Why are Vanity Calls applying for MORE Vanity Calls?

Discussion in 'Becoming a Ham - Q&A' started by KX4VJ, Nov 18, 2019.

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  1. KX4VJ

    KX4VJ Ham Member QRZ Page

    Hey, all... I just passed my exam a couple of weeks ago and figured "right away" is the best time to change call signs if I'm going to do it. I think I've figured out the "game" of getting a vanity call and have applied for a couple.
    But over the weekend I checked the status of my application for K4LT and found that there are 30-ish applicants! Okay, fine. But SEVEN of those already have 4-digit vanity calls in the same region, some granted in the last year or two. None has an obvious connection to the new call.
    What gives?

    Assumption: A four-digit call sign is a vanity call sign. These were not randomly assigned, they were applied for by the holder.
    Question 1: What operational reasons might someone need to change their vanity call sign after a year or two? Could someone get confused for a previous call sign holder? (Kind of like getting a new phone and it starts ringing for the old owner of that number.) Might they find that it's too difficult to CW? Might the previous holder have been some sort of ham legend? With little experience, I can't see why abandoning a vanity call sign might be necessary, especially since it was pursued and competed for by the current holder.
    Question 2: Are vanity calls viewed as a constrained resource, like spectrum? Or is the "game" attribute of trying to get one some sort of sport within the ham community?
    Question 3: Unless I'm mistaken, if someone with a vanity call is granted a new vanity call, their old one is sidelined for two years and one day before a new applicant can try for them. So a vanity call that is granted, used for a year, then abandoned spends four out of five years unavailable to everyone else. Is this understanding correct?
    I feel like I'm fresh off the airplane in a foreign land trying to decipher behaviors I don't understand. Thanks for filling me in on some of this. I had hoped to be able to secure a call sign to keep for a very long time and not use the assigned one too long, but this may take a lot longer than I thought.

    KX4VJ (for now)
    Last edited: Nov 18, 2019
    AK5B likes this.
  2. N4UP

    N4UP Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    Not all four-character call signs are vanity call signs. Mine is not. I am the original holder and it pre-dates the vanity system. When the N-series was first made available, extras could request one, and I did. UP is for Upminster, where I was born. So not sequentially assigned, but also not vanity.

    Why do people switch call signs? No doubt everyone has his or her own reasons. I would not change call signs lightly or often. But the way it sounds on CW and on SSB are factors for me. My club has a vanity call sign ( N4ACW ) and it was chosen for how it sounds both on CW and SSB. We were tempted to go for a a rarer prefix as K, N, W are most common, but for us how it sounds was more important. I don't know that anyone ever "needs" to change their call sign. Wanting to, I understand.

    Yes the short calls are limited resources. All the more reason why someone with a short call should not easily be able to change call signs and tie up the old one.
    K9AP, K0UO, KK9W and 1 other person like this.
  3. KU4X

    KU4X Platinum Subscriber Platinum Subscriber QRZ Page

    Hi Tim,

    Congratulations on passing your exams, and welcome to Amateur Radio!

    N4UP's comments above have pretty much summed up the situation, and the reasons why folks are changing call signs. As he noted, 1x2 and 2x1 calls are in short supply, so there are some hams out there that get their jollies by playing the game of flipping call signs. Sad, but there is nothing to be done about it.

    There is a good number of them that go about it with this mind-set: I'll take whatever I can get at first, and if I don't like it, I will apply for the next one that I (think I) can live with. And these folks don't have a problem with tying up multiple call signs, via the 2 year wait period, in their quest for "perfection." And then there are the hard-core "flippers" who keep a stable of short calls tied up by reactivating them on a regular basis using the "previous holder" rule.

    All that being said, I would encourage you to: a) only apply for a call you really want and can live with, and; 2) be prepared for the possible long-haul in acquiring a 1x2 or 2x1 call. If you are really unhappy with your present call, you might consider getting an available 2x2 or 1x3 that suits you. You may end up liking it better than a 1x2 or 2x1!

    Good luck and good hunting.

  4. KG5RZ

    KG5RZ Ham Member QRZ Page

    Look up my current call, it shows as a HV. BUT it is my sequentially assigned call sign back when I was Advanced and used for almost a decade. When I made Extra I requested a 1X2. Then a couple years later I made a trip back home. No one knew who I was. So I made another vanity app to get my old call back as a prior holder. Now I get on the air up there and get called by name.
  5. K3XR

    K3XR Ham Member QRZ Page

    The blame for changing your vanity call as often as you change your underwear is not the fault of the applicant. It's the fault of the FCC who has a system permitting it to take place.
    K0UO, AF5XF, NQ1B and 8 others like this.
  6. WD0BCT

    WD0BCT Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    Not all vanity call signs are short or CW friendly. Mine is a vanity call sign which was my original call sign after upgrading from a novice in NY while living in Nebraska. When I renewed my license after a 20 year lapse I considered going to a vanity call but decided to ask for my original call sign. Reason...after all these years my old call sign felt like it was mine. I had used it for 20 years. And, as another ham pointed out, it was good having a callsign that was unique to me! It never belonged to anyone else.
    K0UO and VE3GCX like this.
  7. K7JEM

    K7JEM Ham Member QRZ Page

    It would be best to have a rule that says a person cannot take advantage of the vanity system any more than once every three years, perhaps with the exception of applying for the callsign of a deceased close relative.
    K0UO, AF5XF, NQ1B and 5 others like this.
  8. WD0BCT

    WD0BCT Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    Why every 3 years? Why not until the end of your current license period or upgrade with the exception of callsigns of close relatives. Why should the FCC trouble themselves with issuing call signs to anyone who applies for a new call sign just because they want a new one? The Vanity call sign business has gotten totally out of control.

    How about making the applicant pay for the new call sign? That would slow down multiple applications and fund other things at the FCC like tracking down miscreants and other causes of RFI.
    KD0CAC, AK5B, K6LPM and 1 other person like this.
  9. K7JEM

    K7JEM Ham Member QRZ Page

    Because three years would solve the biggest problem, yet still make the vanity program available to people. Perhaps a longer time would be better, but I don't necessarily think a person needs to wait until their license is up for renewal.
    W7BDJ likes this.
  10. N2SUB

    N2SUB Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    First of all, welcome to the hobby. I wish you many years of enjoyment.

    1. I'm sure you're aware that there is no requirement to change your callsign although was you mention there are some operation reasons you might want to. I would not want to send KX4VJ in CW on a regular basis :) On voice or data, I can't see that it would make much of a difference unless you're a contester who thinks a shorter or more understandable call will make it easier to break through a pileup. However, nobody "needs" to change their callsign....ask my brother, WA2BMO. :) It's really a personal choice, like getting a vanity license plate for your car.

    2. I know some people get caught up in the call sign lottery, but I wouldn't exactly call it a sport within the ham community. I think the majority of people have enough money invested in personalized pins, hats, mugs, QSL cards, etc that it wouldn't be cost-effective to change every year. You're right, if you're going to do it, do it right away.

    I remember when they first started assigning vanity callsigns....it was a strange time. Before then, your callsign had always been your identity, and people were proud of their callsigns. Suddenly ops were jumping on new callsigns like a fat kid on cake. It got hard to keep things straight there for a while.

    3. As I understand it, your assertion that a callsign could be on the shelf for 4 out of 5 years is correct, unless the op has a relative that wants to take it over.

    The callsign lottery has always seemed a little odd to me....people sitting around counting the number of days since an op became a SK. To each his own I guess. I know they'll be fighting over N2SUB when I'm dead and gone. So, if you're asking for an explanation of this behavior, I'm afraid I don't have one. I don't understand it myself. But I assure you it is just a subset of the ham population.

    Again, welcome and enjoy the hobby.
    K0UO, AF5XF, KK9W and 1 other person like this.
  11. KA9JLM

    KA9JLM Ham Member QRZ Page

    I think it is possible to be way cool without a vanity call. :cool:
  12. KX4VJ

    KX4VJ Ham Member QRZ Page

    Thanks for all the feedback, everybody. I took another look this morning and found:

    - There are now 44 applications for this one available call. A vast majority are people who have become Amateur Extra and want to upgrade their call sign. This is what I thought the process was for, and I fall into this category.
    - All of the applicants with four-digit call signs are, indeed, vanity calls requesting a different vanity call.
    - 1 is a 4-digit call so old I can't tell how it was assigned, but it was changed to a vanity 12 years ago.
    - 1 is a vanity assigned 7 years ago
    - 2 were assigned 3-ish years ago
    - 3 were assigned in the last six months.
    - 1 is applying for his 7th vanity call in two years and has 66 records in the ULS in that time frame.

    That's a very neat inverse log function with the vast majority playing nice and a small number of outliers exhibiting hoarding behavior. This is kind of what one expects with humans involved in the process, particularly when there is a constrained resource that is "free." (I wonder if that one guy would see anything wrong with tuning a repeater, keying his mic, and wrapping a rubber band around the PTT for a few days?)

    My response -- based partly on kind responses here -- is to calendar the ones I like that are coming available over the next few months and just let that process "work in the background." Call sign is about my 5th priority with radio and there's nothing I can do about it anyway. meh

    So... today I'm off to start building an antenna! Woo hoo! Good thing that's such a simple topic and nobody has opinions. (KIDDING!)
  13. KK5JY

    KK5JY Ham Member QRZ Page

    There is no cost associated with trying (other than filling out the online form), so people with time on their hands have no obstacle to applying for new calls as often as they want. They may get one vanity call, but when a "better" one becomes available, there's nothing to stop them for applying for that call.

    It's a shame that FCC dropped vanity fees. They said they weren't making money, but what they should have done was what every other agency and business does in such cases -- increase the fees. Had they made the vanity fee $1,000 and non-refundable, you wouldn't see what you are seeing.

    It's time to drop the vanity system altogether. It generates endless controversy and ill will.
    AK5B likes this.
  14. WZ1L

    WZ1L Ham Member QRZ Page

    Tim, of what I have seen, their issuance of a next call sign through a call block are not being used. The call issued is not meaningful of the user. The current mindset is make it what I want. And you can see various reasons, such as initials, locations, animals, or whatever.

    I have been licensed since 1981. My hopes were dashed on getting a callsign for Midway Island where I took my Novice Exam and the FCC reason was they canceled issuing from the KH4 Block effective December 31, 1980. I was forced to take a "6" call as my address was FPO San Francisco. I was issued KA6OWC.

    My military orders off Midway was to Washington DC, and I lived in Alexandria, VA. I requested a call change to "4" Land as at the time you were required to work portable if you were outside your area. So sending KA6OWC/4 was not my desire. I was issued KA4WWG and kept that call through my military career. I upgraded to Advanced in 1989 and because I was living in Massachusetts, opted for a "1" call and was issued KC1QI. Three years later, I upgraded to Extra Class. Since the 2x1 calls were running out, I opted to change my call to a 2x1 before they were exhausted. I was issued WZ1L. This is an original FCC issued from the block.

    Changing your call sign may confuse people who know you and when you change it, you need to let them know.

    Good Luck in your choice. de WZ1L
    Last edited: Nov 21, 2019
  15. K7MEM

    K7MEM Ham Member QRZ Page

    My story is somewhat similar to WZ1L. While I was living in Germany, I was issued a "2" call sign, because my address was APO NY. But at the time, early 80s, a US Novice license was sufficient to obtain a German Class-A license. That got me the call DA2EU. When I returned from Germany, I was living in Arizona. So I asked for a new call sign to match my location, "7". I used that call sign for almost 20 years. But in 1999, I decided to upgrade. In a span of 3 or 4 months, I went from Novice to Extra. That was before they did away with the Morse Code requirements.

    However, I could see the signs of change, and knew the Morse Code requirements were going to be dropped. I also knew that, when that happened, there will be a flood of upgrades and applications for 1x2 and 2x1 call signs. So I starting looking at what was available. In the end, I liked the 1x3 call sign that I have now. This call sign works great on voice and CW. No one ever seems to get it wrong.

    If I move out of the "7" area, I am still going to keep my call sign. To me, its just not worth the stress to try and change it again. I already know that all of the "K*MEM" call signs are taken.

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