Little Remembered Hobby of Early Radio Days
by Don Swaim

When Brooklyn radio buff John Landers shared images of his EKKO Radio Verification stamps from his personal collection, I had no idea what EKKO stamps were. I had heard of QSL (Query Station Location) cards, which amateur radio operators mail to reach other to verify the reception of a ham station (also issued by commercial stations), but when I thought of Eco I could only think of Umberto Eco, author of The Name of the Rose. The EKKO Radio Verification stamps served a similar purpose as QSL cards for radio enthusiasts in the early days of commercial radio.

Below is WCBS Radio's QSL card. It is undated, but because it shows the "new" transmitter on High Island it is ca.1963:

Front and back of WCBS QSL unstamped postcard, ca 1963

The late Moe Luff, recognized for his philatelic reference book The United States Postal Slogan Catalog, wrote that radio devotees in broadcasting's fledging years were known as "DXers," radio station distance hunters. Using the bulky, tube-powered equipment of the time, DXers would hone in on the signal of a faraway station, then write to the station requesting verification in return.

Enter the EKKO Company in Chicago. In 1921, EKKO engaged the American Bank Note Company to print stamps (sometimes called "Cinderellas") with the call letters for nearly every major radio station in the United States, Canada, and Mexico. It was a marketing tool for the stations, and reportedly rivaled postage stamps among collectors.

Bonnie and Roger Riga posted on their rigastamps site
a group of envelopes documenting radio signal reception

Except for the colors (fifteen), the stamps were unified in design, showing an American bald eagle, two radio towers in the background, and a bar with the station's call letters. In 1924, EKKO came up with a hardcover stamp album in which to paste the stamps, followed by several paperback editions. The original album sold for $1.75 and had space for 650 stamps. According to philatelic expert C.M. Zelbst, over 844 stations participated in the EKKO stamp promotion between 1921 and 1929. Collectors could also order the stamps directly from EKKO at ten-cents each. Some other companies, notably PM Bryant, competed with EKKO, but without as much success.

This image from the Rhode Island Historical Society Postal History Collection
shows an EKKO stamp issued by WJAR, Providence

Interest petered out by the Great Depression, EKKO went bankrupt in 1930, and as collectibles the Verification Stamps became near worthless. However, one station, KFI in Los Angeles, was still sending similar stamps as late as the 1960s. In the 1980s, niche interest in the stamps began anew, and now they're widely available at eBay and other websites. L&B Publishers has published C.M. Zelbst's comprehensive Verified Reception Stamp Price Catalog.

From John Landers' collection of EKKO Stamps here are scans dating to the infancy of WCBS and WINS.

WAHG - For "Wait and Hear Grebe." This is where CBS radio began

WAHG became WABC in December 1928

On November 2, 1946, WABC became WCBS

WGBS was sold by Fred Gimbel to William Randolph Hearst on October 10, 1931 and became WINS in 1933. I have never seen an EKKO for WINS

To compile this article I drew on material originally written by C.M. Zelbst, Wayne Gilbert and Charles Combs, Bonnie and Roger Riga, Jon Pearkins at the RadioWest website, the Rhode Island Historical Society Postal History Collection

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