Sunday, December 19, 2010

Early Mediumwave QSLs

For many years radio hobbyists have collected QSLs, or verification cards and letters from stations they have heard. These items offer proof of reception of the station, and are often sent out by the station engineer upon receipt of a letter showing detailed reception information. Back in the 1920s when radio was the new rage across the country and people of all kinds were delighting in seeing how far they could hear, the EKKO Company of Chicago, Illinois, had a novel idea to produce reception verification stamps. Looking much like postage stamps - perforated, engraved, and in various colors - they were printed with station call letters, and EKKO even produced an album - selling for $1.75 - to paste them into. The reason? It was wonderful advertisement for EKKO's phonograph, record, and radio accessory products.

EKKO contracted the American Bank Note Company to produce the stamps, a company which already produced stamps for the US Post Office. The stamps for US stations framed the American bald eagle with two radio towers in the background. Stamps for Canadian stations substituted the beaver for the bald eagle. All stamps had a station bar below where the broadcast station call letters could be imprinted. EKKO's initials, E-K-K-O, were displayed on the four outer corners of the stamp. The stamps were purchased by the radio stations from the EKKO Company, and then, when their respective listeners provided written information identifying reception details of a particular broadcast, the station would send the listener a Verified Reception Stamp with the station's call letters.

The 1924 album marked the year when EKKO sold stamps to 592 stations in the United States and Canada, and at the height of the collecting craze they were selling their stamps simultaneously to more than 650 broadcast stations located throughout North America and the Caribbean! Independent research has identified over 844 stations that participated in the program between 1921 and 1929. These stations were located in the United States, Canada, Cuba and Mexico.

As the Great Depression settled upon America in the 1930s, the EKKO Company, like so many others, faded away as did the EKKO Verified Reception Stamp. Until recent years, the stamps have remained merely a curiosity among stamp collectors (called "Cinderellas"), but since 1980 interest in them has increased, and some have become quite valuable.

For more information on EKKO Verified Reception Stamps, see the following articles:

What's An EKKO Stamp?

Antique Radio