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June 4, 2020

Would Sponsorship of Letterboxing Sully the Sport?

Tony Treadway

Letterboxing article

What the Heck is Letterboxing?

Credit son and daughter-in-law, Wes and Kourtney, for answering the question of “What the heck is letterboxing?” Newlywed Texas A&M Ph.D students, they turned my wife and I on to what may be a sponsorable craze of the post COVID world. Yet, would a sponsorship sully a subculture of millions of consumers that has flown under the radar of corporate America for more than a century?

Born in 1854 England by a creative guide to the tours of the Moors who created hints to finding hidden treasure along the path for his customers. Not gold or diamonds, but postcards inside a bottle. The postcards proclaimed to the finder that they had found the treasure along the way that could be mailed to their friends. Genius. Now, their friends would want to take his tour and find their own treasure and send to their friends. Can you say viral?

A mix of orienteering and art, letterboxers today craft their own rubber stamp and carry with them a container that includes their logbook, their stamp(s) and a variety of ink colors for stamping. They go online to AtlasQuest.com to find where fellow letterboxers have left clues to where they have hidden their own letterboxes to be found. Using the website, participants seek out hidden letterboxes by cracking codes and the clues.

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Letterboxers stamp their logbooks of found treasure and note the date and location of their find. Then alert fellow letterboxers of their discovery online.

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Three letterboxes were found in this Virginia cemetery that was also the resting place of two Confederate generals.

Hidden inside plastic containers or waterproof pouches, letterboxes are found in public parks, national forests, really anywhere. Once found, the container is opened to find a logbook and a rubber stamp. The letterboxer adds an impression of their own rubber stamp to the found logbook and writes their name or “handle” and the date they found the letterbox. They add an impression of the stamp they found to their own logbook and jot the date and location of their find. Then, they return their discovery to where they found it and alert fellow letterboxers to their find on AtlasQuest.com. There is joy in finding hidden letterboxes that have been hidden for years or decades and in the creativity of the stamps that they find.  

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Letterboxing is an activity that encourages people to get out of their post COVID cocoon and experience nature and creativity.

This low-tech experience is a perfect answer to individuals or couples of almost any age. Letterboxing is a way to exercise one’s brain without heavy physical exertion. There is creativity in crafting their rubber stamps and in creating clues for fellow letterboxers to discover their own and in finding others.   

On our few days of letterboxing, we found them under old tree stumps, in ancient cemeteries, along The Appalachian Trail and hidden in a streetlamp of an auto parts store. Letterboxers also rejoice in the fact that there are millions of letterboxes hidden across the world right under the noses of the uneducated masses. Who’s buried in Grant’s Tomb? A former general and President and likely nearby-a letterbox!

This sport or hobby is just waiting for a sponsor to make this their own. Imagine a convention and visitor’s bureau wishing to attract followers to their city by sharing clues to a half dozen letterboxes there with a prize to letterboxers who’ve documented in their logbooks that they found all six? Imagine a restaurant chain promotion encouraging their customers to enjoy the great outdoors by dropping hints for finding their letterboxes with a grand prize of a new RV for touring the country. In a world that really needs to chill and get some fresh air after COVID and riots, this is a great promotion just waiting to happen. But there is something pristine about letterboxing. It’s a bottoms-up sport that has flown under the radar for so many decades that has enlisted millions of loyal and eager consumers. What the heck. It began as a promotion. Let’s do it.

NEWS