AskDefine | Define postbox

Dictionary Definition

postbox n : public box for deposit of mail [syn: mailbox, letter box]

Extensive Definition

A post box (British English and others, also written postbox), or mailbox (North American English and others) is a physical box used to collect outgoing mail (mail sent to a destination). Post box can also refer to a letter box for incoming mail.
Varieties of post boxes (for outgoing mail) include:

Types of post boxes

Some postal authorities have different types of post boxes for different types of post. For instance, there may be separate boxes for regular post, air mail and express post, for local addresses (defined by a range of postal codes) and out-of-town addresses, or for post bearing postage stamps and post bearing a postage meter indicator.
Some countries have different coloured postboxes; in countries such as Australia, Portugal, and Russia, the colour indicates which type of mail a box is to be used for, such as 1st and 2nd class post. However, in Germany and parts of Sweden, because they have postal liberalisation, the different colours are for the different postal services. For example, in Germany, yellow is for Deutsche Post (the incumbent) and blue for the private companies, like Morgenpost Briefservice.


Post boxes are emptied ("cleared") at times usually listed on the box in a TOC, Times of Collection, plate affixed to the box. In metropolitan areas, this might be once or twice a day. Busy boxes might be cleared at other times to avoid overflowing, and also to spread the work for the sorters. Extra clearances are made in the period leading up to Christmas, to prevent boxes becoming clogged with mail.
Since 2005, most Royal Mail post boxes have had the time of only the last collection of the day listed on the box, with no indication of whether the box is cleared at other times earlier in the day. The reason given for this by the Royal Mail is that they needed to increase the font size of the wording on the "plate" listing the collection times to improve legibility for those with poor sight and that consequently there was insufficient room for listing all collection times throughout the day. Some post boxes may indicate the next collection time by a metal 'tab' or dial that can be changed while the box is open. The tab displays a day or number, each number corresponding to a different time shown on the plate.


  • During 1939 a number of bombs were put in postboxes by the IRA as part of their S-Plan campaign. When the IRA bombed the Arndale shopping centre in Manchester, UK in 1996 just about the only thing that survived unscathed was a Victorian pillar box dating from 1887 (A type A Jubilee pillar).
  • In 1952, a number of post boxes were attacked in Scotland in a dispute over the title adopted by the British monarch and displayed in cypher on the boxes. This included at least one which was blown apart with an explosive device.


Yellow Blue Green


  • Australia — a styled red letter "P" on a white circle, "P" standing for "Post".
  • Canada — a combination of a bird wing and an aircraft wing in a red circle and flanked by the words Canada Post / Poste Canada. Previously the words Canada, Canada Post, or Canada Post Corporation) were used on mail boxes.
  • Continental Europe — most designs include a Post horn, like those used by postmen to announce their arrival. In Germany the post horn is the only element indicating post services.
  • Ireland — from 1922 the Irish harp entwined with the letters "SE" for Saorstát Éireann, then "P7T" Gaelic script for Post & Telegraphs and from 1984 An Post with their wavy lines logo, often on the door as a raised casting.
  • Russia — logo of Russian Post (Почта России) written white on blue and black on yellow 1st class mail boxes.
  • Japan — a "T" with another bar above it ().
  • United Kingdom — all post boxes display the Royal Cypher of the reigning monarch at the time of manufacture. Exceptions are the Anonymous pillar boxes of 1879–87, where the cypher was omitted, and all boxes for use in Scotland manufactured after 1952 (including replicas of the 1866 Penfold design) which show the Queen's Crown of Scotland instead of the Royal Cypher for Elizabeth II. Private boxes emptied by Royal Mail do not have to carry a cypher. Royal Mail postboxes manufactured since 1994 carry the wording "Royal Mail", normally above the aperture (lamp boxes) or on the door (pillar boxes). Before this date all post boxes, with the exception of the Anonymous pillar boxes, carried the wording "Post Office".
  • United States — the United States Postal Service eagle logo, except that boxes for Express Mail use the USPS Express Mail logo.

Gallery of Post Boxes from around the world

image:French-post.jpg|French Post Box at Dinard airport image:Iceland-post.jpg|Icelandic Post Box Lisbon, Portugal (1st class mail in blue and 2nd class in red) image:Indian_Post_Box.jpg|Post Box of Indian Postal Service image:Post1.jpg|Japanese Post Box at the Osaka Central Post Office image:Thailand-post.jpg|Thailand Post Box, Bangkok image:pbalson_20060527_IMG_3615.JPG|U.S. Post Box in front of the Post Office in Conneaut, Ohio image:Wall_box_in_phone_kiosk.jpg|Post box incorporated into a Type K4 telephone kiosk, introduced in 1927. 10 survive in the UK of this design by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott which also incorporates two stamp vending machines. This red telephone box is in Warrington, Cheshire, England image:Wall_box_on_post.jpg|A standard British lamp letter box mounted on a post in Menai Bridge, Anglesey, Wales Brough, Derbyshire, England Guernsey Post Type C double aperture pillar box Edward VIII Bruges,Belgium Dnipropetrovsk, Ukraine

See also

postbox in Czech: Poštovní schránka
postbox in German: Briefkasten
postbox in Esperanto: Poŝtkesto
postbox in Hebrew: תיבת דואר
postbox in Malay (macrolanguage): Peti pos
postbox in Dutch: Brievenbus
postbox in Japanese: 郵便ポスト
postbox in Korean: 우체통
postbox in Polish: Skrzynka pocztowa
postbox in Swedish: Brevlåda
postbox in Thai: ตู้ไปรษณีย์
postbox in Chinese: 郵筒
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