While license plate collecting is increasing in popularity, it is still unusual enough to elicit many puzzled looks and questions. Iíve tried to answer some of the more common questions below.
Q: Why license plates?
A: Iíve always been interested in travel and geography. Like so many people, I collected stamps when I was younger. However, this seemed too ordinary. When a neighbor brought me home a license plate from his trip, I was hooked!
Q: What was your first license plate?
A: 1976 Louisiana Dealer license plate
Q: Are license plates worth anything?
A: Well, this is a tough one. The short answer is yes. Anything has value these days, the question is how much? The answer varies according to who you speak with. There are no real established pricing guides the way you have with stamps, coins, baseball cards, etc. The hobby is just not that advanced. However, value depends on condition, rarity, and most importantly, demand. I have seen extremely common plates sell for a fortune on eBay because two bidders with lots of money but little knowledge of plates will bid a specific plate up well beyond the normal price range. On the flipside, I have seen a rare plate with fewer than 100 known examples struggle to sell for even $10 because there are fewer than 100 collectors that want one.
Q: Where do you find all your license plates?
A: You would be amazed at where I have found plates. In the early days, it was limited to antique shops, flea markets, and whatever friends or family thought to save their plates. I have found my fair share lying along the road or nailed to telephone poles as a sort of impromptu lost and found display. In more recent times, the internet has made collecting so much easier, though a lot more impersonal. Individual websites, eBay, auction sites, etc are all great sources of plates.
Q: Isnít having other peopleís license plates illegal?
A: This is the greatest misconception held by otherwise intelligent people. NO, itís not illegal! Some states require you to turn in your plates, others recommend it, still others donít care at all. In any case, the policies are generally state DMV policies, not state law. There is certainly no federal law. Trust me, my plates are displayed openly in my garage. I have had numerous active duty police see them, including my own brother and my neighbor. If it were illegal, I wouldnít be here typing this FAQ!
Q: But what if you use my plate to rob a bank?
A: Holy crap, how many times have I heard this question!? Please stop to think for a second Ė if I am going to rob a bank, why would I sit here, exchange emails, send you a check with my name and address on it, wait around for you to mail me the plate, and then use it to rob a bank? If Iím a bad enough guy to rob a bank, wouldnít I just steal a license plate to use on my getaway car?