Once you start making contacts, other amateurs will want to swap QSL cards with you, even if you just talk to them on the local repeater. The purpose of a QSL card is to confirm that you had a contact with another amateur. For sure, you’ll want to have some cards printed up if you operate on the shortwave bands. Sometimes, amateur radio operators call swapping QSL cards “the final courtesy.”
Once you get started swapping QSL cards, you may get hooked on QSLing, and it certainly can be an enjoyable part of the hobby. Many designs are distinctive, and they are fun to show off to friends and family. When I speak to groups about amateur radio, I always bring a selection of QSL cards that I’ve received. They can be very impressive.
Another reason to collect QSL cards is that they’re often needed to qualify for awards and certificates. You can, for example, get the Worked All States Award from the ARRL by submitting a QSL card from a station that you contacted in each of the 50 states.
Collecting QSLs can be fun, even if you don’t plan to apply for an award. I have, for example, started a small collection of QSL cards from stations whose callsigns spell words. I now have more than 150 such QSL cards including cards from W8HOG, WB4DAD, N4HAY, and KD8EGG. I agree that it’s kind of odd, but it’s fun, too.
Where to get QSL cards
There are many companies that print QSL cards. Here are some in no particular order, and with no endorsement implied:
All of these companies offer stock designs, but can also print custom designs. I suggest starting out with one of the stock designs and then consider a custom design once you’ve run out of the first printing. Below is the card that we use for our club station, WA2HOM, at the Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum.