Petite Post - Finding The Lower Limit Of Postal Dimensions

petitepostthumb.JPGDecember 2011 - Royal Mail has quite a lot to say about the maximum sizes and weights of items to be posted, but surprisingly little about the minimums.

This is a little project to try to discover just how small an item can be successfully posted.

About This Project

Preparing to send some cards and parcels by post for Christmas, I looked up some of the weight and dimensional limits on the Royal Mail website - I noticed something that, the more I think about it, is quite strange...

No Lower Limits

Although there are upper limits on the dimensions and weights of items for each category of service, there doesn't seem to be any stipulation of lower limits.

Nowhere does it seem to say what is the smallest item that can be posted.

That presents an obvious and irresistible challenge - and a nice, easy, fun little project - let's send a few small items and test the lower limit.

There's very little preparation required for the first round of tests. I'm not going to try to create tiny envelopes, so I just cut some small rectangles of stiff card.

There is a natural lower limit for the experiments - which is the dimensions of the postage stamps - about 2 by 2.5 cm.

petitepost1.JPGSo we'll be posting five little postcards, sized (in cm):

  • 2 x 2.5
  • 3.5 x 2.5
  • 4 x 3
  • 4.5 x 3.5
  • 5 x 4


petitepost2.JPGFor the smallest card, the stamp occupies one whole side, so the address will have to be written on the reverse (not sure if this is a problem).

The minimum details to identify a postal address here in the UK is postal code and house number. I'll be including other address fields where possible, but legibility is key - a complete address in minuscule writing is probably less useful than an incomplete one in larger writing.

In the interests of privacy, I'm going to obscure the recipient address in any pictures that get published here.

petitepost3.JPGI posted the largest item (5x4cm) on 26th December 2011 in a pillar box near Southampton Common.

This is in the same postcode area as the destination address (my home), but it will still have to go through the main sorting office in Southampton, then the distribution office in Hedge End.

As the 26th is a public holiday, there will probably be an extra day's delay in the process (assuming the item survives to be delivered, of course).


I'll post the others from other cities over the next few days.

What Might Go Wrong

As I understand it, the automated sorting machinery at the Post Office is quite speedy and brutal - and probably optimised for normal-sized items. There's a distinct risk that my silly little cards could just be destroyed in the process, or they may just drop into some crevice, never to be seen again. Time will tell...

And Away!

I spent a few days in Norfolk for New Year and posted the remaining petite postcards - well, all except the middle-sized one, which I lost. It was in my pocket, then it wasn't - maybe I dropped it somewhere - maybe someone will pick it up and post it for me - I'll make and post a replacement just in case.

First Arrival

petitepost4.JPGI returned home on 1st January 2011 to find that the first postcard had made it home - although in very poor condition.

Oddly, it had been delivered to the back door of my house, where there is no letterbox - I suspect this means that it enjoyed some kind of special handling - and maybe someone brought it with a view to telling me off for this silly experiment.

But I wasn't in - so it had been left on the back step in the rain - which partly accounts for its poor condition (although please note that I have digitally obscured part of the address for privacy) - it also looks quite scuffed and dog-eared - so maybe it got a bit chewed up in the sorter.

petitepost5.JPGTuesday 3rd January 2012 was a day of storms and fallen trees, but that didn't stop the delivery of card number 2 (3.5 x 2.5cm).

This one turned up in good condition inside a sealed bag clearly intended for use when letters are damaged in the post - it bears a printed apology and an invitaton to file a claim for damages (obviously not relevant here).

Update (Much Later)

That's all that ever turned up. None of the smaller ones made it home. Sad face.