snail mail

Snail Mail: All The Weird Things You Can And Can’t Send

Physical mail is a dying industry, sure, but one which still handles 160 billion pieces of mail each year, 3.5 billion of which are packages.

Considering the amount of mail sent, there’s gotta be a lot of crazy things that pass through the mail system. How specific are the regulations? Actually, pretty strict.

Curiousmatic did a small test on our own – simply wrapping up a basketball and shipping it. It worked!

This reporter is still waiting patiently for the arrival of a carton of eggs, which you’re apparently allowed to ship.

Then we took a deep dive into the postal regulations to find all the weird things you can and can’t send via snail mail.

Stuff you can’t send (and their exceptions):

Some are pretty obvious:

    • Alcoholic beverages. Any product containing 0.5% or more alcohol is non-mailable, unless it’s cooking wine, a cold remedy, or mouthwash. Sorry, underage kids.

    • Cigarettes. Same deal, although mailing tobacco products was actually only outlawed in 2010. If you’re in Alaska or Hawaii, however, go nuts (as long as it’s shipped within the state).

    • Handguns. Rifles and shotguns are ok. Unloaded, of course.

  • Switchblades. Unless you’re sending it to a law enforcement official.

  • Drugs. Including prescription drugs. Exceptions are made for law enforcement officials. The parcels are unmarked to prevent “accidental” loss during shipping.

  • Food and perishables. Pretty much anything that will go bad outside of a fridge.[contextly_auto_sidebar]

Others are a little out there:

  • Locksmith devices. Anything that can be used to manipulate a lock. The provision also includes master keys for cars.

  • Animal fighting materials. Including weapons, accessories, and advertisements for animal fighting.

  • Unsolicited contraceptives. Unless it’s mailed to a medical professional or a manufacturer, it’s illegal to send a condom (or any contraceptive/abortive device) to someone who didn’t request it.

Stuff you actually can send:

  • Live scorpions. If you follow the fairly detailed regulations, there’s actually a variety of creatures you can ship via snail mail: bees (labelled “Bee Ware!” Seriously.), chickens, even baby alligators.

  • Poison & combustibles. If shipped in small quantities (generally 1 oz or less), you can ship cyanide, arsenic, diesel, fertilizer, tear gas, etc. Assuming you have a legitimate purpose, of course.

  • Human ashes. Following the same packaging guidelines as 1-gallon cans of paint, you can ship the cremated remains of a human being via Priority Mail Express.

  • Coconuts. According to Senior Public Relations Representative of the USPS, Sue Brennan, to send a coconut, all one needs to do is toss a stamp on it and enter an address. There are even services that will do it for you.
  • Bananas. Ms. Brennan also says, “Bananas were a thing for a while — you mail them a little green and they ripen in the couple days in transit.”


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Ole Skaar