NCDXA - A club with heritage, experience and proven performance
in leading the way for DXers since 1972

National Capitol DX Association's

ARRL's Incoming QSL Bureau System Third Call Area

The National Capitol DX Association, NCDXA serves as the adminstrator of the ARRL Third Call Area Incoming QSL Bureau.

The Bureau address is:

National Capitol DX Association
P. O. Box 1149
Clinton, MD 20735-5149

[K3ZO Photo]

"Our only purpose is to get the QSLs to you that your DX contacts want you to have.  Please help us by providing us with the necessary postage so that we can send your cards to you.  73 and Good DX"
Fred Laun, K3ZO, Manager, ARRL's Incoming QSL Bureau, Third Call Area

What's New

Effective January 27, 2019, there is an increase in the postage rate for first class letters weighing one ounce or less. The value of one "forever stamp" increases to 55 cents. On the other hand, the rate for additional ounces goes down. This results in the following table:

One ounce = 55 cents
Two ounces = 70 cents
Three ounces = 85 cents

For active DXers who get a regular continuous flow of cards we recommend a six- by-nine inch envelope with enough postage for three ounces worth of cards. In addition to the basic one ounce "forever stamp" the Post Office sells two ounce and three ounce "forever stamps".

For those DXers who already have envelopes on file with us, there is no need for concern because your "forever stamps" automatically rise in value to the new rate.

We have two new sorters who have kindly agreed to volunteer their time in the service of their fellow Amateur Radio operators. Doug Ellmore, NA1DX has taken up the position as sorter for call signs with suffixes beginning with the letter "J". Doug succeeds long-time "J" sorter and 160 meter DXer Ed Chance, K3JJG. Our thanks go out to Ed for his years of exemplary service. Jay Horman, W3MMM has taken over the duties of the letter "X" sorter previously performed by radio scientist Ethan Miller, K8GU who is returning to his original home area of Dayton, Ohio. Thanks to Ethan for being our "X" man in the last few years.

A bit of history....

The exchange of QSLs following a QSO, involving the sending of a piece of paper or cardboard, known as a QSL card, from one party to another as a physical confirmation of a contact, has been a colorful part of Amateur Radio's history almost from the start.  One could show off his collection of QSL cards to a visiting ham as a demonstration of the success his station had in "getting out." QSLs became a form of wallpaper used to decorate one's shack.

As Amateur Radio grew in popularity and the number of hams grew larger, hams formed clubs so that people involved in this fascinating hobby would have a forum in which to exchange opinions and technical information.  Eventually national radio societies were formed in many countries as a way to unite these local clubs across a nation into a unified force, which published magazines and represented Amateur Radio in political forums to use only two examples.

Finally several national radio societies came together in Paris to form the International Amateur Radio Union (IARU), an organization made up of the national radio societies from countries around the world.  One service the IARU came to provide was a system of QSL bureaus to enable hams to exchange QSL cards with their colleagues in other countries without having to mail the individual cards directly. In addition to saving postage, this avoided the need for hams to have a copy of the Radio Amateur Callbook, published in Chicago, which was expensive and difficult to obtain for hams in countries outside the United States.  Of course hams could always give their addresses out over the air, and many did, but with QRM and under difficult conditions there was a large possibility for error, and during contests the exchange of QSL information was impractical anyway.

Cards incoming from DX stations through the bureau system

This Bureau, the ARRL Third Call Area Incoming QSL Bureau, is a part of the ARRL and IARU QSL Bureau system.  We handle incoming cards from overseas hams to their contacts in "the lower 48" who have a "3" in their call sign.  This used to mean pretty much exclusively hams in Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania and the District of Columbia, but now that the FCC permits hams to take their callsign with them when they move outside the third district, and to request vanity calls with a "3" in them no matter where they live in the Continental U.S., our bureau now has users in just about every state in the union.  On the other hand, if you reside in DC, DE, MD or PA but do NOT have a "3" in your call sign, then this bureau does NOT serve you.  Your bureau is the one that has the same number in its name that you have in your call sign.  You can go to the Web page http://www.arrl.org/incoming-qsl-service for details as to how to locate the Bureau that serves you.  Our 25 sorters are located in the District of Columbia, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, Missouri, North Carolina and Florida.  They are all unpaid volunteers so please be nice when you communicate with them.  All that unites us is our love of this hallowed Amateur Radio tradition of exchanging QSL cards.

Why Virginia, Missouri, North Carolina and Florida, you ask? That's not in the third call area.  At the present time the National Capitol DX Association (NCDXA) is the organization which has agreed to host the Third Call Area Bureau.  NCDXA is a group of DXers whose membership is largely found in the suburbs of Washington, D. C. -- though we have members in Delaware, North Carolina and even Florida.  Three of our Virginia members, two of our North Carolina members and our Florida member have stepped up to the plate and offered to handle cards for this Bureau even though in some cases none of the cards that come through their hands will be for themselves.

How to get cards you may have in the bureau

Each national IARU society establishes its own procedures for the operation of its QSL Bureau.  Here in the United States you do not have to be a member of the ARRL in order to receive cards through the Bureau.  As long as you provide us with the means so that we can ship your cards to you, you can get your cards through this Bureau.

We should note here that in some overseas countries the standard size of QSLs is larger than it is here in the USA.  For that reason we ask that you send a 5 x 7-1/2 or 6 x 9 inch self-addressed, stamped envelope (SASE) to the:

National Capitol DX Association
P. O. Box 1149
Clinton, MD 20735-5149

Neatly print your call-sign in the upper left corner of the envelope.  Place your mailing address on the front center of the envelope.

Be sure to write your callsign on the envelope!

On May 14, 2007 the United States Postal Service (USPS) adopted a new rate structure.  For the first time in history, the USPS is taking into account the shape and uniformity of an item rather than just its weight, as was the case previously.  This is part of an effort to improve the efficiency of their automated cancelling processes by screening out ahead of time items that won't pass through the machinery without jamming it, thereby requiring human intervention.

For that reason we can no longer recommend envelopes with clasps on them because for certain classes of mail this may mandate an automatic surcharge of 17 cents.  For those of you who already have envelopes with us here in the Bureau, don't worry! Your envelopes are still able to be used but given the new rates we may not be able to put as many cards into them as we could have done previously.  When your sorter sends you your last envelope, then the following paragraphs should be used in determining how you re-supply us with envelopes.

Please also note that we do NOT recommend the use of rigid photo-mailer type or padded envelopes. These envelopes increase the cost of postage to the point where they exceed the amount of postage needed to get 24 cards to you even when there are no cards in the envelope.

Every United States Post Office sells envelopes named "Ready Post". The product code of the Ready Post envelope which is suitable for QSL Bureau use is number 93009258.  This is a 6-inch by 9-inch envelope without clasps.  For 90 percent of bureau users this envelope should be perfectly satisfactory.  If you put 49 cents postage on this envelope it will be sent to you when five cards have accumulated for you.  If you put a total of 70 cents postage on this envelope, you will receive it back with 14 cards inside.

By mentioning the above envelope we are simply trying to be helpful. We accept any envelope provided by our users, but we may have to adjust the number of cards we can put into an envelope depending on the particular envelope provided.

For those who wish to receive more than 14 cards at a time, there may be a considerable jump in what you pay in postage because the shape and uniformity rules can push your envelope into the "large envelope" or "flat" class regardless of weight.  For 24 cards or more, you could pay well over $1.00.  Some shipments may even be considered parcels which would add another 33 cents to the cost of each envelope.

If you expect to receive large numbers of cards on a regular basis, please contact the bureau manager at or send us a letter about this to see if we can work out with you a more economical way for you to receive your cards.

When you move please notify us of your change of address.  We receive a fair number of returns by the USPS because an address has changed since people sent in their envelopes to us.  It can take quite a while for cards to show up in the Bureau after a QSO had been made.  Most of the cards we see coming in when we unpack shipments from overseas are for QSOs which occurred between one and two years earlier, but it is not unusual to see cards confirming contacts made five or even ten years ago.

Cards from bureaus in other countries are received at our post office box in Clinton, MD and are sorted by suffix letter by the bureau manager.  They are then distributed to the volunteer sorters by various means.  Some receive their cards at our NCDXA meetings which take place once every two months.  Others pick up their cards at the home of the bureau manager.  The rest of the sorters are mailed in bulk the cards which they will sort as soon as enough cards have come in for their suffix letter to make the mailing economical from the standpoint of the bureau's operating expenses.

Envelopes sent by our users are distributed to the various sorters along with the DX cards.  For that reason we urge you to be patient after you send us envelopes when you do not get any of them back after a certain period of time.  Given the variations in the way we distribute materials to the sorters, it can take as long as two months after we receive them from you to get your envelopes into the hands of the sorters who will mail you your cards.

List of call signs of status whose cards we are unable to deliver

Since the IARU Bureau system exists to serve the senders of cards as well as the recipients, it is our belief that the sender of a card, as well as the recipient, deserves to be served to the extent that we can do so.  For that reason we return cards back to the senders through the Bureau system when it is obvious that they have made an error in the call sign of the would-be recipient, so that they have a chance to try again and get a card the second time around.  We also keep track of changes in call sign by three-area calls and automatically forward cards for previous calls to the sorter or bureau handling the new call sign.  Please help us to keep track of call sign changes by notifying us, either by e-mail or by letter, if and when you change your call sign

Some operators have told us they do not wish to receive QSL cards through the bureau. Many others have failed to reply to our repeated requests that they provide us with the means to get their cards to them. Therefore, we have made up the following list of call signs of stations whose cards this bureau is unable to deliver. A station whose call is on this list may or may not respond to cards sent directly. Some of them may indicate their QSL preferences in their listings on QRZ.com, so it can be useful to check there before sending a card off to them via the bureau.

The following stations do NOT use this QSL Bureau
AA3DD AA3DP AA3EJ AA3RN AA3WX AB3CN AB3KW AB3ML AG3O CO6XN-via-N3ZOM K3AR K3BB K3CLT K3CP K3DRT K3DU K3FF K3IPK K3IU K3IX K3JD K3KB K3LD K3LGC K3LMM K3LS K3LTI K3LW K3MA K3MO K3MV K3PR K3RJ K3RL K3RWW K3UG K3VW K3WU K3XI K3ZD K3ZV KA3BVJ KA3CAI KA3LLL KA3RRU KA3UJE KA3WAL KA3WWG KB3DIV KB3LR KB3LYA KB3MUP KB3ONQ KB3PZN KB3USC KD3LC KD3V KF3Z KI3W KK3B KL7J-via-N3SL KU3K KU3X N3AD N3AOF N3AR N3DA N3DN N3DP N3DS N3DXX N3DY N3FZP N3HE N3KCJ N3KWW N3LA N3LC N3LJB N3MMW N3RI N3RL N3RO N3RPI N3RRR N3SK N3UE N3VH N3ZA N3ZD NA3O NB3R NI3K NI3L NN3Q NS3D NX3U NY3M VK4MA-via-N3ZK W3AR W3AXX W3CA W3DEX W3DP W3EA W3EX W3GM W3HC W3IVZ W3KB W3KBC W3KDC W3KHG W3KL W3KM W3LN W3LT W3MEL W3MG W3NDI W3NX W3ORU W3PBC W3PO W3QBK W3RDF W3RE W3RJ W3RLX W3RPK W3SMX W3STW W3UP W3UTD W3UW W3UX W3WSX W3XAF W3XN W3XU W3ZJ WA3APD WA3CKA WA3KFS WA3KKB WA3KVN WA3MIX WA3QNS WA3WSJ WB3CEH WB3D WB3K WB3KLD WD3K WF3M WN3V WX3B WX3D

Why we ask for your help in retrieving your cards

Occasionally we get replies from hams, when we notify them that they have QSLs in the Bureau, asking how that could be, since they never asked anyone to send them a card.  One answer is that some national societies make it easy for their members to send QSL cards via the bureau.  In Germany for example, annual DARC dues are much higher than most ARRL members would be willing to pay, but they include unlimited free use of the QSL Bureau.  Furthermore, most local clubs in Germany are DARC chapters, and each local chapter has its own QSL manager, so when you go to a club meeting you just take your cards along and turn them in to your local manager who will make sure they get into the outgoing bureau system.  In Japan, your friendly local ham radio shop will accept your cards and send them to the JARL for you.

Another answer we sometimes get when we tell someone they have cards in the Bureau is that they have said specifically on their on-line entry on QRZ.com that they only accept cards via direct mail so everyone should know that they don't want to get cards via the bureau.  These folks don't stop to think that one good reason for using the QSL Bureau system is that you don't have to look individual stations up on QRZ.com or Buckmaster or the RAC.  You just fill out the card and send it along with all your others to the Bureau.  In fact it is unlikely that if a station sends you a card via the bureau he will have looked your call up beforehand.

Sadly we sometimes receive a reply to our request that an Amateur send us envelopes or postage, stating that the Amateur in question only works two-meter FM, or never works DX.  These folks are sometimes alarmed that someone else is deliberately pirating their call sign. Please don't automatically jump to this conclusion.  It is far more likely that the station sending you the card simply mis-copied someone else's call, or accepted as fact an erroneous put-out on a packet cluster.  Among the most active DXers and contesters with three-area calls are W3BGN and W3LPL, and we receive quite a number of cards for W3BGS and W3RPL, neither call being in the FCC database. The logical conclusion is obvious.

The lesson is that whether or not you want to receive cards via the Bureau, if you work a certain amount of DX there WILL be cards coming in to the Bureau for you.  We are QSL lovers or we wouldn't be doing this kind of work voluntarily.  Please help us out by providing the small amount of postage necessary so that we can get your cards to you.  And THANKS to the vast majority of you who are already doing precisely that.

For three-area-call sign SUFFIXES beginning with the letter "K" ONLY:
You can check your bureau status directly on the Web at https://www.rickmurphy.net/buro.html This is an initiative of "K" suffix sorter Rick Murphy, K1MU who has used his computer savvy and his time to provide this service to his users.

Sending your cards to DX stations Via the bureau system

In order to send cards out through the ARRL outgoing QSL Bureau, though, you DO have to be an ARRL member.  This Third Call Area Bureau does NOT handle outgoing cards.  You can find out how to send your outgoing cards by going to the web page http://www.arrl.org/outgoing-qsl-service

In some other countries the national society limits its incoming QSL Bureau service only to its membership.  If you send a card through the bureau to a station you contacted in Germany, that ham has to be a member of the German national society DARC in order to get it.  At least the Germans tell you if the station is not a member by returning your card to you stamped "non-member." Other societies such as those in Italy or Japan will just throw your card away if the station is not a member of the ARI or the JARL, respectively, and you will never know what happened to it.  Fortunately almost all of the DXers and contesters in these countries are members of their national societies so the number of such cards that are discarded is relatively small.

Some other national societies handle domestic cards also.  In Japan the JARL estimates that 90 percent of the QSL volume its bureau handles involve JA-to-JA QSOs.  The ARRL QSL Bureau is for sending and receiving cards involving DX contacts only.  There have been attempts by individual U.S. hans to establish U.S. domestic bureaus in the past, but they eventually closed.

Other ways of confirming DX contacts

EQSL.CC The coming of the digital age has made it possible for QSOs to be confirmed by other means than the physical exchange of QSL cards.  Almost from the beginnings of the Internet a few hams would simply send a digitized image of their QSL card as an e-mail attachment to the other party, and the other party could download it and print it out.

Eventually this procedure was formalized by the eQSL.cc system at http://www.eqsl.cc/qslcard/Index.cfm where thousands of confirmations are exchanged digitally every day.  This has the advantage of saving postal and printing costs and it also allows hams who are not members of their national societies to confirm contacts without having to mail cards directly.  There are hams both here and in other countries who do not join their national societies as a matter of principle because they object to one or another of that society's policies, and eQSL.cc has enabled them to easily confirm contacts anyway.  It is no secret that in the past, some national societies, particularly in Latin America, used the QSL Bureau as a means to try to force DXers to join their organizations even though those national societies did little to improve the welfare of Amateur Radio in their countries.  The eQSL.cc site provides attractive QSL designs which can be used by members of the site to send to other members.  The disadvantages of the eQSL.cc methods is that many Amateurs still prefer to collect physical copies of QSL cards, and for those who make thousands of DX contacts per year, it becomes prohibitively time-consuming for an operator to download and print out on a color printer a copy of each card waiting for him or her on the eQSL.cc site.  Also, some sponsors of major awards do not accept eqsl.cc confirmations.

LOGBOOK OF THE WORLD (LoTW) Many Radio Amateurs are not QSL collectors and have only gotten involved in QSLing in order to earn awards.  Most of the more prestigious awards require proof in the form of a physical QSL card that the QSO was made.  The ARRL has moved in recent years to establish the Logbook-of-the-World (LoTW) confirmation system in order to take advantage of the saving of time and expense which the digital age provides.  Its long experience over the years in running the DXCC program has provided the ARRL with ample proof of the sad fact that some Amateurs, when given the chance, will try to cheat in the earning of an award, probably in order to earn "bragging rights" which come as a part and parcel of the listing of their calls among a group of prestigious operators. For this reason a great deal of time and expense has gone into the design of the security aspects of the program.  As the procedures are ironed out to make the program more automatic and user-friendly, it has become possible for other sponsors of awards such as the RSGB and CQ Magazine to use the LoTW system for their awards as well.  You can learn all about LoTW at the web site http://www.arrl.org/logbook-of-the-world

Conclusion

Notwithstanding all of the above, most Radio Amateurs remain dedicated to the physical exchange of QSL cards in the traditional way.  Our Third-Call-Area Bureau receives as many as 100,000 QSLs per year from overseas stations.  QSLing the "old fashioned" way remains alive and well.

We invite your queries or comments to

Thanks very much for your having taken the time to look us up. Here's wishing you good DXing.  We look forward to serving you in any way we can.