Mine weren’t cheap… but we’re exactly what I wanted. I used vistaprint.com. Shipped, it came to $120 for 1000 cards, but mine are very heavy, 100% recycled and matte finish.
I’ve received a couple from people use used dedicated QSL card printers… I suspect these are ‘on the side businesses’ for daytime print shops. I’ll put together a list of them, if anyone’s interested.
There are some really neat cards out there, with most, you can tell how much thought and effort went into them. My favorites are the “retro” looking ones (as evidenced by my card). I’ve even considered getting a small letterpress and printing my own cards… lots of work, though.
I QSL for two reasons. I do it to confirm a new DXCC entity or state (or a new band for one of those). In these cases, if they do LoTW, I don’t bother with paper. I also paper QSL when I have a particularly interesting or long chat with someone for the first time. Also in this category are kids, /AG, or first HF contacts. I like the idea of surprising someone with their first card. In response, I’ve gotten some nice emails or had people track me down on the air and thank me. I’ve learned a ton about the tradition and the process, while going through this. My next batch will be different.
My key suggestions:
- Size matters – mine are standard postcard size. I get SASE that are too small for my card. Consider something that is the right height for a standard letter envelope or smaller. On the flip side, the fact that mine is a standard postcard means that returning a domestic QSL can just be sent as a postcard. (I intentionally left the right side free.) I’ve actually only done this once, though.. in response to a postcard QSL received.
- Checkboxes – this would be nice and my next cards will CERTAINLY have them. Band and mode at least. Many will put power (“<5W <10W <100W <1000W”) checkboxes and checkboxes for /M and/or /P too. I’ve received some that literally just had my callsign written out… everything else was a check box. I’ll do this next-time.
- Stickers – There are apps that’ll produce a sheet of pre-completed QSL stickers on Avery address labels. Several clever hams have put their “write in” areas sized exactly the same as the sticker on their cards. This gives them the choice of sticker or hand-written. Stickers are a nice option… but I think I’ll keep mine more personal unless I end up visiting North Korea on a DXpedition or something.
- Make it work for up to three band-modes. Mine aren’t done that way and I have to kind freehand it when QSLing for multiple contacts with the same person. I worked K9W, Wake Island, on SBB across 6 bands. They sent me two distinct cards. I think there may be a restriction on the ARRL recognition of more than 3 band-modes on a single card.
- Tonguesavers – consider how the 90th envelope will taste. They come in preadhesived versions. I now use a little sponge instead.
- Something extra – I’ve received a couple cards with “something extra” in them. Jim, E51JD, sent me a coin from Rantanga(?) Island in the South Cook Islands and a little printed description of it. Probably cost him <$.01 and left an impression. I remembered it and thanked him for it, the next time I talked to him. Someone else sent me a little printed poem about ham radio. Again, not a ton of extra effort, got a chuckle out of the poem, when I got the card.
- And last but not least… ART – I’m really happy with the design of my first card, but I think I’ll probably do something a little more personal, next time. There are people I see either spotted on the cluster or talk to occasionally and I can picture what their card looked like. Whatever it is… make it you and make it memorable.