Tuesday, September 06, 2016

Faded QSL Cards

Radio Pax, Mozambique -1964. An example of a "faded QSL."
It was the custom in earlier days for the radio listener to display many of his best QSL cards on the wall in his DX shack.  Then, when visitors came by, they would “ooh” and “aah” appropriately at the remarkable collection of cards that demonstrated radio reception from distant countries afar.

            However, it was discovered that QSL cards displayed on the wall in this way would deteriorate over a period of time.  The card could become brittle and the corners break off.  Then too, the printing on the card would deteriorate from the continual exposure to light.  Some cards became darkened, and on others the print began to fade.  

            Then too, how was the card affixed to the wall?  Were there now pin holes in the card?  Or even worse, was the card affixed in some way to the wall with a touch of glue?

            In the Indianapolis Heritage Collection, there are several QSL cards that are almost unreadable due to fading print, and these cards were issued by radio stations in several different countries, including Hawaii, New Zealand, Australia, the United States and Germany.

            A 1947 QSL card from mediumwave KPOA in Honolulu Hawaii was printed by a gelatin copying process onto an American 1 cent postal card.  This QSL card has faded so badly that it is now totally unreadable, and we know that it is from station KPOA only by comparison with a similar card that has not faded.  The faint outline of a palm tree can be seen, as well as the word Honolulu.

            On the address side, the post office cancellation clearly shows Honolulu with the date May 24, 1949.  This card was addressed to a listener in New Zealand, and it verifies KPOA with 5 kW on 630 kHz.

            Two other QSL cards from Hawaii are darkened by age.  A 1931 buff colored card from the famous KGMB, with 500 watts on 1320 kHz, has darkened considerably with age and exposure to light; likewise a 1932 card from KGU, with 1 kW on 940 kHz, has also darkened considerably under the same conditions.  Incidentally, affixed to the KGU card is their own advertising stamp, a water scene with the familiar words, Aloha from Hawaii.  

            A 1937 card from 4ZR with just 5 watts on 1430 kHz at Balclutha in New Zealand is faded so badly that only the ink written date May 31, 1937 is readable.  Two other cards from New Zealand, station 2ZH with 65 watts on 820 kHz in Napier and 2ZW with 1 kW on 1120 kHz in Wellington, have also faded.  The text in black is quite readable though the callsign in color is almost gone. 

            Back in the middle of last century, many international radio monitors in the South Pacific considered that the most beautiful card in their collection was from station 2DU in Dubbo, New South Wales.  However, the pretty rainbow colors have faded on all three cards in the Indianapolis Heritage Collection.  Back then this country radio station 2DU operated with 200 watts on 660 kHz.

            A 1931 buff colored card from KFVD with 250 watts on 1000 kHz in Culver City California shows very evidently that it has been exposed to sunlight over a long period of time.  This card is now very dark, except for the marks left by the thumb tacks that pinned the card to a wall.  Likewise with similar cards from KGO and KPO in San Francisco California, making them very hard to read.

            A 1946 paper QSL “card” from BFN, the British Forces Network in Germany verifies the reception of their Elmshorn transmitter on 7290 kHz.  The paper is darkened by age, and the color print in red and blue is faded.

            So what then is the moral to this little story?  We would suggest that you take good care of your own QSL collection.  If you wish to have it on display, you can buy a hanging piece of plastic with pockets into which you can insert your QSL cards.  At least the cards would not be damaged by pins or glue.  However, you can also buy a photographic album, or postcard album, into which you can insert your QSL collection.
(AWR Wavescan/NWS 393)