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Atlas Quest

Help: Recent Additions & Changes

  1. How should I package PLBs for mailing?
  2. What are Best Practices for MicroPlbing?
  3. Are there any general postal guidelines for anyone new to postals?
  4. We found a hitchhiker without a logbook—should we add a new one?
  5. How to reply to an AQ mail to include cc:
  6. What do the icons on a postal represent?
  7. How can I delete bookmarks
  8. What do I do when I find one?
  9. What is a postal?
  10. What are “blue diamond” boxes?
  11. How do I put a candle icon on my Mom’s page?
  12. How does mail get sorted?
  13. What is an LTC?
  14. What do the icons stand for in a traditional letterbox?
  15. How do I make a chat room?
  16. What is an F-Summary (Find Summary)?
  17. What do the icons next to a member's trailname mean?
  18. How do I change the theme?
  19. What should I write on an LTC?
  20. I can no longer participate in a postal ring, who can I contact for financial support?
  21. How do I search the message boards?
  22. How does the Basic Search work?
  23. How do you keep track of Postal Trackers you are participating in?
  24. How do you set up a Postal Tracker?
  25. How do I delete a tracker once a postal tracker is closed?
  26. What's a postal tracker?
  27. What is the difference between a postal single and a postal ring?
  28. How can I prevent postals from going missing?
  29. What may I do with PLBs that have returned home?
  30. What is a random/surprise postal and how do you receive one?
  31. How do I find postals that are open for signups?!
  32. How can I sign up for a postal?
  33. How can I make a postal?
  34. Should I be cautious giving my postal address to people over the Internet?
  35. What do I do with my postal once I finish making it?
  36. How do you shave down a stamp for MicroPLBs?
  37. What is a whitelist?
  38. What are exceptions?
  39. Can you make a spell check available?
  40. How do I renew my membership?
  41. What can I use as a trail name?
  42. What’s the difference between the planters, owner, contacts, carvers and foster parents of a letterbox?
  43. Why can I no longer adopt abandoned boxes?
  44. How do I adopt a letterbox?
  45. What do it mean to foster a box?
  46. How can I report that I found my box still in place so that it can go from average to good?
  47. What is an unpublished box?
  48. What happened to reserved boxes?
  49. How do I find a list of my unpublished boxes?
  50. How do I package a set of LTCs for a tracker?

How should I package PLBs for mailing?

Once you have created your PLB, you will want to package it in a way that will help ensure that its components stay together and that it eventually returns safely to you. Expectations and requirements will vary, but here are some general guidelines:

Always refer to the Tracker host’s specifications for their requirements when preparing a Postal for mailing.

You can also refer to the Post Office for current guidelines for mailing packages or letters.

Important Note:If your envelope has postage stamps and weighs more than 10 oz or is thicker than 1/2", you can't put it in a collection box; you have to give it to an employee at a Post Office location.

Internal Packaging (applies to Standard and Heavy PLBs): The stamp should be contained within something that will absorb residue ink. This is often a piece of felt or cloth simply wrapped around the stamp or tied with a ribbon or string. Be aware that a string or band around a stamp can cause a divot in the carving. Others make or purchase decorative pouches for their stamps, while some incorporate the stamp holder into the logbook itself. The logbook and stamp (with its container) may then be put into a baggie. Write the name of the Letterbox, your name and address, and the AQ number on the bag on each baggie. This will help keep the contents together and identifies them if they get separated.

If you include additional items (explanation pages, CDs, DVDs, etc., in separate bags), all of these items should be placed within a larger overall bag. In these cases, it is a good idea to make a list of the contents and tape it to the plastic bag.

Internal Packaging (applies to Micro PLBs): Packaging of Micro PLBs is very important for meeting Post Office requirements. The entire finished piece needs to easily slide through a space/slot that is 1/4" wide. Items inside need to be spaced out and anchored in some way to avoid shifting. Example: if a logbook and stamp are free to move about they may end up on top of each other can cause the whole postal to get eaten by a hungry automated postal machine. The stamp needs to be thin enough to be flexible and not cause the entire Postal to be over 1/4" in thickness.
The logbook can be the same thickness and flexibility as the stamp, or it can be a folder that holds everything else in place for the recipients to stamp their sig stamps.

External Packaging (applies to Standard and Heavy PLBs): Boxes and Envelopes are intended to be reusable from stop to stop. The usual envelope size for Standard PLBs is 6x9, but this will vary according to the size of the PLB, Heavy PLBs can be any size and shape. The bubble mailer envelopes hold up longer under repeated use, and add a cushion of protection for the contents, so most people prefer them. When using bubble mailer envelopes, it is helpful to cover the areas that are likely to be used the most with clear packing tape. People who use paper envelopes which work well, but are less costly, often cover the entire surface of their envelopes with clear packing tape so they will be sturdier. Never cover postage stamps with tape as this will invalidate them.

The PLB's owner's return address should remain on the envelope/box throughout its travels. Do not cover the owner's return address when you are mailing PLBs that you have received. If you see that the owner's return address has been covered at some point or is missing, it is a nice idea to contact the owner privately and ask if they would like you to restore the proper address.

Most people write an abbreviated description of the box's title someplace on the outside of the envelope. This will help when mailing several at one time.

External Packaging (applies to Micro PLBs): Micro PLBs use a fresh (new) #10 regular business envelope at each stop. The envelope the Postal arrived in is not reused. Trying to create a reusable mailer for a Micro PLB (by covering with clear tape) causes problems as the automatic sorting equipment kicks them out when the printed barcode information gets smeared. This can delay delivery as these need to be hand sorted and require a non-machinable surcharge.

Most participants will include a set of return address labels to put in the upper left corner. They are either sticky labels, or a simple printed Word Doc of multiple address labels that can be cut apart and glued or taped on as needed. See General Guidelines for Addressing below.

Sealing Reusable Envelope (Standard and Heavy): Do not use the envelope's adhesive strip to seal the envelope. This damages the envelopes quite a bit, particularly with the bubble mailer envelopes. Instead, use clear packing tape to cover the adhesive strip so that it cannot be removed and also to seal the envelope. When you are repackaging a PLB that you have received, never reuse pre-existing tape, because it is likely to pop open in transit. Always use fresh tape! If possible, peel the tape to open the package. Try to avoid cutting the tape, but at times this is unavoidable.

General Guidelines--Addressing for Automation (Applies mostly to Micro PLBs): The Post Office uses automated equipment to facilitate speedy and cost effective handling of the US Mail (no comments please). In order for your mail to make the most efficient use of this system, it is best to use white envelopes or labels with black ink. Print carefully or type in all uppercase, use abbreviations where appropriate and no punctuation. Remember, the address needs to do the job of getting read by a machine, if a person needs to sort it out, it will take longer.

This is copied directly from USPS.com: Step 2: Address Your Mail
Print addresses neatly in capital letters.
Use a pen or permanent marker.
Do not use commas or periods.
Include the ZIP+4 Code whenever possible.

Security Precautions: Particularly since 9/11, the post office is much more concerned about matters relating to security. Just like you should not plant a letterbox that might be mistaken for a bomb, do not mail postals that might be mistaken for a bomb or weapon. Things that might cause a security scare can include (but are not limited to) not having enough postage, using only a person's trail name instead of their real name, well-worn packaging, and not using a proper return address label.

What are Best Practices for MicroPlbing?

  • Please DO NOT mail before the start date. This can cause bunching and delays--it is much nicer to receive one box at a time from a ring every 4 or 5 days than two or three at a time.
  • Do log your find at atlasquest.com. It is appreciated to leave a nice comment.
  • Do stamp your signature stamp in any available space and include the date and place (city, state). Again, it is appreciated to leave a comment in the logbook as well as on-line.
  • Extra stamp-ins are welcome if the box’s owner says it’s OK. Please conserve space.
  • Do stamp the image into your logbook. Clean by blotting excess ink off stamp.
  • DO NOT USE METALLIC INK on someone else’s stamp.
  • Do not over-ink a stamp, a gentle tap-tap-tap with the inkpad will do.
  • These stamps are thin and can easily gum up with ink.
  • If this PLB is part of a tracker, mail to the person below you on the tracker.
  • Do check your mail-to person’s status by looking at the tracker grid to make sure they are logging what you have sent to them.
  • If this PLB is a Singleton, you will need to contact the person below you on the tracker for their mailing address and to make sure they are ready to receive.
  • Do discard the envelope it came in. Write or affix a label with the address of the next recipient on a fresh/new #10 business envelope.
  • Use the return address label provided or write the name and return address of the owner on the new envelope--the return address should always be the owner’s.
  • Use YOUR own Forever Stamp. If the envelope is over 1 oz. an extra ounce stamp should be provided. You still need to use your own Forever stamp.
  • Put everything in the new envelope, making sure contents cannot shift around.
  • Make sure the envelope is securely sealed. Add a small amount of tape to secure the flap and edges.
  • Do not put anything in the new envelope that wasn’t in the old one.
  • Weight is very important, it is easy to exceed the 1 oz. threshold.
  • Drop the Micro in any mailbox for USPS pick-up.

Are there any general postal guidelines for anyone new to postals?

  • Your Postals should always include a logbook and hand-carved stamp unless specified otherwise.
  • You should always use a suitable mailer based on the type of postal you are creating. Try not to crowd the package which can make it difficult for others to repack properly.
  • Please DO NOT mail before the start date. This can cause delays and bunching--it is much nicer to receive one box at a time from a ring every 4 or 5 days than two or three at a time.
  • For Postals (other than the Micro version) put packing tape on all the appropriate places so the envelope can be used multiple times. (Over your return address, on the spot where the to: label goes, the corner where postage goes, the flap of the envelope and the section you are sealing the flap to.) Some types of mailers (i.e. paper) will only survive if they are completely covered with clear tape.
  • The more you can do to help the recipient efficiently remove existing labels and tape the more you will be appreciated. Folding over small corners of tape for easily removal is one such thing.
  • Remember: Never put tape over postage stamps as it will invalidate the postage!
  • For Micro Postals a fresh envelope is used each time. Small pieces of tape that do not increase the weight can be used to help seal the flap, reinforce the sides, and also protect the to: and from: address labels. It is not a good idea to cover the whole envelope with packing tape as this can cause the barcode that the PO imprints to smear and delay processing.
  • Always send your Postals to the same person in a ring unless otherwise asked.
  • Put all of the contents back into the correct envelope when you are done stamping in. (reseal bags, etc.)
  • If more that one member of a family or group makes stamps for a ring, please include all stamps and logbooks for that ring from that family or group in the same mailer.
  • Please don't use metallic ink on anyone else's stamps unless they specify it's OK.
  • If something comes up (vacation, sickness, etc.), let someone know so no one panics when they haven't heard from a stamp in a week.
  • Most people are very understanding if you let them know when there's a problem.
  • Please remember to log your finds. People like to keep track of their stamps.
  • Lastly, please know that comments are very much appreciated in both logging on-line and in logbooks. You can use the same comment for both, and they will always bring a smile.

We found a hitchhiker without a logbook—should we add a new one?

We found either a hitchhiker or a flea with no logbook and no identifying information, no name or owner...would love to log it by name! Any ideas on finding the name or the owner? I do have a photo of the stamp.

How to reply to an AQ mail to include cc:

AQ mail is not email. There is no "cc:" option, but there's nothing to prevent one from adding additional people to the "from" field with each trailname separated by a comma (or semicolon).

What do the icons on a postal represent?

Stamp Types

AttributeDescription
The creator promises you'll find a genuine, 100% hand-carved stamp in the letterbox and not a store-bought or custom-made stamp.
The letterbox contains a unique, custom-made stamp.
The letterbox contains a store-bought stamp rather than a hand-carved or custom-made stamp.

Types of Postals

AttributeDescription
If a postal weighs more than 13 oz., it gets this icon so people realize it will cost more to mail. They mail as First Class Parcel or Priority Mail. For approx. 13oz. cost is $7.65 which includes tracking. (2022)
A Standard PLB weighs less than 13 oz. and is usually mailed in a 6x9 reusable envelope. They mail as First Class Parcel. Starting at about $5.00 for up to 3 oz. includes tracking. (2022)
MicroPLBA Micro PLB weighs 1 oz. or less and fits into a business envelope and meets other PO requirements. They mail for one Forever Stamp. They can weigh over 1 oz. but the creator has to furnish sufficient postage to cover it for each stop. Extra ounce +20¢, non-machinable +30¢ (2022). No tracking is available for Micros

How can I delete bookmarks

Click the bookmark button (bookmark) once to bookmark a post, then clicking it a second time will remove the bookmark and it'll be greyed out.

What do I do when I find one?

Use the stamp inside of the letterbox to stamp your own logbook, then use your signature stamp—if you have one—to stamp the logbook of the box you found.

Afterwards, return the box where you found it, well-hidden from view so other people can look for it as well.

What is a postal?

There are three (3) different types of Postal Letterbox (PLB). They are Heavyweight, Standard, and Micro. All Postal Letterboxes contain a stamp and logbook sent from person to person in the mail. The stamp is usually hand carved and the logbook, often handmade, can be simple or very ornate. Sometimes, the creators of a postal include extra items.

A Heavyweight PLB (Anything over 13 oz.) can include items such as CDs, DVDs, books, and even jigsaw puzzles. They can be mailed in any type of suitable packaging. Some creators use Padded Flat Rate envelopes free from USPS.

A Standard PLB (Under 13oz., varies a lot) usually contains a traditional size stamp and a handmade logbook and perhaps a few optional lightweight items such as stickers, or quisps. They are usually mailed in a 6x9 padded envelope. Envelopes are reinforced packaging PLBs for mailing by the creator to be reusable from destination to destination. Keep in mind, the more weight you add to the box, the more expensive it becomes to ship. Many Standard postal participants strive to keep the weight reasonable so that shipping is affordable to all recipients. At current rates (2022) a Standard 6x9 padded envelope can be $5.00+ to mail (it depends on weight and distance to recipient). Generally, if a box is heavier and more expensive to mail, it's a good idea to let potential recipients know that information before they sign up and to mark the heavy attribute when listing the postal.

A Micro PLB (1oz.* = 1 Forever stamp= $0.60) is mailed in a #10 regular business envelope (9-1/2" x 4-3/8") contains a small stamp that has been shaved down to a thickness of less than 1/4". The accompanying logbook can be as simple as a folded sheet of paper or a rather ornate decorated folder with pockets. The object is for it to be lightweight, less than an ounce, fit into a regular business size envelope and meet certain other PO requirements such as being flexible, and not having lumpy items inside that can shift during processing. A fresh envelope is used at each stop. Nothing is added that could increase the weight, but sometimes the outer envelopes are decorated.

*If a Micro PLB weighs more than 1 oz., the creator is required to supply sufficient postage to cover the extra weight. Also if the PLB is lumpy or rigid there is a non-machinable surcharge. The recipient is only required to furnish one Forever stamp. As of July 10, 2022: Each additional 1 oz. is $0.24; Non-machinable items, envelopes that are lumpy or rigid, or have clasps, string, or buttons will cost an additional $0.39 more to send.

What are “blue diamond” boxes?

Blue diamond letterboxes are the highest ranked letterboxes based on anonymous votes cast by people who've found letterboxes.

Obviously, not all letterboxes can be blue diamond boxes. First, the brutal truth: Some letterboxes are better than others. Most letterboxes, by definition, are average. There is no shame in this—even the most average letterboxes are delightful to find. But to give recognition to those that create particularly memorable letterboxes and help those in unfamiliar territory to narrow down an often bewildering number of boxes in an area, Atlas Quest picks out the top 5% of boxes—based on the anonymous votes—and highlights them by including a blue diamond as one of the attributes.

It's not a precise science, and boxes with no finds (and therefore no votes) won't have blue diamonds no matter how good they are. Letterboxes with very few votes may be skewed if the people who found it judge a box differently from you. Or, it might be that your idea of the “perfect” letterbox is very different than the normal person on Atlas Quest, and thus the blue diamonds end up on all the wrong boxes from your point of view.

To help prevent a lot hurt feelings, you will not be able to see who nor how people voted and rated your own letterboxes. The only thing you will ever know about how the votes might have gone is based on whether a blue diamond shows up next to your letterbox or not, and there's no shame if you do not receive the blue diamond—95% of the letterboxes listed on Atlas Quest will not have them.

How do I put a candle icon on my Mom’s page?

Contact an administrator. They can set up a loved one’s tribute page, make sure you can access of of their boxes and make sure the candle icon shows up next to their name.

How does mail get sorted?

Here's a quick video with comments following from Quiet Place who actually works at a mail sorting facility.
https://youtu.be/gB7QOK1bd3U
The following is quoted from a Postal Board message 1014656 by Quiet Place dated June 20, 2022

"Those images in the video aren't in the right order and the explanation of what is happening is somewhat lacking.

"The first machine dumping the mail will cull out letters that can't run on the Advanced Facer Canceler System (AFCS) machine where letters are faced and cancelled. But the AFCS machine is not friendly to unsealed envelopes, which is one of the main reasons for damaged mail in that location.

"Next, the machinable letters will be ran on a Delivery Bar-code Sorter (DBCS) or Delivery Barcode Sorter Input/Output Subsystem (DIOSS) to sort it to cities or to the next in-office run. We dedicate 3 machines for this.
DBCS or DIOSS will then be used to put the local mail in delivery point sequence for the carriers. We have 17 of those machines in my facility. Each will Delivery Point Sequence (DPS) about 100,000 pieces of mail every night. That mail will need to be run twice in a specific order to get it into sequence for the carrier. Every machine has at least two separate DPS runs which must both be complete by 4:45 a.m., and out of all that processing there might be a dozen letters that rip when a jam occurs.

"Considering how long it would take to sort all that by hand, ...the machines are well worth the risk. And besides, I find running these machines to be very satisfying work.

"If an envelope is intended to be hand-sorted, it should be thick enough so the machine will cull it. The most problematic mail is very narrow at the edges and contains a fat lump of mystery item in the middle. The narrow part will begin to feed into the machine and the lump will get caught on a gate or between two rollers.

"Even if you are sending the shaved stamp and want it to be machinable for cheaper postage, there are things you can do to help prevent causing a jam. The stamp should be housed between two pieces of cardstock inside the envelope to create tapering and to add sturdiness. Try to get the stamp to stay in the center of the envelope, maybe by putting it inside a small, thin plastic baggie and taping that to the center of the cardstock. Note that I'm advising cardstock and not thick cardboard... you have to be able to bend it somewhat or it will jam in the rollers. I would also add a piece of packaging tape that goes all the way around the length of it, but leave space at the bottom for the barcode. This tape should have no ripples or loose ends that don't stick well or other letters will get stuck to yours and now we're going to have mis-sorts AND maybe a jam. Summary: taper, sturdy but flexible, lump in the center, plastic (tape) is harder to rip than paper."

The following applies mostly to Standard Postals, not Micros:

"The post office has parcel sorting machines as well... In terms of package safety, all tape should be secured. If the edges of the tape come up, the package could tape itself to another package just long enough to end up in the wrong place."

On Standard or Heavy Postals, the common practice of covering "the entire postal package with tape...is best. Taping over labels prevents water from smearing it if it comes into contact with rain soaked packages. If you don't want your package to bend, put thick cardboard around it so that you yourself can't easily bend it. Putting something in a regular envelope and writing instructions on the outside will do nearly nothing once it gets into a processing plant."

(A little paraphrasing here) The machines can read the name AND the address. The machine, right from the beginning, will know if a letter needs to be forwarded or returned. At (local) facility it is kicked out into a different tray on every DBCS and then when the tray is full it gets put in a container and sent to a larger facility where it is processed with those yellow stickers that will forward it, return it, or send it back for the carrier to verify if there is a real problem or not. This process can cause errors. There is a set of names that belong at an address, so any name which doesn't belong may then be returned unable to forward.

"Machines can read cursive and even if the machine can't read it, letters get hand sorted when the machine rejects them."

What is an LTC?

LTCs or Letterboxer Trading Cards are a variation of ATCs or Artist Trading Cards--small pieces of artwork (2 ½ ” x 3 ½”) created for the purpose of trading with other artists. The distinguishing feature of an LTC is that it must include one or more hand-carved and hand-stamped images, and usually as part of the design, not just the signature stamp on the back to identify the artist.

LTCs usually begin with a base made of archival (acid-free) card stock or similar heavyweight material, measuring 2 ½ " by 3 ½ ". Any art/craft medium or combination of media is encouraged to showcase the stamped image as long as the materials are secured to the card, toxic-free and legal to mail since swaps are hosted via the USPS. The back of each card is stamped with:
  • the letterboxer’s trail stamp,
  • date created and
  • AQ box #.

LTCs are created for swapping with other letterboxers but is not limited to that as LTCs have also been used in ATC swaps. LTCs are a fun way to do more with a hand-carved stamp before that stamp is planted as a traditional.

History: LTCs were suggested on the Atlas Quest discussion boards as early as 2007. The name—letterbox trading card-- was first suggested by Shadohart, and the first LTC swap-- LTC: Maiden Voyage-- was hosted by Mama Cache in Feb, 2007. (It was listed as a postal tracker.)

To receive a LTC welcome packet which includes a set of example LTCs to start your collection, contact Linden Leaf.

The most current LTC activity is happening now at:
LTC Trades and Trackers
Letterbox Trading Cards.
LTC Fanatics.

Blogs about LTCS and stamp carving:

What do the icons stand for in a traditional letterbox?

Stamp Types

AttributeDescription
The creator promises you'll find a genuine, 100% hand-carved stamp in the letterbox and not a store-bought or custom-made stamp.
The letterbox contains a unique, custom-made stamp.
The letterbox contains a store-bought stamp rather than a hand-carved or custom-made stamp.

Attributes

AttributeDescription
The creator does not specify the location of the nearest city for this letterbox. They may have specified the state or country of its location, but you're expected to discover the actual starting point for the hunt yourself. From a technical standpoint, a location is considered a mystery box if the location has no name, address, and city. If the location spans less than one mile, it is not a mystery. And if a location is "somewhere within a city," the owner of the box can specify if it's a mystery location or not. And finally, just because you solve a mystery and add a custom location, the letterbox is still considered a mystery box-adding a specific custom location will not remove this icon.
This picture represents a bonus box, where the clue for the box will be found (usually) in a pre-existing nearby letterbox. Premium Member Perk!
A Word of Mouth (WOM) box. The clues are distributed somewhere other than online, such as via e-mail, postal mail, or delivered in person. Premium Member Perk!
Premium members might see this icon, which means you've done an exchange with the owner of this letterbox. Premium Member Perk!
An urban letterbox, as defined here, is located in an area where one is unlikely to experience "The Great Outdoors". Like in a big city, such as New York city. A rest area in the middle of nowhere is an urban box. A large city park with trees and hiking trails is not an urban box. The 'setting' for the letterbox is urban, not necessarily the location, if that makes any sense.
A snow friendly box is rather a squishy concept. Some people might consider a box that requires several miles of cross-country travel using snow shoes or skies as snow 'friendly,' while other may not. Other boxes might be quite findable if there's an inch or two of snow on the ground but may no longer be easily found if there's a foot or two of snow on the ground. In theory, though, a snow friendly box is one in which important landmarks in the clue would not be covered, nor will digging through layers of snow be required to find the box.
A pet friendly letterbox is located in an area that allows pets to roam, usually with a leash requirement.
This letterbox is available only for a limited time. A limited time letterbox is either a box that is planted for only part of the year or a box that you intend to retire within the next three months. Letterboxes planted in regions that are covered in snow for nine months of the year or in stores that require a visit during store hours do not count as limited time boxes.
A bike friendly letterbox is located in an area where bicycles or mountain bikes are permitted and have plenty of room to roam. For instance, while it is legal to ride ones bicycle on busy city streets, it is not considered bike friendly if there are no designated bike lanes available for use near the letterbox. And while many trails may be accessible to mountain bike, it is not considered bike friendly if the trail is for hikers only.
The trail or path to the letterbox should be accessible by wheelchairs or strollers the entire way. However, the letterbox itself may not be reachable from a wheelchair or stroller, and those using them may need assistance from others to actually acquire the box. The letterbox may be planted too high or low for someone in a wheelchair to physically reach, or too far off from the main trail for a wheelchair, but as long as an assistant can retrieve the box and bring it back for the wheelchair-bound person, it's considered wheelchair accessible.
You'll be expected to use your head on this one in order to decipher the clue. The code might be easy or hard-this image promises nothing on that count-the only thing it does promise is that the clue won't be straight-forward as most.
A box that requires some sort of special or unusual equipment like for scuba diving or rock climbing, or even something as simple as a ladder. A compass is not considered "special" equipment for letterboxers! Premium Member Perk!
This image marks letterboxes that require a compass in order to find. The lack of this picture means the clue doesn't require a compass OR that the creator of the letterbox did not specify a compass requirement. It's generally a good idea to always carry a compass in your letterboxing kit, though, so you'll always be prepared.
Premium members can search for boxes that do not have the compass attribute. Premium Member Perk!
This letterbox requires payment of some sort of fee-probably a parking or entrance fee-in order to find. The lack of this picture does not necessarily mean no fees are required. The creator may not have specified fees, or perhaps fees were added since the box was planted. It's always a good idea to carry a few extra dollars in case of an unexpected fee or two.
Premium members can search for boxes that do not have the fee-area icon. Premium Member Perk!
Those who plant letterboxes are able to point out their favorite plants by assigning them the Planter's Choice Award. They might do this because they consider it one of their best boxes, or perhaps it has sentimental value. Whatever the reason, the planter wants you to notice this box. Premium Member Perk!
The blue diamond marks letterboxes that are highly recommended by other letterboxers. If your time is limited, you might want to focus on finding a Blue Diamond letterbox. Premium Member Perk!
Each week, the highest rated box on Atlas Quest is designated the Box of the Week. Use this to search for boxes that have reached such lofty heights. Premium Member Perk!
Some sort of first aid is needed for the box. Perhaps the Ziplocks are torn and need replacing or the logbook is wet type of thing. Try to come prepared and what what you can to help!
Some people like to find boxes that are 'historic,' and using this option in one's search can help narrow down the possibilities. A historic box, in this case, is any letterbox that was planted at least ten years ago and has been listed on Atlas Quest for at least five years. Premium Member Perk!
Some letterboxers want to find that elusive box few people ever find or even search for. Searching for 'rare finds,' in this case, will return all boxes that have not had a recorded find for at least one full year. Premium Member Perk!

Premium Member Perk! = Search options that are only available to premium members.

Hike Types

AttributeDescription
This letterbox is located indoors -- perfect for those cold, wet days when you really do not want to go outside.
A drive-by letterbox, as defined on this website, is a letterbox that requires perhaps 5 to 10 minutes to nab from the time you park your car. A drive-by letterbox will be hidden within eyesight of where one parks, or at least so close that if it were raining, the person would take the box to their car to stamp in.
A stroll is something that's less than a mile round-trip of walking, which would take most people less than 30 minutes to complete (find and return to their starting point) but still too far out to be considered a drive by.
A walk is something that requires 1 to 2 miles round-trip of walking/hiking, which would take most people between 30 to 60 minutes to complete.
A hike is a box that requires 2 to 4 miles round-trip of hiking, which would take most people between 1 to 2 hours to complete.
A trek is 4 to 8 miles round-trip of hiking, and will typically take most people anywhere from 2 to 4 hours to complete.
A backpack is 8 to 15 miles round-trip of hiking, and will typically take most people anywhere from 4 to 8 hours to complete.
A thru-hike requires 15 or more miles round-trip of hiking, and will typically take most people a minimum of 8 hours to complete.

Note: Use a little common sense with these icons. A flat, paved, 1-mile trail would be a stroll. A rugged 1-mile trail that climbs 1,000 feet in elevation gain would be a walk. Even though both trails are one mile long, they would each fall into different categories since the difficulty level is very different. There are no hard or fast rules regarding this-just use a little common sense. A typical hiking trail that's two miles long would normally be a walk, but if the walk requires an extreme climb going up thousands of feet on a rarely maintained trail, mark it as a hike.

How do I make a chat room?

There are no options for creating private chat rooms. They come as part of already existing member groups. You can see which chat rooms you have access to and can use at https://www.atlasquest.com/chat/ or by using the Chat Room widget on My Page.

What is an F-Summary (Find Summary)?

Clue pages now include a summary of the finds (and attempted finds) of each letterbox which is called an F-summary for short. For instance, you might see a box with an F-summary of ffffFfffxxxffXx. These are the last 15 finds and attempts made on the letterbox. Each F represents a find while each x represents a failed find (i.e. an attempt). A capital letter means it was a planter who recorded the find or attempt, so those should hold more weight. Additionall, the attempts, marked with x's, grow as the attempter's confidence about the box being missing increases.

In this example, there were 8 finds, then 3 attempts, then 2 finds, then 2 more attempts. One of the finds and attempts was by the planter of the box. Perhaps the box went missing, then it was replaced, then it went missing again. Or maybe those 3 successive attempts were people who just couldn't find the box because it had been replaced in the wrong location and the 4th person who looked for it realized it was behind the wrong tree. Or maybe the 3 attempts were a single group of people looking for a box and failed to find it so they all marked it as an attempt.

The point is, there are a lot of ways to interpret this data, but sometimes it's useful just to see what sort of patterns they make. A lot of attempts interspersed with finds might suggest the box is particularly tricky to find. A long series of finds followed by a long series of attempts probably means the box is missing.

These help pages don't allow the use of colors or different-sized text, so the sample above isn't really complete without them. But you can see a better sample in the glossary, including colors and different confident levels of attempts.

If someone has chosen to hide the finds or attempts on one of their letterboxes, no F-summary will be displayed.

What do the icons next to a member's trailname mean?

IconMeaning
View Profile Allows you to view this member's profile.
Contact Member Allows you to contact this member.
View Logbook Allows you to view this member's online logbook.
Add Note Read Note View and/or edit any notes you've taken about this member. If the notepad is blank, you haven't added any notes for this member yet. If the notepad has writing on it, then there are notes to read.
Planted 1 letterbox Planted 20-39 letterboxes Planted 300-399 letterboxes Trophies represent the number of planted letterboxes. Bronze trophies display your exact number of plants from 1 to 9. Silver trophies represent between 10 and 99 planted boxes (the number on the trophy is rounded down to the nearest 10), while gold trophies represent between 100 and 999 plants (the number on the trophy is rounded down to the nearest 100).
Found 1 letterbox Found 20-29 letterboxes Found 300-399 letterboxes Found 4,000-4,999 letterboxes Found 50,000-59,999 letterboxes Ribbons represent the number of found letterboxes. The ribbon gets an extra "point" at the bottom for every zero that follows the first digit. The ribbons are color-coded to the first digit roughly in a rainbow pattern from 1 to 9: 1 = red, 2 = orange, 3 = yellow, 4 = green, 5 = cyan, 6 = blue, 7 = magenta, 8 = purple and 9 = silver/grey.
1 message posted 20-29 messages posted 300-399 messages posted 4,000-4,999 messages posted 50,000-59,999 messages posted 600,000-699,999 message posted Stars represent the number of messages the member has posted to the Atlas Quest message boards. The number of stars or the size of the star increases as the count number increases. Each small star is worth one digit, and each big star is worth three digits. For example, two small stars = 10-99. One large star and one small star = 3 + 1 = 1,000-9,999. The biggest stars are color-coded to the first digit in roughly a rainbow pattern: 1 = red, 2 = orange, 3 = yellow, 4 = green, 5 = cyan, 6 = blue, 7 = magenta, 8 = purple and 9 = silver/grey. (If there are small and large stars, the color on the small star means nothing.)
New member since November 11, 2011 The stroller indicates that the user is new to Atlas Quest and will appear for the first two weeks from the time they signed up.
Profile updated November 11, 2011 Means that member has updated their profile within the last seven days. It may be nothing more exciting than adding a favorite food to the profile, or it may be they have filled out their interview!
Last Login: > 1 month Last Login: > 3 month Last Login: > 1 year The green, yellow and red battery indicators represent the last time the member logged into Atlas Quest. Green and still mostly full means they haven't logged in for at least 1 month. Yellow and half empty means that they haven't logged in for at least 1 quarter (3 months). Red and empty means that they haven't logged in for at least 1 full year.
Happy Anniversary! The picture of a cake means this user is celebrating an anniversary—the anniversary of the date they signed up on Atlas Quest!
Resting in Peace This is one icon you will never see next to your name, and you would probably prefer if others did not see it next to your name either since it means you have died. We won't delete your account if we find out about your death, but it lets other people know why you are no longer replying to AQ mail or maintaining your letterboxes. It also means there is a tribute section for you in the letterboxer obituaries.
Those with premium memberships at Atlas Quest get a feather in the cap to recognize their important contribution in helping to fund Atlas Quest. There are a few dozen hats available for premium members to choose, but you'll see a red or yellow feather in their hat regardless of the type they've selected. Additionally, as premium members, they get access to special features not accessible with a free membership. Learn more about the benefits of premium membership and how you can become one too!
Coffee Cup This icon is a premium member perk that indicates you've done an exchange with the person.
Silver Coin This member has found (or attempted to find) somewhere between 1 and 4 challenging boxes.
Gold Coin This member has found (or attempted to find) somewhere between 5 and 19 challenging boxes.
Coin Stacks This member has found (or attempted to find) somewhere between 20 and 49 challenging boxes.
Coin Pile This member has found (or attempted to find) somewhere between 50 and 99 challenging boxes.
Bills and Coins This member has found (or attempted to find) somewhere between 100 and 249 challenging boxes.
Bag of Coins This member has found (or attempted to find) somewhere between 250 and 499 challenging boxes.
Safe with Coins This member has found (or attempted to find) 500+ challenging boxes!

P-Count Icon Sequence

Bronze trophies (1-9 plants):
Silver trophies (10-99 plants):
Gold trophies (100-999 plants):
Winner's podium (1,000+ plants):

F-Count Icon Sequence

0-point ribbons (1-9 finds):
1-point ribbons (10-99 finds):
2-point ribbons (100-999 finds):
3-point ribbons (1,000-9,999 finds):
4-point ribbons (10,000-99,999 finds):

Message-Count Icon Sequence

1 small star (1-9 posts):
2 small stars (10-99 posts):
3 small stars (100-999 posts):
1 large star, 1 small star (1,000-9,999 posts):
1 large star, 2 small stars (10,000-99,999 posts):
1 large star, 3 small stars (100,000-999,999 posts):

How do I change the theme?

No answer provided... yet!

What should I write on an LTC?

No answer provided... yet!

I can no longer participate in a postal ring, who can I contact for financial support?

Financial support is usually not an issue anymore since the advent and popularity of MicroPLBs. When there were dozens of Standard Postal Trackers available, some enthusiastic postal Letterboxers would get way overextended and drop-out mid-ring taking many boxes with them and becoming what is known as a Black Hole.

When you have concerns about a Tracker, you are encouraged to contact the host of that tracker. Also remember that paper trail and Jabber are always happy to help. Communication is the key if you are unable to continue due to "life" getting in the way or if you have concerns about how the Tracker is progressing. This is supposed to be a fun hobby, not add more stress to life.

How do I search the message boards?

The simplest, quickest, and most common search you'll likely run on the message boards is to look for posts with a specific keyword or phrase within the message. You can run this type of search from most any message board page just by entering the keyword in the search box in the upper-right corner of the page. For more advanced search options such as searching for posts by specific members, on specific boards, during a specific timespan, and more, use the dedicated Search Messages page.

A few things to know about keywords searches. First, searches are case-insensitive, so capitalization will not matter. Second, some common words are automatically ignored such as and, then, don't, etc. These are called stopwords, and the full list of stopwords used are:

a, a's, ain't, all, am, an, and, any, aq, are, aren't, as, at, be, became, because, been, being, box, boxed, boxes, boxing, but, by, c's, came, can, can't, cannot, cant, co, com, could, couldn't, did, didn't, do, does, doesn't, doing, don't, each, edu, eg, either, else, et, etc, even, ever, every, ex, far, few, for, further, get, gets, getting, given, gives, go, goes, got, had, hadn't, has, hasn't, have, haven't, having, he, he's, her, here, here's, hers, herself, hi, him, himself, his, how, however, i, i'd, i'll, i'm, i've, ie, if, in, inc, into, is, isn't, it, it'd, it'll, it's, its, let, let's, letterbox, letterboxed, letterboxer, letterboxes, letterboxing, many, may, maybe, me, mean, might, much, must, my, myself, nd, no, non, none, nor, not, now, of, oh, ok, okay, old, on, only, onto, or, our, ours, park, per, rd, re, really, seem, seemed, seeming, seems, seen, series, she, should, shouldn't, since, so, sub, sup, t's, th, than, thank, thanks, thanx, that, that's, thats, the, their, theirs, them, then, there, there's, theres, these, they, they'd, they'll, they're, they've, this, those, though, thus, to, too, trail, tree, trees, un, up, us, value, very, via, viz, vs, was, wasn't, way, we, we'd, we'll, we're, we've, were, weren't, whether, which, while, why, with, won't, would, wouldn't, yes, yet, you, you'd, you'll, you're, you've, your, yours, yourself, yourselves

Any word you attempt to search for in this list will be ignored.

Search Operators

By default, Atlas Quest will return all searches that include one or more of the keywords you specify. You can, however, change that behavior through the use of operators. Supported operators include:
Operator Result
+ A leading plus sign indicates that this word must be present in every post returned.
- A leading minus sign indicates that this word must not be present in any post returned.
( ) Parentheses are used to group words into subexpressions
* An asterisk is the truncation operator. Unlike the other operators, it should be appended to the word, not prepended.
" A phrase that is enclosed in double quotes matches only posts that contain the phrase literally, as it was typed.
@distance Tests tests whether two or more words all start within a specified distance from each other, measured in words. Specify the search words within a double-quoted string immediately before the @distance operator.
<> These two operators are used to change a word's contribution to the relevance value that is assigned to a row. The > operator increases the contribution and the < operator decreases it.

Examples

Search Results
apple banana find posts that contain at least one of these words
+apple +juice find posts that contain both words
+apple -macintosh find posts that contain the word “apple” but not “macintosh”
+(apple banana) -macintosh find posts that contain “apple” or “banana”, but not “machintosh”
apple* find posts that contain “apple”, “apples”, “applesauce”, “applet”, etc.
"some words" find posts that contain “some words of wisdom”, but not “some noise words”
"word1 word2 word3" @8 finds posts that contain the words “word1”, “word2” and “word3”—BUT only if all three words are located within 8 words of each other.
+apple +(>turnover <strudel) Find rows that contain the words “apple” and “turnover”, or “apple” and “strudel” (in any order), but rank “apple turnover” higher than “apple strudel”.

How does the Basic Search work?

Stopwords are common words that usually aren't very useful for searching—words such as 'the' or 'and'. Those words will be stripped from your search, and the rest of the words that are left will be used as part of the search. The search will return all letterboxes that match any one of the terms you specify, however, they will be sorted with the best matches listed first—usually the boxes that match all of your search terms.

A word in one's search term is more-or-less any sequence of characters that are letters and numbers. Two exceptions are the underscore (_) and apostrophe (') which will count as part of the word. So a search for "self-help" would actually perform a search for the words "self" and "help" rather than the one word "self-help." Searches for "turtle's," however, will count as a single word. Additionally, a search for "turtles" and a search for "turtle's" are two completely different searches with no overlap. (This is how the database works, but for box names, tracker names, and other "titles," AQ internally strips the apostrophes when it's stored in the database so that the database will appear to find the match in those types of searches, but that's actually an AQ feature, not a database one, and you shouldn't always rely on it.)

If you want to search for only boxes that include all of the words then precede each of the words with a plus sign. So, to search for any boxes that include both "self" and "help" you would enter "+self +help". If you want to search for exactly "self help" that occur in that order then put "self help" in the search box, including the quotation marks.

And finally, sometimes you may want to search for the exact name of a letterbox—especially when the name of a box is a single word that would otherwise match a lot of other boxes. You can do this—sort of—by starting your search with the ^ symbol which tells AQ that it must match the beginning of the name. For instance, a search for "honor" would match a box named Badge of Honor but a search for "^honor" would not since Badge of Honor doesn't begin with the word "honor". And on the other side of the coin, a search for "honor" would not match Honorary Mayor since the word "honor" does not show up in it all, but it would match a search for "^honor" since the name of the box does start with "honor". Even in this type of search, the words THE, A, and AN are still ignored, however, so a search for "^honor" would still match a box called An honor.

Stopwords

There is a list of words, called stopwords, that are not indexed as being too common and generally useless as far as searches go. If one is used in a search, it will be ignored. The latest version of the stoplist Atlas Quest uses is: a, a's, ain't, all, am, an, and, any, aq, are, aren't, as, at, be, became, because, been, being, box, boxed, boxes, boxing, but, by, c's, came, can, can't, cannot, cant, co, com, could, couldn't, did, didn't, do, does, doesn't, doing, don't, each, edu, eg, either, else, et, etc, even, ever, every, ex, far, few, for, further, get, gets, getting, given, gives, go, goes, got, had, hadn't, has, hasn't, have, haven't, having, he, he's, her, here, here's, hers, herself, hi, him, himself, his, how, however, i, i'd, i'll, i'm, i've, ie, if, in, inc, into, is, isn't, it, it'd, it'll, it's, its, let, let's, letterbox, letterboxed, letterboxer, letterboxes, letterboxing, many, may, maybe, me, mean, might, much, must, my, myself, nd, no, non, none, nor, not, now, of, oh, ok, okay, old, on, only, onto, or, our, ours, park, per, rd, re, really, seem, seemed, seeming, seems, seen, series, she, should, shouldn't, since, so, sub, sup, t's, th, than, thank, thanks, thanx, that, that's, thats, the, their, theirs, them, then, there, there's, theres, these, they, they'd, they'll, they're, they've, this, those, though, thus, to, too, trail, tree, trees, un, up, us, value, very, via, viz, vs, was, wasn't, way, we, we'd, we'll, we're, we've, were, weren't, whether, which, while, why, with, won't, would, wouldn't, yes, yet, you, you'd, you'll, you're, you've, your, yours, yourself, yourselves

Some examples might make this more clear:
Search Term Search For Will Match Results Will Not Match Results
flowers Will search for all boxes that have the word flowers in it. Will find Flowers for Algernon, Pick Some Flowers, and The Flowers Wrath Will not match The Flower or Baking Flour.
War and Peace Will find all boxes that have the words war or peace in it. It will ignore the word and since that is a stopword. Will match War and Peace, Make Peace, Not War, and Peace Monument Will not match Buy an AQ Patch today.
Georgia on my Mind Will search for boxes with the words Georgia and Mind. The words on and my will be ignored since they are stopwords. Will find Georgia on my Mind, Georgia Peaches, Mind Your Manners, and Mind Over Matter. Box names that use both words will rank higher than names that use one word or the other. Will not find Maine on my Brain or The Oregon Files.
turtle's Will search for all boxes that have the word turtle's in it. Will find A Turtle's Shell. Will not match The turtles are a menace!
the least of your worries Will search for boxes the word worries in the name. The words least and your are stopwords and are therefore ignored. Will find My Worries and Don't Worry. Will not find Least of All or Your Birthday Present.
^honor Will search for boxes that begin with the word honor—after ignoring words like THE, A, and AN. Will find An Honor and Honorable Man. Will not find Badge of Honor or On my Honor.

The author search requires an exact match to the trail name of the person who carved, authored, planted, or owns the letterbox, or leave it blank if you do not wish to search by author.

The box type is self explanatory, but for search results with the most detailed information, it helps to be specific about what type of letterbox you are looking for. The default "all" type strips out many useful details from the search results since it displays for the lowest common denominator.

Special Cases

If you type in a number and only a number, AQ will return the box with that box ID. Everything else will be ignored. So, for instance, if you search for a box with the "name" 181707, AQ will direct you immediately to The Skateboard Kid letterbox.

Additionally, if you know a box is listed on AQ but the clue is hosted on LbNA and so you only printed the LbNA ID number, you can look up a box based on the LbNA ID number by typing the name as "LbNA ID" (where ID is the ID number assigned by LbNA). For example, searching with the "name" as LbNA 4311 will automatically redirect you to Snoopy, which has an AQ ID of 127, but an LbNA ID of 4311.

How do you keep track of Postal Trackers you are participating in?

Doing a lot of Postal Trackers can become overwhelming. Keeping track of start dates, mailing lists, etc. Theoretically you could have four different types of Postal Trackers to keep track of and multiples of each one all at the same time. This level of involvement is not recommended for newbies. The four types are: Singles you list that others sign up for, Singles you sign up for that others list, Rings you list that others join, and Rings that others list that you join.

You can pick and label a tab for each of these 4 kinds of Postals. On the Tag chart that automatically shows up on each Tracker’s page, you can change the wording and assign a category for each type of Tracker you are in. Premium members have more options for tagging.

When you sign-up for a tracker it automatically goes to UNTAGGED category. From there you check on a defined tag and it only shows up under that category. You always have to remember to click on “Save Changes” once you’ve assigned a tag to make the assigned tab stick.

Label your tabs like this:
SINGLES I LISTED
SINGLES INCOMING from OTHERS
RINGS I STARTED
RINGS I've JOINED

Also consider tabs labeled (remember Premium Members have more options):
COMPLETED (Stop Sign)
NAUGHTY LIST
Something has gone wrong and there is a short delay
BLACKHOLED (8 Ball)
Something has gone horribly wrong and I will never see this again.

So when a tracker is done, completed successfully and you no longer need to keep track of it, check the COMPLETED tag and make sure to uncheck the original tag it was listed as. Save the changes and that listing will go into an archive of all your completed trackers.

You can also use the tags to label trackers for LTCs to do and LTCs done and sent; and Traditional Trackers you’ve signed up for stamp donations.

There is a Countdown Widgetyou can add on your home page where you can add items with due dates and keep an eye on upcoming deadlines. There is also a Calendar Widget that automatically puts things you've signed up for on a calendar grid, including events, all types of boxes, LTCs etc. It puts a little icon on the date that you can hover over and read what's happening on that day.

How do you set up a Postal Tracker?

From your home page go to the my "My Page" tab upper right and go down to "Trackers". At the top of that page there are three options, click on Create Tracker. Then you need to fill in the blanks and click the appropriate buttons. Clicking the yellow pencil will open up the areas where you can add or change information.

Name it and Click "Postal" for "Type".

Pick a "Start Date" and and if it's going to be a Ring, make sure it's far enough in the future so others have time to complete their boxes (4-6 weeks). Since all Postal Ring Boxes should start on the same date, pick "send by date" for that option. If you're listing a Singleton, as soon as your box is ready you can mail it. You just need to put it far enough in the future to allow for maximum sign-ups.

Of course you'll need to pick a theme, or make it a potpourri--whatever you want. A theme should be something that there are several carve-able images available that others could choose from. You don't have to supply ideas, but some hots will include links to lists or suggestions.

At the next screen just ignore "Location" and move to "Max Signups." START SMALL seriously! Ten to 12 is a good place to start, it takes an average of one week per stop, so that equates to 3 months. A lot can happen in 3 months to cause life issues to impact a smooth running of a ring, especially during times when people are gone on vacation, or there's a pandemic.

"Status" click the pencil and your options come up. The default is "Open" which means anybody can sign up, but some will chose "Limited" and expect boxers to ask to join or solve a puzzle.

"Subtypes" chose "Ring" or “Singleton” depending on your preference as defined above.

"Attributes" pick whatever you decide to do that's on the list. You can pick more than one.

"Owner" will default to your name. "Admins" you can pick somebody who's helping you or leave blank.

"Restrictions" are only based on PFX numbers from traditional in-the-wild LBs. So if you set a restriction that limits to only those with 50 plants or finds, even though they have done 100s of Postals, they will not be able to see the listing and sign up for your box if they don't do much Traditional Boxing. A "Whitelist" is used by some to limit the number of boxers who can see the listing so only they can join--kind of the opposite of a blacklist. You can add or delete members as you wish.

"Description" this is like the clue. Basic rules you want joiners to follow, etc. You can look at some other listed Postal Trackers to get an idea of what others include.

When you're all done click "Publish" and it will show up on the website.

If you need to make a change just call up the listing and click on the yellow pencil, it is your friend. Warning: If you pick the wrong type, i.e. Traditional instead of Postal, you cannot change it after publishing. You will have to delete the tracker and start over.

How do I delete a tracker once a postal tracker is closed?

There is no need to delete a tracker that has been completed. If you are the owner or admin of a tracker, you can retire it from the tracker details page when the postals have run their course. Trackers can be deleted by the owner or an admin of the tracker, but unless it should never have been listed in the first place*, it's usually best just to retire the tracker to preserve its history for those who were a part of it.

*Note: If you list a Tracker with the wrong Type chosen by accident (i.e. Traditional instead of Postal), it cannot be changed once it's published. In this case you delete the tracker and start over.

What's a postal tracker?

A postal tracker is a listing of boxes and people. It is used for rings and for singletons. Postal trackers make it easier to see all of the boxes and participants in a ring and they’re for making it easier to log finds and keep track of how the boxes are progressing around the ring.

The host listing a Tracker will set up the parameters for size, mail date, and theme so those wishing to sign up will know what’s expected of them. Generally the Tracker host will order the tracker geographically, but not always. Each participant will mail their box, and all subsequent boxes they receive in the ring, to the person below them on the tracker.

It is important for all tracker participants to periodically check the status of the tracker to make sure the boxes are moving. Some things to look for: Boxes are getting stuck at one stop, the person you mail to hasn’t mailed on the boxes you have sent to them, or the person above you on the tracker has not mailed boxes on to you that they have logged.

If you have any concerns, contact the host of the Tracker.

What is the difference between a postal single and a postal ring?

Those who sign up for a Postal Singleton Tracker do not make a Postal Letterbox. Only the host of the tracker adds a box and that box is the only one that travels around the group. It takes an average of one week per stop in any postal tracker, so those at the bottom of the list will be waiting several weeks or months to receive the Postal depending on the number of participants

Those who sign up for a Postal Ring Tracker each make a box that they attach to the tracker. It is akin to a shotgun start in golf, each box starts on the same day and participants receive about a box a week until they get their own box back home. Participants get more boxes in less time. So instead of one box going around to a handful of people, every person involved in the list gets a box created by everyone else. Postal Rings are often built around a theme, such as games, books, pets, or movies and each person's stamp and logbook must relate to that theme.

A multi-box Ring has a list of participants arranged in any order the ring creator decides, usually geographically. Each participant sends out the postal that they receive to the same person, the one below them on the list. For example, let's say Fred, Joe, and Andy are in all participants in the same ring. The postal Fred made would be sent to Joe. Joe's box would go to Andy, and Andy's box would go to Fred. After they have all stamped in, they each mail the boxes back out again in the same order. Fred would have the box that Andy made, and would send it out to Joe. Joe would have the box that Fred made, and would send it out to Andy. Andy would have the box Joe made, and would send it out to Fred. And the process repeats until everyone in the ring has received all of the postals that make up the ring and the postals finally return to the original owners.

As you can see—in the case of Fred, Joe, and Andy—each person paid for shipping three separate times. Be sure that if you get involved with a postal ring that you can afford the shipping costs of however many participants are involved! If 15 people are signed up in the ring, you will need to pay shipping for 15 different postals. It can get expensive if you aren't careful.

How can I prevent postals from going missing?

Sad but true, some postals go missing. But since the advent of AQ Postal Trackers, the problems are not as great as they once were. It is standard operating procedure for Singletons to always check the recipient’s status and address before mailing off a box to them. A postal with many signups can take up to a year or more to reach all of those signed up for it. In that time, people move, leave the hobby altogether, become overwhelmed, or suffer a change in their personal circumstances that inhibits continued participation. An address that accumulates many Postals that do not get sent on becomes known as a "black hole." Just like with placing a box in the wild, loss is one of the risks of the hobby. It is important for both Tracker hosts and Tracker participants in Singletons and Rings to keep an eye on their Trackers to make sure things are being sent on in a timely manner.

In a postal ring, the ring organizer should keep track of the postals as they progress around the ring and be alert for pile ups. Ring participants should pay attention to the status of the person they send to. Both can monitor the progress via postal trackers with the receipt grid. If boxes accumulate at one address, and are not moving on, you should politely bypass that address until it is resolved. You can always catch up later. However, make sure that you communicate with the ring leader about how you're handling a situation.

If postals do get held up, and the recipient is not responding, sometimes the best approach is to be very polite and encouraging, assume that something has happened beyond their control, and politely ask if you can help. Life happens to all of us. Some postals have been recovered after sending prepaid, easily returned envelopes or boxes to the problem address.

Unfortunately, postals also do sometimes become lost in the mail. It is a very good idea to write your address on the logbook with the words Return Postage Guaranteed. Some ring leaders and box owners will require delivery confirmation so that boxes can be traced if they are lost. For Heavy and Standard Postals that are taken to the local Post Office for weighing and postage, tracking is automatic. For Micro Postals using Forever stamps tracking is not available.

When a Postal isn't sealed correctly the flap can come open and the insides fall out. This is another good reason to write your address on the logbook. If a MicroPLB is not packaged correctly, i.e. contents loose, stamp too thick, the PO automated equipment can squeeze everything down on one end tearing the edge, and the stamp and logbook will come out. It is a good practice to add a bit of clear packaging tape on each end to prevent this.

What may I do with PLBs that have returned home?

There are a couple of main options:
  • Reissue as a Singleton postal so that the log book can fill up.
  • Retire the postal letterbox (change the status to "retired").

Once a postal is retired, you may choose to do a number of things with it:
  • Plant it as a traditional or mystery box.
  • Use it as a hitchhiker (if it is small).
  • Have it become a personal traveler (particularly if it is something special to you that you don't want to risk losing).

In these three cases, you will need to create a new listing for the box. You cannot simply change the box type or delete the old listing, because this can cause confusion in the online logbooks. You may consider noting in the clues that it was previously a Postal Letterbox so that nearby postal finders can choose whether to hunt for a stamp they may have already received in the mail. Some people also opt to use a new logbook for the box rather than the one that traveled as part of the PLB.

What is a random/surprise postal and how do you receive one?

NOTE: The organized surprise postal program has been suspended until further notice as all of the postals have gone missing.

A surprise (or "random") postal is a postal letterbox that does not have an official sign-up list. The creator sends it to a fellow postal letterboxer who is not expecting it. That person then stamps in just like a normal postal, and sends the box onto someone else who is not expecting it. The surprise postals are NOT a part of any postal ring (although they may have started their lives as part of a ring). As noted above with the surprise Postal program, these boxes often/usually go missing over time.

How do I find postals that are open for signups?!

Besides watching the Postals message board closely for new announcements, the Advanced Search page for trackers will get you everywhere. A postal trackers is Atlas Quest's way of keeping track of postals (among other options) sent among a group of people. Narrow down your search so only open and limited postal trackers that are still available show up. Currently available postal trackers. The above mentioned search results page will display the status of trackers. Those marked as open are available for anyone to sign themselves up, and those listed as limited means that spots are open, but you must contact the owner of the tracker to be included. Closed trackers are still active but are no longer accepting new participants, and retired trackers are already over.

There is a Widgetyou can add on your home page for Newest Non-Traditional Trackers and one for Newest Non-Traditional Letterboxes. Many watch these Widgets closely as Postals, especially Micros, tend to fill up very quickly. If you are new, be sure to contact paper trail for the availability of a Newbie Micro.

How can I sign up for a postal?

Usually, the owner of a postal will create a postal tracker for it indicating if it is part of a ring or a singleton and any rules or restrictions associated with the postal. Sometimes they may post a message on the Postals message board for participants. When you see one of these messages, read it thoroughly to make sure you want to participate, then follow the creator's instructions to sign up for the box. The creator will then typically send you a confirmation AQmail with additional instructions for the postal and what to do next.

In addition, you can also request to be added to the Newbie Pool (Micros only) for new Postals by sending an AQmail to paper trail. The Newbie Pool is a pool of Micro PLBs used for the express purpose of introducing people to Micro PLBs. Signing up for the pool requires only that you provide your trail name, real name, mailing address, and an email to contact you. You will NOT be required to make a PLB for the pool--it is not a 'ring' in that sense. Three or Four other 'newbies' will be in the pool with you, as well as an experienced mentor, and you will each receive a few postals that you will pass amongst yourselves to 'experience' what postals are all about. After you 'graduate' from the Newbie Pool, you should be more than ready to fully participate in postals!

How can I make a postal?

First decide on how your Postal will be used: Singleton, or part of a Ring. A Singleton can be whatever you want to make it. If it will be part of a ring it is important to follow the guidelines set forth by the host of the ring concerning size and theme. Pick an image and carve (or purchase) a stamp and prepare your logbook. This box will need to withstand the rigors of multiple recipients and the machinery of the Postal Service. To create a successful Postal it is important to make it easy for the Post Office and the recipient to process. You can get samples mailed to you by sending an AQmail to paper trail or Jabber .

Should I be cautious giving my postal address to people over the Internet?

Yes! Always! All of the usual precautions about providing personal information to people whom you have met online should apply to Postal Letterboxing. If the thought of your address being circulated to dozens of people that you do not know leaves you feeling worried or uneasy, consider opening up a Post Office Box or not participating in Postal Letterboxing. Parents and guardians should monitor their child's participation! By allowing your child to participate, you essentially let everyone know you have children and what their address is. That said, many Postal Letterboxing participants are active and well-known participants in the Letterboxing community and they seek only to expand the hobby in fun and interesting ways. When signing up for a letterbox, be sure to send your address only to the person organizing the box and the person who mails to you. Do not post your postal address on any message boards. If you decide to participate in Postal Letterboxing, you do so at your own risk.

What do I do with my postal once I finish making it?

First list your box on Atlas Quest as a postal, just like you would a traditional letterbox. For a Singleton create a new Tracker. Follow the steps for listing the Tracker, like deciding how many people you want to mail your box to, and any applicable attributes. You can use the section for description to leave instructions for recipients to e-mail you their postal address and trail name. Attach your listed box to your Tracker. Once you have listed your postal, you can go to the Postals message board and post a message about your box’s availability. Your post can include any information about the postal that you want to list.

Be aware that the more people you mail your postal to, the longer it will take for the box to come back home to you. A Standard Postal or Micro Postal will average about one week per stop. A Heavy Postal can have a set schedule such as forwarding once per month. The use of the Tracker allows efficient tracking of each box’s movements with confirmation at each stop of the next recipients address. Because accidents can happen, the creator of a Heavy or Standard Postal may ask the recipients to use USPS delivery confirmation. This is not available for Micro PLBs.

If the box you have created is to be part of a Ring, go to that ring’s Tracker and add the box. All the tracking and mailing instructions above are applicable to Singletons as well as Rings. Log your finds and keep an eye on the Tracker for possible problems.

Logging finds on AQ’s Tracker is important so the creator of the postal knows the last location of the box and where it is headed next. One look at the Tracker can indicate when a box is moving smoothly or perhaps that several are held up in one place.

For more information on Postal Trackers visit the Postals Trackers Help page.

How do you shave down a stamp for MicroPLBs?

Carving thin stamps is a knack for sure. Here is one way to thin down a stamp for a micro. I'm sure there are many other ways it can be done.
  1. Pick the image. The most successful images for Micro’s have lots of lines and texture and not a lot of open area.
  2. Transfer the image to carving material using your preferred material and method. If you don’t want to transfer at this stage that’s OK, just make your material a rectangular shape slightly larger than your chosen image.
  3. If you have transferred the image, trim the material around the edge, but not right against the image, leave a bit of space around the outside edge that can be trimmed off later if you prefer. It helps if the material is trimmed square or rectangular a little bit larger than the image.
  4. If your procedure is to apply a layer of yellow Stays-on ink to the transfer to set the image do that and let it dry. That makes it easier to see the carving once you start the front.
  5. BEFORE you carve the front, shave off the back. The reason it’s better to trim the back before carving the front is the ability to push evenly against your work surface when using the gouge. If you carve the front first, and there are large open areas on the front, it is very difficult to shave down the back without breaking through to the front as there is nothing to push against underneath.

    First step is to scribe a line with a ball point pen around the perimeter (edge) of the material. Abut the edge the material up against the edge of something like a thin ruler or drafting triangle that is about half as thick as the material and use that as a guide for the scribing the line. Do one side and turn until there is a line on all four edges. Some carvers are skilled enough to use a knife and cut the material in half along these lines yielding two usable pieces of material. Bless their hearts.

    The rest of us need to be patient and spend a lot of time shaving the back using the edge line as a depth gauge. Put on a rerun of a favorite movie so you can just listen to pass the time while you shave away. Use your widest half round gouge and just go back and forth taking a little more off each time. You’ll get the hang of it. There will be scalloped rows and then you shave off the ridges of the scallops which creates a lot more scallops and you shave off the ridges and so on and so on. It will get thinner and thinner, and smoother and smoother.

    If you want to get a really smooth back rub it against a piece of coarse sandpaper.

    It’s nice to practice your technique on a piece of scrap before buggering up a perfectly good piece of material.
  6. Then carve the front of the stamp making sure not to go too deeply. When you’re working with thinner material and you are used to carving deeply it will be an adjustment. Here again, practice on a sample piece that has been trimmed down. You don’t need to carve deeply to get a line to print as anybody knows who has had a small gouge slip across an area and leave a mark that prints every time.

What is a whitelist?

A whitelist is a list of everyone you allow to see your letterbox. A whitelist is a good way to limit your boxes to close friends or family.

Whitelists are linked to mailing lists. The primary purpose of mailing lists is to contact groups of people you know, but they also do double duty as whitelists and exceptions if you choose to use them in that manner. A letterbox with a whitelist restriction will require members to be logged in in order to see them since Atlas Quest needs to check if they are on the whitelist.

To apply a whitelist to your boxes, you must be the owner of the letterbox, then follow these steps:

  1. Create a mailing list if you don't have one already. You'll probably want to give it a name such as "My whitelist" or "My friends," then add everyone who should be a part of that group.
  2. While listing or editing a letterbox, click the option to edit the Whitelist in the Restrictions section.
  3. If you have any mailing lists (which you should now, if you did step #1), they'll all be listed as options for whitelists. Select the appropriate whitelist for your restrictions. If you need to view or edit the whitelist, click on the name of the mailing list to open that information on a new page.
  4. Save the box. You're done!

To add or remove someone from a whitelist, edit the mailing list that is being used for that purpose. You do not have to edit or change the box listing in any way to apply such changes.

What are exceptions?

An exception are people who you want to see a letterbox on Atlas Quest that otherwise might be restricted from seeing them for any reason.

Exceptions are specified as mailing lists. The primary purpose of mailing lists are to contact groups of people you know, but they also do double duty as whitelists and exceptions if you choose to use them in that manner. Exceptions, obviously, do not apply to anyone who is not logged into Atlas Quest.

Anyone on your exceptions will be excepted from all restrictions—including P and F-counts, group restrictions, whitelists, dependencies, and whatever other restriction options may be added in the future.

To apply an exception to your boxes, you must be the owner of the letterbox, then follow these steps:

  1. Create a mailing list if you don't have one already. You'll probably want to give it a name such as "My Exceptions" or "My Friends."
  2. Add everyone who should be a part of that group. A list can have any number of people including nobody at all.
  3. While listing or editing a letterbox, edit the Exceptions section of the Restrictions box. If you have any mailing lists (which you should now, if you did step #1), they'll all be listed as options. Select the mailing list you created in step #1. If you need to view or edit the list, click on the name of the list and information about the list will open in a new page.
  4. Save the box. You're done!

To add or remove someone from an exception, edit the mailing list that is being used for that purpose. You do not have to edit or change the box listing in any way to apply such changes.

Can you make a spell check available?

Yes and no. No, Atlas Quest does not directly support a spell check, but that's because most modern browsers do that for you. This has two main benefits: (1) when the browser supports the spell check, it will work for all websites, and (2) you can add your own custom words to the spell check dictionary once and they will work for all websites.

As a result, Atlas Quest itself does not support a spell check and there is no intention of ever doing so. Using your browser's spell check is a much faster, more robust option.

How do I renew my membership?

Go to the Premium Membership page, click on the option for renewing that interests you, and follow the directions.

What can I use as a trail name?

Trail names can include almost any characters, including foreign ones. Trail names are not case sensitive, so you would not be able to create an account name such as "green tortuga" since "Green Tortuga" is already taken.

All trail names must include at least one Latin-based letter or number.

And, of course, you cannot use a trail name that someone else has already registered nor many variations of such a trail name.

You can change your trail name from the Account Info page. The only effect this has is that your trail name changes—you still have all of your plants, finds, message board posts, etc.—everything is the same as before, except that your trail name is different. It's as if you had the new trail name the entire time.

Keep in mind that this is the way other letterboxers will address you at gatherings, events and whatnot. It's helpful if the name you choose is actually pronounceable.

What’s the difference between the planters, owner, contacts, carvers and foster parents of a letterbox?

Find reports will go to everyone associated with the letterbox except the carvers, including the person who listed the letterbox if they are not already listed as the planter, owner or contact.

Only the planters receive credit for a plant. Some people like to count any letterbox they've carved the stamp for as a plant, but Atlas Quest does not for two reasons: (1) A hand-carved stamp is optional and it seems odd to get credit for planting a letterbox for a feature that's optional, and (2) if you later find the letterbox with your stamp, you can still record it as an official find. If you were getting credit for the box as a plant, you would not also be able to claim credit for it as a find.

Likewise, as much as we appreciate those who've adopted and maintain a letterbox, those are adopted letterboxes and do not count towards your P-count. However, they may count towards your F-count if you went out and found the box yourself.

The owner of a letterbox may change, sometimes quite often, and ownership can be revoked or transferred by the listed planter or owner. The carver of a letterbox cannot transfer ownership of the box to someone else—unless, of course, they are also a planter or owner.

Finally, there is a ‘secret’ piece of information included with every letterbox listing—the person who originally listed the box in the first place. Their name won't show up anywhere on the listing; it was originally designed to find people who list letterboxes without permission. However, if they have received permission to list the boxes, it also assumes you have permission to edit the boxes as necessary, and therefore the original lister of the box can also edit the boxes. Anyone designated as the owner or planter can edit clues, but not someone listed as a carver, contact or foster parent.

If the carver, planter, or owner do not have accounts on Atlas Quest, leave the appropriate option blank and give credit where credit is due directly in the clues.

Table summary (powers and privileges):
Status Notified of a Find Credit for the Plant Edit the clue Transfer Ownership Expected Use
Owner Yes No Yes Yes The person who maintains the box
Planter Yes Yes Yes Yes The person(s) who physically planted the letterbox
Lister Yes No Yes No The person who listed the box on Atlas Quest
Carver No No Yes/No Yes/No The person who carved the stamp. By default, when a carver is added to a box, he or she is also added as a contact automatically so most carvers will get notifications of finds. Additionally, under normal circumstances, carvers cannot edit a box’s listing, but if the listing becomes abandoned, they will get full admin rights to the box.
Contact Yes No No No People who should be notified whenever a find or attempt is recorded
Foster Parent Yes No No No Someone who volunteers to help maintain the box and update information about the box in the form of an addendum.

Why can I no longer adopt abandoned boxes?

Atlas Quest used to have a policy allowing people to take ownership of box listings that appeared to be abandoned on Atlas Quest. This policy was discontinued after a handful of people who had failed to maintain their listings on Atlas Quest later came back years later, absolutely irate about their boxes being “taken over.” It didn’t matter that we tried to contact them about their listings. It didn’t matter that they had not logged into Atlas Quest for years. They felt it was unfair and a terribly rude thing to do.

So the current policy is no longer allow adoptions without the owner’s explicit permission, regardless of how long the box has been abandoned.

The policy of not allowing adoptions extends to creating new listings on AQ of adopted boxes. In other words, if you adopt a box on LbNA, do not list it on AQ without the explicit permission of the original owner.

You can, however, foster an abandoned box, which allows you to get notifications about the box and include an addendum on the box. You will not, however, be able to edit the box.

You may personally choose to maintain the physical letterbox—and, in fact, we hope you do so the box doesn't become litter. You do not need to adopt or foster a box to replace a full logbook, a cracked box or torn Ziplocs, although you are certainly welcome to foster the box is you'd like.

We’ve taken several measures to reduce the clutter of abandoned letterboxes in searches:

  • On the Advanced Search page, you'll see an option to Hide Abandoned Boxes which is automatically selected for most searches by default. Any boxes whose owners have been MIA for 12 months or more will not be included in the search results if this option is checked.
  • Also on the Advanced Search page is an option to Hide Strikeouts—boxes with an usually large number of consecutive attempts on them. If people are searching for abandoned boxes and coming up empty, this is a way to reduce that clutter. Most searches default to hide any box with three or more consecutive attempts.
  • And another option from the Advanced Search page is to Hide Most Ignored boxes. Maybe people who look for a box but don't find it won't record it as an attempt, but they will often ignore the box to de-clutter their searches. If enough people are ignoring it, there might be a good reason for it!
  • For members who are logged into Atlas Quest, you can adjust the 12 month span that a box is considered abandoned in your Letterbox Preferences. You can also change whether or not to show or hide abandoned boxes by default.
  • For members who are logged into Atlas Quest, you can adjust the number of strikes it takes to strikeout a box from your Letterbox Preferences.
  • And again, for members who are logged into Atlas Quest, you can adjust the number of people who are ignoring a box from your Letterbox Preferences before it joins the most ignored list.
  • Any abandoned box with a status of active will automatically be converted into a status of unknown if at least one attempt is recorded on it.
  • Any abandoned box with a status of unknown will automatically be converted into a status of active if a find is subsequently recorded on it.
  • Any abandoned box with 5 or more strikes will be retired.
  • Any abandoned box that’s listed as unavailable will be changed to retired.
  • Comments on abandoned boxes are automatically approved immediately, so it is possible to communicate information about the letterbox through that means.

As a whole, these measures seem to provide a nice balance between respecting the ownership of boxes listed on AQ while protecting AQ from runaway abandoned listings cluttering up the results.

How do I adopt a letterbox?

The owner of a letterbox can transfer ownership to you if he or she agrees to allow you to adopt their box by editing the box and changing the owner to you.

If you are interested in adopting a box that has been abandoned, that is not an option. Sometimes the planters come back years later and turn out to be very upset upon learning that someone “took over” their box.

You can, however, foster an abandoned box.

What do it mean to foster a box?

Fostering a box allows you to receive notifications about the box such as find and attempt reports (including both public and private comments). You cannot edit the box itself, but you will have access to add or edit an “addendum” which will show up on the box details page as well as AQ-hosted clues. If there's information about the box that people should know like the clue has changed or needs maintenance, this is where you can tell others about it.

Boxes become available for fostering if the owner hasn't logged into AQ for some time and the listing becomes abandoned. Anyone can foster a box, but boxes can only have one foster parent at a time. If the owner of the box later logs back into AQ, you'll lose your fostering status. If a box is available to foster, you'll see an option to foster the box on the box details page.

How can I report that I found my box still in place so that it can go from average to good?

Go to My Page on the toolbar at the top of this page and click the My Logbook option. Find your box and open the details page for it, select Maintenance Check on the top toolbar. Click on All is Good and then save.

What is an unpublished box?

Some people like to pre-list their boxes. Some people want a box ID number they can list in their logbooks. Some people want to try listing a box to see how it works. And some people want to tweak their clues until things are just right before making their box live. And that’s what an ‘unpublished’ box allows you to do—list a box before it becomes live for the rest of the world to see.

It’ll be assigned a box ID number just like any other letterbox, but it won't show up in searches or in your logbook. (You will see an option to view “unpublished” boxes in your logbook, but only you can see your own unpublished boxes. Nobody else will be able to.)

When the box is ready to publish for the world to see, use the “Publish” button on the box details page or edit page to officially launch your box. There is no undo once the box goes live—this conversion is permanent!

What happened to reserved boxes?

You will no longer find an option to mark your box as reserved because all new box listings are reserved by default until you ‘publish’ the box. If you are editing an unpublished box, you will see an option to “Publish” or “Save” the listing. Publishing the box will make it live for the world to see and saving the box will save the information to the database but it will not be available publicly for the world to see.

Once a box has been published, it cannot be ‘unpublished’ so the “Save” button will go away. Editing a box after it has been published will only allow you to publish changes but not save them.

How do I find a list of my unpublished boxes?

Unpublished boxes will not show up in letterbox searches, but they will show up in your logbook. Make sure the action is set to Plants and the type is set to Unpublished. The unpublished option will only be available while viewing your own logbook—other people's unpublished boxes cannot be viewed.

How do I package a set of LTCs for a tracker?

Most hosts at this time prefer a taped, reusable FLAT mailer— letter size or large — because it keeps postage more consistent, cheaper and is easier to sort and send.

Here is a link to Chedva's bubble mailer tutorial. You can tape a FLAT mailer just like a bubble mailer:

http://chedvasltccarvingsspoilers.blogspot.com/p/bubble-envelopes.html?m=1

Small trackers may use self-addressed stamped envelopes because for just a few cards, it is less postage, but this is less common, so please read each tracker and if you aren't sure, ask the host.

-Write your trail name on the outside of the mailer.
-Dogear tape for quick removal
-Include return postage.