I was doing a random search on Twitter this weekend when I ran across a photo of a radio reception stamp for the first Haverford College radio station WABQ. It turns out that some of the current radio station participants at Haverford College found this gem on eBay, just in time for this year’s 90th anniversary of the launch of WABQ.
I’d never seen a WABQ radio reception stamp and was curious to learn more about what it was. I figured that it was related to the QSL (Query Station Location) cards that DXers use to track their listening habits. There is a connection, as it turns out that these radio reception stamps were part of a collecting frenzy in the 1920s. An issue of Radio News at the time even had a cover story devoted to the “new radio stamp fad.” The WABQ stamp has the letters E K K O and American Bank Note Co. written on it, as well as the words “verified reception stamp.”
According to an article on Antique Radio Classified, “Ekko stamps…are the 1920s broadcast radio’s equivalent to ham radio’s QSL cards.” Listeners were encouraged to send “proof of reception cards” to stations in exchange for a commemorative stamp as evidence that they were able to hear the station. As a side benefit, stations were able to get a sense of where people were listening from. Ekko, a company out of Chicago, began the stamp collecting promotion in 1924 and managed to get more than 700 radio stations to participate.
It would be interesting to learn more about where WABQ listeners wrote in from. Located in Haverford, Pennsylvania (not far from Philadelphia), WABQ had a powerful broadcast range, rumored to be second to KDKA in Pennsylvania. Listeners tuned in from Maine to Michigan, according to accounts at the time. To learn more about WABQ’s short history in the 1920s, see my article on SpinningIndie. More on the history of Ekko stamps can be found in this Buying Guide on eBay and in this article (which includes an image of a reception card as well).
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