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Sealed with a twist
Let your personality shine with a customized mailbox
An auto repair shop on Browns Bridge Road has a unique mailbox made out of a transmission. - photo by Tom Reed

Your mailbox can say a lot about who you are.

Are you into cars?

"There's a transmission mailbox on Browns Bridge and muffler mailbox on Atlanta Highway," said Chuck Westfall, supervisor of customer service for the U.S. Postal Service in Gainesville.

Are you into fishing?

Phyllis Mote, a local letter carrier, said she has seen "one that is a fish and the lid opens into the mouth."

The basic design of the mailbox serves a certain purpose - to collect bills, letters and junk mail. But more people are showing their style with novelty, homemade and designer mailboxes cropping up in neighborhoods.

Some of these mailboxes are handmade, and many can be ordered over the Internet from companies like Marvelous Mailboxes & More. Barb Seeland, president and founder of the company in Menomonee Falls, Wis., has been in the mailbox business for 13 years.

"The very first one was for a travel agent in Illinois," Seeland said. "She wanted stars, in gold and silver, all over it. The most recent one was for a Nubian goat, and then the one before that was for a fellow who said he was a contractor working in Iraq, and he wanted a cement truck for back at home."

Seeland, a former letter carrier herself, said novelty mailboxes go right along with the person's interests.

"Mostly people order a mailbox that reflects something that is important to them," she said. "A pumpkin farmer wanted a pumpkin and the ice cream cone mailbox was for the soda shop in a community near here."

The most recent box Seeland customized was a ballerina mailbox for a dance school.

"What we did was took wood planks and cut out the legs with the ballerina shoes on and we affixed them underneath the mailbox onto the wood post," Seeland said. "Then we cut out a scalloped wood skirt, like the tutu ... so all it was is a mailbox with legs. It turned out really pretty."

Marvelous Mailboxes has everything from dogs and birds to trucks and tractors. The boxes can range from around $100 to $900, depending on what style fits your taste.

If you are inclined to install a customized or handcrafted mailbox, Westfall said there are certain regulations to keep in mind.

"All of them will have a stamp or someplace on it saying approved by the U.S. Post Master or Post Master General," he said. "Because of the vehicles and the way the carriers deliver the mail it has to be between 42 and 48 inches high; the post shouldn't be any more than 24 inches from the edge of the road ... and in a place where it is unobstructed."

The mailboxes that Seeland sells are all Postal Service approved and most are created out of pine.

"The vast majority are built with a United States Post Office Approved Mailbox inside with wood parts painted and attached onto the metal body of the mailbox," she said. "You could build your own mailbox ... all the mailboxes that people have attached on their house, not one of them are postmaster approved.

"(They're fine) As long as it is easy to open and close and the mail carrier can get their hand on it and not get cut."

Mote said the ability to open the mailbox is important.

"Please don't buy a cast iron box with magnets," she said, noting a certain neighborhood in Gainesville that installed this type around the community. "They were so hard to open and close. Finally we gave them notes saying please do something ... so some people put masking tape over (the magnets) so the connection wasn't as strong."