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What Is Postal Letterboxing?

05/28/2004
by Silent Doug

Get a letterbox in your letterbox!Postal letterboxing is a variant of letterboxing that doesn't require you to leave your armchair -- except perhaps to go to the post office! Here are some of the most common questions about postal letterboxing and how you can participate.

  1. What is a postal letterbox?
  2. How can I receive a postal letterbox?
  3. How do I create a postal letterbox?
  4. How do I count postal letterboxes in my PFX count?
  5. What was the first postal letterbox?
  6. Shouldn't I be careful about giving out my home address to strangers on the Internet?
  7. Where can I learn more about postal letterboxes?
  8. How does the Postal Letterboxing discussion group work?



  1. What is a postal letterbox?

    A postal letterbox (PLB) is simply a letterbox that is mailed from letterboxer to letterboxer. A PLB typically includes only a stamp and a log, and recipients "stamp in" to the log while taking an impression of the PLB stamp in their personal journals. The PLB is then sent by mail to another letterboxer, and so on, and so on....


  2. How can I receive a postal letterbox?

    Usually the creator of a PLB will solicit the names of letterboxers who wish to receive the PLB by posting an announcement on the The Postal Letterboxing discussion group (see #7 below). The address list of these recipients is included with the PLB, often in the form of address labels. Once a recipient has received the PLB and stamped into its journal, he or she sends it to the next person on the list, and so on. Most PLBs are restricted to a certain number of participants, and no new names are added to the list after the box is sent out. Some PLBs are always "open" for signups, however, and the names of new recipients are simply added at the end of the list. If you'd like to hear about new and current PLBs, check the PLB discussion group for announcements of new PLBS as well as a PLB database that indicates whether particular PLBs are open or closed to new recipients.


  3. How do I create a postal letterbox?

    Simply create a stamp and a log book for your PLB and then announce on the Postal Letterboxing discussion group that it's open for sign-ups. When deciding how many people to allow on your PLB list, remember that it can take up to 2 weeks for a PLB to travel from one person to the next (especially if it's traveling cross-country). If 100 people sign up for your PLB, for example, it could take 4 years for the PLB to reach the last names on the list! This could lead to long delays or a lost box if people move in the interim. PLB creators will often ask participants to use some form of delivery tracking (such as the US Postal Service's Delivery Confirmation service) so that the PLB is less likely to get lost in the mail, or email a report to the creator when they receive and send out the PLB. Knowing where the box was last and where it's headed next allows the PLB creator to send out address updates or deletions when necessary.

    Once a reasonable number of people have signed up for the PLB, create a list of recipients or even a set of address labels for recipients. Include delivery instructions, such as the order in which you'd like the box to move from person to person. Some PLB creators sort their list by geographic region to cut down on delivery times between recipients, others ask that the box be sent in the order that people signed up for it, and still others allow recipients to send it next to anyone they choose on the list. As the box creator, you get to decide how you would like it to move from person to person. If you have a strong preference, be sure to include detailed instructions about this as well as any reporting requests in your PLB's log book or instruction sheet.

    While certainly not required, some PLB creators send along a "first finders" certificate, a special hitchhiker or some other treat for the first recipient. Once you've gathered your log book, stamp, mailing list or labels and any instruction sheet or other items you'd like to include, put everything in a box or mailing envelope and drop it in the mail to start its journey. Don't forget to make a copy of the distribution list for your own reference first, though!


  4. How do I count postal letterboxes in my PFX count?

    Good question. There's no real consensus on counting postal letterboxes. The more traditionalist letterboxers would probably not count them as an F (Found) letterbox since PLBs don't typically have any challenge associated with finding them. But others may well include PLBs as an F, so it's up to your personal discretion. The same goes for counting a PLB that you create in your P count.


  5. What was the first postal letterbox?

    Legerdemaine's Flutterby box, released March 16, 2002, is generally acknowledged as the first postal letterbox. (More information on Flutterby.)


  6. Shouldn't I be careful about giving out my home address to strangers on the Internet?

    Absolutely! All the usual cautions about providing personal information to people whom you've met online should apply to postal letterboxing. If the thought of adding your mailing address to a list that will be circulated to dozens of people whom you don't know makes you uneasy, then open a P.O. Box or don't participate! Adults should supervise their children's participation, and theme boxes aimed at minors or families are an incredibly bad idea since you're essentially advertising to the world that you have children in your household. That said, many postal letterboxers are active and known participants in the letterboxing community, and they seek only to expand the hobby in fun and interesting ways.

    When signing up for a PLB, make sure to send your mailing address to the creator directly, and NOT to a discussion group or mailing list at large (which might give thousands of people access to your name and address). The Postal Letterboxing discussion group (see #7 below) has been set up in such a way to provide more privacy for participants, but the ultimate responsibility is yours.


  7. Where can I learn more about postal letterboxes?

    The Postal Letterboxing discussion group on Yahoo! is the primary forum for discussions of postal letterboxes. Discussions of postal letterboxes are discouraged on the LBNA letterboxing discussion group for two reasons. First, postal letterboxes are necessarily limited to a small number of participants, since each PLB can only reach perhaps 30 letterboxers in a year. Second, the LBNA discussion group's message archives are open to anyone on the Internet, even those who aren't members of the group. Because of that, anyone who posts a message with personal information on the LBNA list is effectively broadcasting that information to millions of Internet users via search engines and spiders. On the other hand, the Postal Letterboxing group's archives are open only to members, so you must join the group before accessing any of the message archives. This helps to protect the privacy of participants.


  8. How does the Postal Letterboxing discussion group work?

    The Postal Letterboxing discussion group (see #7 above) is "first-post moderated," which means that new members are automatically set to have their messages approved by the moderators. Once a new member posts an appropriate message to the list, the moderators may at their discretion change that member's status to "unmoderated," allowing him or her to post to the list freely. This mechanism is in place to prevent spam and inappropriate messages from being sent to the list. Any member who sends spam or inappropriate/off-topic messages to the list may see their status set back to "moderated," or be removed or even banned from the group. All list members are expected to be respectful and cordial in group discussions, so please be civil.

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