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Have You Ever Wondered...? A Rant About Letterbox Containers

by Scarab of the Doubtful Guests

Guest contributor (and savvy letterboxer) Scarab of the Doubtful Guests does a fairly good imitation of Andy Rooney on “60 Minutes.” You know how Andy will discourse in all seriousness about something as mundane as the frustrations of coat hangers? The following commentary should be read with Andy Rooney’s voice and attitude in mind.

Have you ever been frustrated by all of the different kinds of letterbox containers out there? There is nothing so satisfying as finding a good, blue rimmed, freezer style Rubbermaid container, with its snug and dry treasure inside. I like how sturdy they feel. But there are a lot of other containers out there that just aren't up to snuff.

You set out containers and feel so proud of the nice new box, with sealed bags and your art inside. I know I’ve felt that way after planting a new letterbox. Then, a year later, you discover it cracked, ripped and damp. You persevere and try again.

You know those disposable containers they sell that come many to a pack? How many times have you found those cracked and with the lid hanging off? And then there’s the kind whose plastic gets warped, or the edge gets chipped. You can never get those closed. You repackage them with new zip lock bags from your repair kit... and pray for them.

I also get frustrated when the box is smaller than the contents. It seems like a perfectly good container until you try to put the log back in. You have to force and bend it to get it in there. You never know if the seal is going to hold. I bet that you too have found that it helps to put the stamp on the bottom and the log on top. The box is a little wider up there.

Just last week I found a new box with a really terrific stamp, nicely mounted on thick wood. But it was stuffed in a box that was way too shallow for it. It was very wide but not deep enough. I had to force the edges down like my over-stuffed suitcase. I knew it wouldn't hold. The lid was already popped and barely on at all when I found it.

There are so many different types of baggies. There's the thin sandwich kind that too many people use; the zippered kind, that seem pretty handy; and the heavier freezer bags with labels.

I have come to dread those thin, sandwich baggies. They seem alright when you plant them. But if you are the 30th finder, they really show their age. It's bad enough when you find them ripped, but don't you feel really guilty when "you" rip them trying to get them open? And then discover that you’ve already used your repair supply on the first two letterboxes in the series?

The pull tab/zipper kind of bags seem handy, but I have found many with the tabs broken and missing, and the seal half open. They just don't hold up through a season.

I once found a log all wound up inside one of those long newspaper bags. You know the ones that the paperboy slides your rolled newspaper in on rainy days. Whoever wrapped it (undoubtedly not the placer) must have thought that a number of wraps around would keep it dry. The water disagreed. It was soaked.

It's so sad and disheartening to find a beautiful log that's turned into stamp ink soup.

I really like the heavier, freezer style zip locks. They are little harder to fold and fit into the container but I think they are really worth it. I bet you too, fold the corners underneath so they don't get in the seal. They even have a surface to write on so you can label them: Log1, Log2, Stamp, etc.

The labels really help me because between the kids, the guest, the dog and my over-cluttered mind I get easily confused as to what came out of what. How many times have you said, "Oh, this must be for the stamp because there's ink in it"?

There is a movement afoot to double bag logbooks to keep them drier. That sounds like a good idea to me.

I'm intrigued by the idea of putting those little desiccant bags that come in boxes of new cameras and other electronics inside a letterbox. I wonder how long they last – but I guess it’s okay as long as I don't have to start writing on my stamps, "Do Not Eat."

Have you found a letterbox where they put the whole box in a big baggie? I'm not sure that is such a good idea. The whole package seems harder to hide to me. After a few uses, what with the rocks and sticks and all, they are usually ripped anyway so I'm not sure it really accomplishes anything.

Did you notice the white plastic bag on the ground in the recent article in Time magazine? I bet they lay out the contents on that bag in a certain way to keep track of everything. That, or maybe the photographer thought it would look good.

As much as I enjoy the blue Rubbermaid containers, it is always fun to find a different and clever container. I've seen and heard of so many different kinds: film canisters, cigar tubes, mint tins, bottles, milk jugs, gerbil coffins.

We always like to joke about how we are out hunting Tupperware. But have you ever found a real Tupperware container out there?

For all this, though, I really don't care what I find out there. I repair when I can, dry things out, and re-bag. I know not everyone can afford freezer containers. I have several boxes I've planted with boxes and bags that might not be up to par – but that was before I decided to use better materials. Isn't the important thing to have something to find and get out there?

In the end, I am just delighted whenever I find the treasure of a usable stamp.

Happy hunting out there!

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