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Sample of an older QSL card:
Making contacts is one of many rewarding aspects of this hobby. It's an opportunity to make friends world-wide. One of the main aspects of making a lot of contacts (QSO) is the opportunity to send a confirmation to the operator of the station (QSL). It is like sending a thank-you note of the meeting on the air waves.
QSLs are also used as confirmation of contacts to meet the requirements of certain awards, such as "worked all states" (WAS) or "DXCC" (100 countries). These awards are generally managed by the ARRL and other similar organizations.
(Thanks to GeekGirl1 for additions to this FAQ)