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What is Letterboxing?

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  • Written By: Amanda R. Bell
  • Edited By: R. Halprin
  • Last Modified Date: 03 December 2016
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Letterboxing is a form of treasure hunting that began in England in the 1800s. Participants both hide and find letterboxes and keep logbooks of which boxes they have found. The game can be played by anyone who can read a map, although the ability to decipher clues and codes is helpful.

A letterbox is a waterproof container that holds a log book, a custom stamp, and a stamp pad as well as other trinkets. Participants carry their own log book as well as their own custom stamp. The box is hidden, usually in a remote and scenic area, and a map or clues are posted in the official letterboxing directory of England or on the Internet so others may find the box.

As participant find the box, they stamp the box’s logbook with their stamp and their log book with the box’s stamp. Clues to finding the box can be simple or complex, and some clues are only available by finding other boxes first. Certain boxes can only be found by word of mouth, lending a certain mystery to the game.

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Letterboxing is considered an art form as well as a game. Participants typically take great artistic pride in their custom stamps as well as the maps and clues they provide for the boxes, with even the simplest maps typically being ornately drawn. The journey to find the box is also considered equally as important as the location. Seasoned letterboxing participants will usually plan the course to their box to be a beautiful excursion and, in some cases, a difficult one.

While letterboxing has relatively few rules, there are certain common courtesies that should be followed. Boxes should not be hidden on private property unless express permission is given by the owner of the land to do so. Those searching for a box should always get permission to enter private land. Once boxes are found, they should be hidden at least as well, if not more so, than they were before.

This game is so popular in the U.K. that there are estimated to be at least 40,000 letterboxes hidden in the Dartmoor National Park alone. England also keeps an official catalog of clues and maps for letterboxing, though it is estimated that only half of the boxes hidden in the country are included. Letterboxing has spread to other areas of the world, including North America, with the first box believed to be hidden in the late 1980s or early 1990s, with clues and maps to these letterboxes usually posted online. With its ever-increasing popularity, letterboxing can be a unique way to embark on a new adventure.

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