QSL card. The QSL manager is more easily able to find your contact amongst the many hundreds made over the contest period.
During a contest it is not always convenient to ask the QSL route, particularly if the station is making rapid contacts. It is a more prudent policy to obtain the information from other sources, which are dealt with in detail in a latter section.
The QSL Card: The size of your QSL card should be 140-145mm long by 90mm wide. This will fit into a standard size, in terms of Australia Post size and weight category for minimum airmail rate to all parts of the globe. The paper should be of card thickness and of good quality.
Some QSL cards are one sided only, showing all relevant information, others are double sided with a feature such as the QTH or a local scene and may be a single colour on a plain background such as white, or a multi-coloured. Whatever your choice, your call sign in thick bold lettering together with your name and location, zone, Maidenhead locator and previous callsigns, if any. A single sided card will also have a ‘QSO’ block printed ready for you to enter the relevant QSO details. The front of a double sided card will have the same information with the exception of the QSO ‘block’. The reverse of your card should also have your call sign in large lettering .
Your complete postal address should also appear on it together with the QSO ‘block’. The current tendency is to have the information across the card rather than along it. Most computer printers will handle single cards feed in this direction. Your card needs to have a place near the top right corner for the ‘Via____________’ which needs to be readily seen by the outwards QSL Buro manager. Other details can be seen on the samples.
ALWAYS print the DX stations call sign on the QSL card and enter the other relevant details clearly. In this regard, consider that for many overseas amateurs, English is a second language, and while they communicate on the radio, their reading and writing skills may be limited, and so filling your QSL card details in neatly is important to secure a valid QSL card.
The QSL Route: There are two directions available to send your QSL card.
Firstly, ‘via Buro’. All states in Australia have both inwards and outwards QSL Bureau. While, for members of the Wireless Institute of Australia, Buro QSL service is free, some charge a small fee for outgoing cards. Non members of the WIA in many States are able to use the services of the QSL Buro, but pay an appropriate fee for both their inwards and outwards QSL cards. Because both Australian and Overseas burro’s forward cards by surface mail postage, it can take up to one year to reach their destination, and a further year for you to receive your QSL confirmation.
Should your card be going to another station or to another country for confirmation, be sure to fill in the ‘Via_________’ section of your card so that the outwards QSL Buro manager knows which group to put your card with.
Secondly, ‘via Direct’. This is where you will send your QSL card by airmail postage direct to the station operator or direct to his nominated QSL manager. The QSL manager is a volunteer who is putting a service into the radio hobby with very little financial gain, if any, but receiving the satisfaction of being able to confirm a new DXCC country for many amateurs, and collecting the postage stamps if philately is an additional hobby.
The QSL manager is often appointed by the station operator because the DX station resides on a remote location such as the Antarctic or on an isolated island such as Crozet in the South Indian Ocean. The operator may reside in a country where the postal services are not as secure as those we enjoy here in Australia. It is prudent to note here, that mail from amateurs has money enclosed in the form of International Reply Coupons, purchased from the local post office, or American $1.00 notes, and a nice Australian postage stamp on the outside. The sale of any of these items by a postal worker can supply a healthy meal for his family in some parts of the world. Hence the roll of the QSL manager who handles many hundreds possibly thousands of cards for other amateurs.
The QSL Address: There are a number of sources at your disposal from which you can obtain the correct postal address. The Callbook is an annual publication and is available in two volumes, one for North American Listings and the other International Listings, and is available from amateur radio retailers and from the Wireless Institute of Australia bookshops. It is also available from the various Hamfests held throughout the year.
The Callbook is also now available on CD ROM disc from good amateur radio retailers, with both the North American and International Listings on the one disc. The callbooks contain a complete listing, as at publication time, of all of the licensed amateur radio stations throughout the world. Because of the huge volume of callsigns and cut off publication dates, the printed version will lack the more recent call sign allocations, and this gap is filled from other printed publications.
The weekly newsletters produced by various amateur groups both in North America and Europe contain an ever changing list of current QSL addresses and routes. These are obtained by an annual subscription and are airmailed on a weekly basis.
Monthly publications such as the Amateur Radio produced by the Wireless Institute of Australia and the commercial magazine obtained from newsagents, Radio and Communications contain QSL routes and addresses. A large listing of QSL routes and manager addresses is published annually in Germany and a small, but very useful listing, is published annually and inserted in the January issue of the Japanese 59Magazine.
For those with computers, Personal Data Applications in Georgia, USA, has a QSL manager list on 3 1/2 inch disk and is available on either a monthly or bi-annual subscription.
Several Australian packet systems have access to manager lists and a call to your friendly sysop will give you details on how to access it. The Internet has a number of QSL manager databases available.
The Posting Process: The size of the envelope is important, both from Australian Post
standard size envelope and what will be placed inside it. DO NOT use the small airmail envelopes available in many supermarkets as you could well find the returned card has been folded over in order to fit inside. Besides your QSL card, you may wish to include a postcard of your area to show where you reside. I suggest you use a size C6 which is 115x162mm. A packet of 100 is reasonably priced and is available from supermarkets, stationers, and Australia Post offices. Airmail stickers are freely available and should you use an airmail rubber stamp only use a blue ink pad. The mail sorter is glancing for a blue mark, not a red or green one and instinctively places the blue marked one in the airmail direction.
PRINT the address neatly on the envelope. NEVER, NEVER put a call sign on the envelope ANYWHERE. Should you not know the name of the operator, write ‘The Manager’, Box xyz etc. Next, on another envelope neatly print your own address, being sure to include Australia at the end. Fold this envelope neatly in half and insert into the one addressed to the DX /manager being sure to place the folded section in first, so that, when it is opened at the other end with a knife or similar tool, the enclosed envelope is also not slit in half. It is essential that you enclose in your letter a form of finance to enable the DX station/manager to purchase a local postage stamp to return your confirmation QSL card. This can take the form of an International Reply Coupon, available from Australia Post and is the equivalent to the minimum airmail letter rate. One IRC is sufficient for letters from North America and Japan but from Europe three will be required.
A second alternative is to purchase US$1.00 notes from your local bank. One US$1.00 is sufficient for mail from North America, but not from Japan, and three US$ are required for Europe. For Japan one IRC will cover the return postage. A third method is to put the correct value of mint postage stamps of that country on the envelope, if your local stamp dealer has some among his stock. If you are sending your letter to a developed country, a normal rate postage stamp is ok. However if it is going say, to a third world area you can ask the post office for a printed label stamp for the value required. This is less attractive than a conventional postage stamp and will reduce the likelihood of your letter going astray. The attaching of one of the small green customs declaration stickers filled in as ‘used card’ and ‘ncv’ (no commercial value) will add an air of security to your letter, reducing the risk of it disappearing.
Attention to the above details will ensure the maximum return of your QSL requests.
73 and good contesting, Kerry VK4MZ