Vanity Callsign

Obtaining Your Free Vanity Callsign

Background: My first callsign, K0SLD, was received in December 1958 after passing the General Class 13 WPM code test and written exam before an FCC examiner in Denver. Back then if you moved to a new call area, you were required to get a callsign from that area. So when we transferred to Wake Island in 1962, I was K0SLD/KW6 for a while before receiving KW6DG. In 1971, when I started as an Air Traffic Controller in Utah, I became W7HOI. Later, when I passed my Extra Class in 1996, I applied for and was assigned K7GN. I transferred to New England in 1981. By that time you could keep your callsign regardless of where you lived.

I was determined to keep K7GN but two things were happening. Either a Ham would hear “K7” and turn their beams out West; and/or they would copy “NV” instead of “NH” and turn their beams westward. Plus having a ‘7’ callsign in the First Call Area became problematic working contests. I finally paid the fees and applied for a vanity callsign and obtained AE1N in 2002. Now over 25,000 QSOs later, I am very happy being AE1N.

So there you have it! Now Uncle charges no fees for vanity application

 Are You Not Happy With Your Callsign?

For what reason would any Ham want to change his callsign anyway?

  • A call easier for your friends to remember. John, W1MBG (‘Many Beautiful Girls’)
  • You don’t like the way your call sounds or looks, e.g. KJ4JPY, KC9FKU, KC7PQJ
  • I moved to a new call area. I said I would never give up my callsign, K7GN, when I moved to New England and I kept it for a while but got frustrated at times. Two things happened: Hams would hear K7GN, swing their beams West and I would lose them, or I would send QTH NH and they insisted in copying NV and turned their antennas to Nevada. In addition, it was more difficult for contesting, Europeans were disappointed and Japanese stations ignored me!
  • License Upgrade benefit. I worked hard for my Extra and I want others to appreciate my work.
  • Shorter calls. For Example, KC9NJU (Kilo Charlie Niner November Juliet Uniform) upgrades and obtains N9GM (November Niner Golf Mike)
  • Something easier to use in contests. Whether on Phone or CW, I always copy Bud, AA3B, on his first call.

How to Determine Your Ideal Vanity Callsign

  • Club name: California Highway Patrol, W7CHP
  • Favorite operating mode: W3PSK, W1UHF
  • Initials – One of my old calls, k0sld, was later selected by Steve L Dunlop.
  • Location – Guess where these hams hail from N1NH, WA2NYC, K5ARK, K1MVA.
  • Names – Jim Griffin is K2JIM; Karen is KA1REN
  • Nicknames – N1KIM, N6EVA, W1GUS
  • 1 or 0 to spell visually: K0RN, K1TE
  • Abbreviations: W1OM, W1YL, K0ANT, K0HAM, K1GHZ
  • Acronyms: K8LED, W7NPN, N4BFD
  • Actual Initials: W8FBI, K1IBM
  • Phonetically interesting: NE1R (‘New England One Radio’)
  • Humorous: N5BFT-Big Fat Turkey; K1ESE (dit di di dit dit; after the old jingle ‘Shave and a Haircut’.)
  • Visually appealing: W1XX
  • Words: KP4PIE
Optimized Character
  • Easy to send or receive – N1EEE, NN0SS, NN5XX
Factors In Selecting Your Ideal Call
  • # of Characters: AE1N (vs KC0QJY)
  • # of CW Elements (dots and dashes): N1NN
  • CW or phonetic ease in pile-ups: (Last letter ‘K’ confused with ‘K’ meaning ‘Go Ahead’.
  • CW rhythm: how it sounds at various speeds. If a letter ends with a dash, the next should be a dit; if a letter ends with a dit, the next should begin with a dash – K1ARM, W1SMV
  • Letter clarity without phonetics: B, D & E sound alike; R, O, and X are unique sounding
  • Length or weighted characters (dits x1 plus dashes x3) – AE1T, NE1R
  • Phonetic clarity: How callsign sounds & easily pronounced: N4FOG, K1ORO
  • Visual appearance (how it looks on QSL card or License Plate): K4USA, N5LUV

Vanity Callsign Application Process

The latest information can be found here:

Groups and Comments

I would not recommend doing applications by mail. You can list up to 25 desired calls. I suggest putting using your top 25 desired calls on your application, especially if competing for 1X2 and 2X1 calls.


Group D – Novice, Club, and Military Recreations Station (Primary stations licensed to Novice class operators, and for club and military recreation stations.) 2X3 with K or W prefix: K#XXX or W#XXX

Group C – General, Technician and ‘Technician Plus’ Classes (Primary stations licensed to General, Technician, and Technician Plus class operators.) 1X3 with K, N, W prefix: K#XXX, N#XXX or W#XXX

Group B – Advanced Class (Primary stations licensed to Advanced class operators.) 2X2 with K, N W prefix: KX#NN, NX#XX, WX#XX

Group A – Amateur Extra Class (Primary stations licensed to Amateur Extra class operators.) 1X2 with K, N, W prefix and 2X1 with A, N K, W prefix

  • Group A can choose from A, B, C, D groups; Group B from B, C, D Groups; Group C from C & D Groups.
  • Note: Some calls are reserved for Caribbean and Pacific Areas.
 Special Eligibilities
  • A close relative of the former holder – You may display the call sign of a deceased spouse, child, grandchild, stepchild, parent, grandparent, stepparent, brother, sister, stepbrother, stepsister, aunt, uncle, niece, nephew, or in-law on your primary station license. An “in-law” is limited to a parent, stepparent, sibling, or step-sibling of a licensee’s spouse; the spouse of a licensee’s sibling, step-sibling, child, or stepchild; or the spouse of a licensee’s spouse’s sibling or step-sibling.
  • Former primary station holder – You are eligible to have the call sign, which appears on your primary license displayed on your new vanity license if you are a former primary station holder.
  • Primary station preference list – You may request one or more call signs that you provide in the correct Commission format in the order of your preference. ULS will validate the format of each call sign on your list in turn and select the first call sign in the correct format that is not already assigned to another licensee.
  • The “W” prefix was started in 1928. So if you want to become an instant “OLD TIMER”, just get yourself a W#XXX callsign. There are many, many ‘choice’ W#XXX callsigns immediately available.
  • The first “K” calls appeared in 1947; the first “WA” calls in 1958, and the first “WB” calls in 1962. It wasn’t until the time of Incentive Licensing that the appearance of “A” and “N” prefixes arrived.

NEEDLESS TO SAY: 1X2 and 2X1 calls are in HUGE demand. My favorite vanity callsign help site is

[As of this writing, September 2017, the following typical 1X2 and 2X1 vanity callsigns were becoming available: KZ1I, NB1A, ND1C, NU1Y, WI1S, AL1U, N1HR, AND W1MM. And many, many 1X3 W#XXX calls were available]

 Special 1X1 Callsigns

These days one can hear such callsigns as N1E, W2Q, K7U from special events. Rules are specific. I myself have operated using K1I N1O N1E N1U W1O and K2K. It is a lot of fun seeing the interested generated by these 1X1 calls. For the New England ARRL Convention in Boxboro, W1A was activated.

For details go to

WHATEVER, you decide to do remember: “A Ham’s Callsign is to him or her, the sweetest and most important sound on-the-Air!

AND, IF for some reason you do not like your new vanity callsign, you can always apply for another one. After all, it’s FREE!

73, Layne AE1N

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One thought on “Obtaining Your Free Vanity Callsign”

  1. Just an addition: Long before I passed my test, even as a kid, I thought of myself as W1BFJ (Wendell Burns Fisher Junior in the 1 area). Unfortunately, that call was taken by Mr. John F. Bean in Lancaster (JFB = BFJ backwards). So given that you can also choose any call area in a vanity sign, I chose W2BFJ. I would certainly prefer my home area but oh well.

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