How Much is That DX QSL Card Worth?

“How Much is that DX QSL Card Worth?”

By Glenn Petri KE4KY

In mid-April, I had the grand opportunity to attend and participate in the 2013 International DX Convention. This was my very first experience attending an international convention devoted solely to Amateur Radio DXing. This year’s convention convened in Visalia, California at the spacious Downtown Visalia Convention Center. DXers from all over the globe made their way to the Convention to enjoy its educational, informational, and social offerings aimed directly at the Amateur Radio DX enthusiast.

This Convention offers much to the hard-core DXer:

• New Equipment Reviews

• Antenna Forums

• Technical/Teaching Forums

• Showcase of Recent DX-peditions

• Three full days of DX related topics and conversation

One major highlight of the Convention is the opportunity to interact with many of the world’s top DXers, whether it is asking questions during a formal presentation or rubbing elbows during one of the many informal venues set aside for relaxed conversation coupled with adult beverages, known as the “attitude adjustment hour.”

I traveled to Visalia with Les W2LK and Gene K5GS, two of my ZL9HR 2012 Campbell Island DX-pedition teammates. Les provided the overview of the ZL9HR effort on 160m/80m at the Top Band Dinner on the Friday evening of the Convention, and Gene highlighted the operation the next day during one of the regular forum periods set aside for the more prevalent operations of the prior year. It was not possible to attend every forum session I wished to see, but I was able to sit for:

1. 3D2C – Conway Reef, presented by Paul N6PSE

2. 7O6T – Yemen, presented by David K3LP

3. ZL9HR – Campbell Island NZ, presented by Gene K5GS

4. 6O0CW – Somalia, presented by the I2YSB Team

5. PT0S – St. Peter & St. Paul Rocks, presented by Fred PY2XB during the Convention Breakfast on Sunday
NOTE: The Convention sponsors awarded the DX-pedition of the Year to the PT0S Team

One of my main reasons for attending the Convention was that of representing the ZL9HR Team and being available for questions, comments, and general conversation regarding our experiences surrounding the operation. Gene, Les, and I were overwhelmed with the positive reviews and supportive comments provided by many of the attendees that we were able to meet. Many of the other DX-peditioners and DX-pedition team leaders met with us throughout the weekend providing us an additional opportunity to share our experiences and to do some serious “networking” for future opportunities that might come our way.

During the forum presentations, one was able to hear first-hand from each represented major DX-pedition about its initial inception, its planning, its logistical demands, its “on-air” operation, and its unique individual struggles. Some of those struggles or obstacles were:

• Safety of the Team from hostile governments/citizens, terrorism, criminal activity, cultural prejudices, etc…

• Hostile weather environments (hot / cold)

• Dangerous ocean travel

• Ability to keep antennas operational given weather/sea conditions, space constraints, etc…

• Available space for radio operations, sleeping, resting, & eating during the operational period

• Medical/Safety Issues (ticks & other insects, dehydration, exposure, physical injuries, 900 lb. sea lions)

• Obtaining permissions for entry into a specific country or DXCC entity

• Difficulty obtaining the necessary radio license

• Getting large quantities of equipment to and from an entity

• Lack of sleep or rest

• Water

• Food

• Funding $$$

Planning a DX-pedition is no doubt a difficult and daunting task. When one reads the comments of Internet forums, it would seem that many believe that a DX-pedition is merely a “vacation” for its planners and operators and are often quick to criticize the operation for some aspect of its operation. It would seem that there is no consideration given to what it took to get the operation on the air to begin with; nor what the team is likely to endure while pushing out the Q’s for days to weeks that the operation may continue. While it is the goal of every DX-pedition to provide that ATNO to as many folks as possible, just remember:


As DXers, we should strive to do all that we can on our end to put the odds in our favor to catch that much needed Q. Whether it is improving our antennas, improving our individual skill sets, working other modes, or just by losing some sleep to catch them on a different band or two, we need to earn that QSO by putting in the time and the effort required.

One of the largest hurdles facing major DX-pedition planners to semi-rare entities is COST. With the price tag to places such as Bouvet Island, Heard Island, and the up-coming Amsterdam Island being $500k+++, it is essential that the DX community at-large consider some measure of monetary support to these operations to help make things happen. An individual team member usually bears a major brunt of the costs, expecting to be out-of-pocket some $10k-$15k towards the cost of the operation. A team member is also responsible to cover their own airfare, lodging, and meals while heading to drop-off points for the operation, as well as any personal equipment that may be required for the operation (wet/cold weather gear, etc…), an additional financial obligation that adds substantially to the overall cost paid by the individual team member. Considering that four to six weeks away from home is also required, a lot is being asked of those that step forward and travel to these rare entities.

Simply stated, the more rare…the more expensive. The travel costs to the remotest parts of our globe don’t come cheap, and in order for that to happen it takes years of planning, overcoming many logistical issues, fund raising, and in the end….lots of money. Don Greenbaum N1DG has done exhaustive research regarding DX-pedition funding and has spoken extensively about this issue. Don stated during a Q & A session that in the time span of the first QSO to the last QSO, a major operation currently costs a staggering $20 per minute to put on the air.

Individual DXers can do their share on many fronts. Support of our foundations and organizations that issue grants to the rarest of DXCC entity projects is the most efficient manner in which to support efforts now and for in the future. On-line QSL services are fast becoming a stream of revenue for the larger DXpeditions. Many who request QSL cards on-line also contribute just a few extra dollars over the cost of the QSL card that go to balancing the books of a recently completed operation. Individual donations prior to the start of DXpedition are probably the most important contribution one could make, helping to insure that much of the up-front money required by the operation is in the hands of organizers and utilized for those items requiring purchase prior to even setting foot on that DXCC entity. The rarest of DXCC entities have an average cost of nearly $5.00 per QSO, a rather staggering thought as it pertains to the funds required to get an operation successfully “on the air.”

Without our support, or the support of the major foundations, these projects to rare DXCC entities would never send out their first CQ, nor be capable of sending out that first QSL card. Please consider supporting groups like the Northern California DX Foundation (NCDXF) or the International DX Association (INDEXA).
Help make DX Happen!


See you in next pile-up!


Originally published   Many thanks to KE4KY for allowing m to share his post.