When I started in ham radio, in 1971, and got my novice license, it was a great thrill for many reasons. It was 20 some years before the internet hit the mainstream, but an FCC license meant your name and address was obtainable by some means, and firms and companies involved in amateur radio who were looking for ways to reach potential customers would send out flyers, brochures, catalogs, samples to newly licensed hams.
So among other things, I started to get many samples of QSL cards. I can’t remember how many, but it was a lot. Then I had to decide which ones I would like to order with my call sign. I was already on the air, so I needed to move it along. I picked a fairly plain one out, but I was able to get it printed in several different colors. It was pretty cool when I got the order in the mail.
Now I was able to participate in the world of QSLing. Of course in those days, I was strictly operating in the novice bands, and a large percentage of my contacts were other novices, and if not they were seasoned hams who knew that QSLs were appreciated by the new hams. I started getting in QSLs for a large majority of my contacts. Many times, I sent out a QSL first. Sometimes it was discussed during the contact “pse qsl”, but often not, one or the other station would send a QSL card. Back then, we didn’t worry about SASEs. A QSL card was like a postcard, you addressed one side, threw on a postcard stamp (5 cents vs. 7 cents for first class), and dropped it in the mail.
So QSL cards were arriving in the mail all the time. It was always a joy to see what they looked like and put them up on the wall. I wasn’t pursuing any awards, just collecting any and all QSLs. I didn’t work much DX in the early days, they didn’t usually hang around the US novice band segments But I did get a few, and that was even a bigger thrill.
In my young adult years, ham radio took a backseat to marriage and raising 3 kids. As I changed addresses a couple times, my QSL cards were home made, though I didn’t need them much. I did finally settle on an address and had new cards printed.
Things have changed. I almost never get a card from a US contact. I get a very small number of DX cards via the bureau, like a few a year. Once in a great while, a DX station will send me an email with a JPG QSL card. LOTW is a big help, especially when dealing with DX contacts and receiving credit for awards. SASEs, green stamps, all the different QSL managers makes you really want to get that DX QSL card.
So it seems somewhat of a shame that mostly QSLing has fallen to the wayside. It was a fun part of the hobby that I kind of miss.
I would challenge current hams to randomly send out a QSL card for say, one contact per month. Sure, you won’t get 100% response, but you will enjoy seeing some QSLs arrive in the mail again.