Awards Hunting - Some Background


(The following is taken from the introduction to my DX Awards Directory.  I've written and rewritten it each year for many years, and it may help to answer many questions about awards hunting and the fascination it has for so many.)

-Ted K1BV


AWARDS HUNTING. One of the best features of Amateur Radio is the number of ways there are to enjoy this hobby. Ragchewing, experimentation, VHF/UHF, Packet, Traffic Handling; it just goes on and on. I have always (well, since about 1958), been interested in DX, Contests and Awards Hunting. Old timers will remember K6BX and his Certificate Hunters Club which was formed in the early 1960's and continued until about 1980. Clif Evans published the first Awards Directory I owned, and I spent many an hour poring through the listings trying to see if I had the cards necessary for the fascinating and sometimes obscure awards. I soon learned that most countries were divided into smaller political areas, similar to our states and counties here in the USA. Best of all, there were many awards for working them. These were to be even a tougher challenge than WAS. Many DX cards had this location information printed on them. Oblasts, Laan's and DOK's slowly became familiar old friends. K6BX died and left a void which was only sporadically filled by a few others who published directories for a short time and then ceased operations.

In 1981, I started to collect information about some of the lesser known awards. This became a minor passion with me, as I pored over DX newsletters, DX columns in several magazines and even got friends to save this info from the backs of QSL cards where the rules were either printed or were attached to a gossamer piece of paper. I guess it was always in the back of my mind to publish someday, but I didn't know how many others like me were really interested. In late 1986, I made the decision to broaden the scope and go full bore to start gathering data from the National Organizations and known major sponsors all around the world.

THE SCOPE OF HAM DX AWARDS. For the American amateur, there's a whole world out there beyond DXCC and WAS. The same for our overseas friends once they earn the major operating awards of their country. In general, most larger countries seem to have an awards series emphasizing the geographical or political organization of their country. These awards form the core of the well known ones: DUF from France, CCC from England, R-150 from Russia. If you have earned DXCC, you have a fine start in meeting the requirements for more than several dozen colorful DX awards.

Next down the chain come local and regional awards. They may require the contacting of specific numbers of stations in stated areas of their country. WAGM; Scotland, WAPY; Brazil, etc. The DXer will need a bigger card collection for most of these. But, its very likely that you have earned many of these right now!

Club and individual awards for the 3rd category. They almost always require the hunter to contact certain numbers of club members or even one station a number of times. In most cases, though, the farther away you are from them, the fewer contacts are needed. Even so, your DX card collection will have to be fairly extensive, or you will have to do some hunting. The odds are that you've got some of these earned right now and don't know it. In this category, sponsors will often make lists of members available. My policy is to include any reasonably sized member list in this Directory. Keeping such lists current is impossible of course, but so what? I’ll try. If you receive a more up-to-date list, send it to me for the next edition.

MANUAL ORGANIZATION. Very simply, this Website  lists awards by DXCC country, and then by alphabetical name of the award from within the country. The USA section is last and lists awards from the continental US only. Organizations that sponsor a series of awards will have a "General Requirements" section before an listing of their awards. This saves repeating of data common to each award. 

WEBSITE CONTENT. The title is just a little misleading. This Directory covers DX and USA awards and I've added SWL, VHF, and Novice oriented awards. Something for all interests!

MONEY. First off, this website is not designed to be a money making venture for me. Considering the small number of hams interested in this part of the hobby, I could never make a living at this unless the fees were really high. They're not and won't be.  

Up to 2009, I offered a printed book plus a fee for using the directory side of this website. I found out the hard way that the transition from a hard print genre to digital delivery included my efforts with the print edition.  Sales plummeted, some of which was caused by the economic recession and some by this transition. I made the decision to stop the book and open up the website to all at no cost.  I found a web hosting company which sells space and services for a very low cost.  I mean REALLY low.  And they offer a lot of services which I don't even use, let alone understand.  Boils down to costs which I bear, but which aren't significant. 

For those interested, the computing equipment used to produce this is a DELL Studio XPS with 250GB hard drive and 4GB of RAM.  I am a pretty darned happy user of Windows 7 Ultimate.  The word processing program is Word Perfect X4 and page creation is via MS FrontPage and it makes the job an absolute breeze.   

READER HELP. I get most information from a small network of domestic and foreign friends using e-mail.  And I"m always looking for more information about changes, Award data is continually changing - that's a fact of life. So if you have info or run across something I don't have or I am showing incorrect information, please tell me.   Sponsors die, lose interest, clubs go out of existence, etc.  New awards spring up, some for the long run, others very short. I get the principal USA ham publications, but not the overseas magazines, nor the scores of specialized newsletters, which may list awards. But, collectively, you do. Solving this info problem is my main task, and only with your help will I succeed. !

Ted Melinosky K1BV
Columbia, CT. 


The newcomer to awards hunting should read this section to keep his or her expenses down and success ratio high. Your submissions should follow these general guidelines:

Applications: A sample form that I have used to apply with great success follows this section. It includes all the data generally required by Award Sponsors. Rubber stamp or print your name and address in the top section and add more pages as required. Use the special JA form for Japanese awards.

I VERY strongly suggest you write in advance for less known awards and ask the sponsor if it is still offered. Enclose a SASE/IRC as necessary. There is a fairly high mortality rate for awards, and if you don't get a reply in 3-4 months, its probable that the award is defunct. Then, please drop me a note so I can try and then, if necessary, remove the listing from the Directory. See special notice under Russian awards.

Don't forget to get the necessary signatures if the General Certification Rule (see below) is acceptable by the sponsor. (99% of them allow GCR).

Include the fee as indicated. If money has to be sent, a piece of carbon paper folded around currency may prevent tampering. In some countries, mail which may contain money is always a target for pilfering. If you live in a large city, check the International Department of a bank for availability of foreign currency. It may be a whole lot less expensive than IRCs.

IRCs are an almost universal medium of currency among awards hunters. Many awards specify 10-15 IRCs as the fee. The U.S. Post Office charges $1.85 each. You can sometimes get them for about half that price from DX QSL managers. Keep an eye out in the various DX newsletters for notices. IRCs change "editions" every few years, so don't hoard large quantities. Always send valid ones of the current edition.

Stamps. Attaching ordinary stamps to your awards application envelope is suggested. Consider having your post office attach a meter sticker. Fancy colorful commemoratives may attract unwanted attention. You don't want attention. If you want to send some nice stamps, enclose them with the application.

READ THE RULES. Carefully. And follow them. Enough said?

GCR. General Certification Rule. Most sponsors allow GCR in lieu of actually wanting to see your cards. You need to have the cards! GCR usually means getting the signatures of two witnesses who certify that you possess the cards and that the information you state on the application is correct. If the award rules specify club officials, you should make sure their title follows their signature; include the name of the club just to make sure.

Some sponsors (a tiny minority) actually want to see the cards themselves. If you want the award, you are going to have to risk the cards. (I might write in advance to see if Xerox copies are acceptable). I've never lost any cards in the mail, but my friends have. And its a really frustrating experience!

LEVELS. If the award is issued in several different levels, always specify the one you are seeking. If you have the basic level, indicate the serial number, if any, of the basic award and the correct designation of the one now being applied for. If all your contacts for a particular award are SSB and you don't say you want a special mode endorsement, you probably won't get it.

QSL'ING. To get the cards you need for all these awards, you've got to make lots of contacts. If you have been reasonably active for a few years, you've got that part under control. If you have been good about sending cards to all your DX contacts, fine. If not, you still have the logs (don't you?) available, and can go back and send out cards by the pound. The ARRL Outgoing QSL service takes cards for members at the price of $8 per pound and forwards them to the various DX bureaus. A good deal. Other countries offer a similar outgoing and incoming service. ARRL requires the cards be sent in alphabetical order by prefix, and they cannot offer this service to all countries. The countries they don't service are likely to be the ones you will want to send direct, anyway.

A few words about your card. If you want a good percentage of replies, your card should be neat, interesting and accurate. After all, unless the recipient is also an awards hunter, you are just another K8 or G4 or WB2. About once a year, QST, 73 or CQ will run an article about effective QSL design. In brief, your card should:

> be reasonably attractive. (pictures are great, but not necessary.)

> contain all the QSO data in a logical format.

> show the contact time in GMT - and be 100% accurate!

> indicate your county/parish and any awards YOUR card is good for.

Guest article by Richard KW0U: 

Sending for QSLs (and Awards)

It’s been said that a ham contact is fun twice, once when you make it, and once when you get the card. But playing the QSL game can be a slow, frustrating and expensive process. Here are some tips that may give you an easier experience.

Of course the easiest way is through the Bureau. For those not familiar with the system, details are on the ARRL website. It’s cheap and simple, and there’s no feeling like opening a fat envelope full of cards. But between QSO and QSL it can take 2-3 years—I’ve actually had people die before they could respond! Also not every ham and country is part of the process, so before sending you have to keep an eye on the list of national Bureaus.

For most awards, and for cards you really want, you will probably have to send direct. If you are lucky the operator will have a manager. If he or she does not give it on the air you can check if one is noted on the DX Summit website. Also look at, Buckmaster, or some of the DX publications such as World Radio. The Indexia Net, which meets nightly on 14.236 is another source of information. (And if you do find a manager, check who that person covers. You may be pleasantly surprised to find you can get more than one card from them.)

If you have to mail the manager or an operator there are several things that will increase your chances of a reply. The Complete DXer, by Bob Locher, W9KNI, offers a lot of good advice, and much of the following is based on using his principles.

The “package” you send must be complete. First is the envelope. I try to use the squarer European-sized ones since they don’t attract as much attention in foreign post offices. These can be bought in some specialty stores. Another possibility is to get them when you or a friend goes abroad.

Within this should at the least be a return label. Much better is to include a self-addressed envelope. Faced with hundreds of requests, the foreign operator greatly appreciates such consideration.

It seems obvious, but when making a contact you will also need to send a QSL. Be extremely careful about the date and UTC time. (When sending to my first Algerian station it took me three letters to unscramble a simple mistake.) As always, print the station’s call clearly. If you are unsure, check online. A note on the back is a nice touch.

Paying for return postage can be a problem. Unless you are buying foreign stamps you will need to send U.S. money. In the good old days $1 would have been enough; today it will cost you at least twice as much. I use old bills that don’t crinkle or snap. To try and have the letter actually get there, I fold the return envelope over the bills and QSL and wrap everything in carbon paper, taping the ends down so nothing slides.

Finally, the outside needs care. I usually type the address so it looks “official.” As a courtesy I include the country’s name in its own language, as well as in English. (But problems still happen. The USPS returned a letter I sent to “Saint Helena,” because they had only heard of “St. Helena”, and they thought “Georgia” needed a zip code!)

For postage, except when sending to the wealthiest countries I always use a meter strip. Pretty stamps can “disappear” in transit. I add a couple of “Par Avon” stickers to the front and back—one on the gummed flap—put a little tape on the edges of the flap, press it all down, and it’s ready to go.

Finally, don’t expect perfect results. I estimate that 80-90% of hams will respond to a properly prepared package. But, like some Americans, a number just won’t reply, or are very slow. Others will never get them. I’ve given up on sending to Russia, and found mailing to parts of the Third World to be a real crapshoot.

QSLing and awards chasing can be both fun and frustrating parts of the hobby. If you are patient and careful they also can be very satisfying.

Richard KWŘU


ROLE OF CONTESTING. Contests are an excellent way to build up your QSL collection. Besides the big DX contests, there are LZ contests, PA contests, South American contests, plus many, many others listed every month in the major ham magazines. You won't have as much competition in the smaller ones, but that isn't a problem, is it? After the contest is over, you can send your new attractive card to all first time contacts. It will take from 6 months to 2 years to get the flow of cards started from your contest contacts into your QSL bureau. After 5 to 10 years, you are going to have a GREAT collection. It DOES take time.

INCOMING QSL BUREAU. Direct QSL'ing is the fastest way to get cards, but is the most expensive. We all send them direct or to the manager for new countries, but most awards hunters depend on the fine volunteers who man the incoming QSL bureaus. About twice a year, QSL lists them as well. You do not have to be an ARRL member to use the incoming service. Keep several envelopes on file. Some bureaus will accept money to cover postage costs. Check with yours, as this is a very convenient way to operate.

SWL'S. There are MANY awards, generally offered to licensed amateurs that are also available to SWL's. The Directory will indicate this by the words: SWL OK. My inquiry to sponsors specifically asks if they honor SWL submissions. I suggest you apply anyway, unless the rules specify licensed amateurs only.

THE DAILY MAIL. And this is the best part of awards hunting; checking your daily mail for tube mailers and big envelope with colorful foreign stamps. As your DX Award collection grows, you will truly realize that WAS and DXCC are only the beginning. You may well be the first one in your country or state or club to earn the certificate. There's a whole world out there ready and willing to recognize and reward your on-the-air achievements. Go for it!