License Plate Collecting – Why Would Anyone Want To Collect These?

What Is It All About?

Because License Plate Collecting is fun! And, what a great way to learn geography!

I guess the question could be asked, why do people collect match covers, baseball cards, bottle caps, or any of at least a thousand other items? The most popular answer is that it is fun! Isn’t that what hobbies are all about anyway? License Plate Collecting is popular around the world and is still growing. I suppose to some degree, it rises from our love affair with the automobile.

The first state issued license plates showed up in Massachusetts in 1903. The first plates with dates on them showed up in Pennsylvania and West Virginia in 1906. These were the modest beginnings from which this hobby has grown. These very early plates when they can be found fetch pretty good prices, $2000 to $7000 depending on condition.

Where To Find Plates

As a collector just getting started, you have a number of good options. These include:

Automobile junkyards are a logical possibility. Depending on how many collectors live in the area, you should at least come up with a few good plates to start your collection. Be aware going in, that junkyard operators will likely charge a pretty good price. It is best to negotiate before stepping into the yard. You may find the operator is willing to take a low price if you show your willing to walk away.

The state Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) usually have what they call sample plates that can be had for a small price. Best bet is to write to each state office, you can find their addresses on the internet, and request information.

Check out on-line sites like eBay, collector sites and classified ads. These will very often have at least some of what you are looking for. Just watch the prices so that you don’t pay more than you have to. You can also put in a want ad telling people what you are looking for.

What Should You Collect

There are a good number of collection categories, some more challenging than others. Here is a sampling:

Beginning license plate collectors most often begin with a collection composed of a single plate from each of the 50 states. This collection will be full of color and variety. Assuming you will pay on average from $2 to $3 each you can see that your first collection will cost between $100 and $150. You will get the bulk of the 50 pretty easily but expect that plates from Alaska, Hawaii, and some of the less populous states to be a bit more effort.

Another set you can strive for is a full 50 state set all issues in the year of your birth. Depending on your age, this can be easy or difficult. If you were born 20 years ago it will be relatively easy. If you just turned 65 expect it to be a real test of your resolve!

You can collect type sets. These are plates that are issued to a specific class of vehicle. For example, antique cars, school buses, handicapped, government plates, taxi plates and the list goes on and on.

A variation of the type set is the state type set which would include all the different types of plates issued by a single state. This can be a real challenge but something you can be proud of if you get them all.

Then there are odds and ends like vanity plates, low numbered plates, specific color plates, bicycle plates, dealer plates and the remainder of an endless list.

Finishing Up

Some people begin by grabbing every plate they see from anywhere and everywhere. This makes for a very difficult start as it will be hard to complete any kind of themed collection. Begin slow, decide early what kind of collection you want to have and stay focused on that outcome. You will be much happier with your hobby if you follow that approach. And remember, license plate collecting is supposed to be fun!

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