21 April 2006
SETI League
PriUPS Project


The Great Kopeck Caper

Part 1, The Background

Hams are a bit odd.   I am a ham.  I'm a bit odd.  Logic!

One of our oddities is our penchant for collecting QSL cards.  A QSL card is a postal card that is sent by mail to confirm a radio contact.  If you are about to ask "Why do you need to send something by post to confirm something sent by radio, see above."  While it is likely that you will see a lot more about QSL cards here in the future, suffice it to say that many hams, myself included, like to collect them from all over the world, and try to get one from every "country" extant, along with a lot of islands, lighthouses, principalities, memorials, and pretty much any category of land mass or event you can contemplate.  (Why do we call them QSL cards?  Again, see above.)

Because there are many more hams in industrialized nations such as the USA than there are in others, there is a substantial asymmetry in the demand for these cards.  If there is one ham in Burundi, and everyone in the USA wants his QSL, you can imagine that it would something of a burden for him to send one to each of us.  Compounding the problem is the fact that the cost of international postage a dollar, perhaps is pretty insignificant for each USA ham, but a good portion of a day's (or week's!) wages for the correspondent.  To make it possible to exchange cards, therefore, a number of arrangements exist.  The easiest, and the most likely to elicit a card, is to send the ham whose card you need a self-addressed, stamped envelope.  To do this one must have legitimate postage for the country in question.  You can imagine how far an envelope mailed in the USA would get if it bore stamps from Burundi!

Just as the United States has subdivisions such as States and Counties, the old Soviet Union (and the new Russia) has administrative subdivisions call "Oblasts."  There are almost two hundred of them.  I set myself the goal of getting a QSL from each.  (Why?  See 'way above.)

With that background, we get to The Great Kopeck Caper.  Tomorrow.


Richard Factor