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Last Updated: March 22, 2010

License Plate Collectors Meet

by the Wizard   2010-03-22 14:44:23 (edited 2010-03-23 19:01)

On Friday, March 19, 2009, I drove 40 miles south to Primm, Nevada to attend the annual southern Nevada license plate collectors meet. If I'm not mistaken, this is usually the second largest gathering of license plate collectors every year, second only to the national meet. The meet was sponsored by ALPCA (the Automobile License Plate Collector's Association).

Before I go any further, let me tell you a little about myself and the world of license plate collecting. I think it all started when I was on my way to elementary school in Rossmoor, California. Staring out the window, I noticed an open garage door with about 100 license plates on the wall. It was about the coolest thing I had ever seen up to that point. At that point, I promised myself I'd start collecting license plates, and that one day, in the distant future, I'd display them on my own garage wall (a promise I kept).

At first my goal was a simple one: get once license plate from each of the 50 states. This seemed like a lofty goal at the time. Here and there, I added to my collection from plates purchased mostly at the Golden West College swap meet. From my first to last plate in the set, it took me about 10 years to complete. Today, such a 50-state set can be had for $169 and the click of a mouse on eBay.

My collection really got serious around 1986 when I ran into my first ALPCA member at a junk yard in Santa Barbara. I asked him if I could buy any old license plates. He said it was highly illegal to sell the plates from salvaged cars, but he could personally sell me hundreds from his private collection. This led to my introduction to ALPCA, and a never-ending quest to add to my collection.

I collect, and have collected, other things besides license plates, but nothing comes close to being as enjoyable as license plates. There is something about the beauty of a license plate that I can't put into words. To this day, I still become giddy when I see a Hawaii license plate on the road, despite having plenty of them in my closet. Once I spotted a Nunavut license plate in a Las Vegas parking lot, and nearly went nuts.

I've found license plate collectors themselves to be a very friendly and honest bunch of guys. The club is a nice medium size. Small enough to be friendly and welcome new members, but big enough to support a web site, newsletter, and lots of meets annually. Speaking of the web site, I was the first one to develop the ALPCA web site, although it was not officially sanctioned by the club until after I let another member take it over. One of my original articles, Advice to Beginning Collectors, still appears there.

In a future blog entry someday, I plan to write about my own collection. However, for the rest of this one, I'll show you some pictures I took of the displays at the 2010 Silver State meet. Most of them are from south-western states, due to the location of the show. There were some outstanding displays, as always. When my kids leave the nest, I think I'll work on displaying some of my own plates. Look for that around the year 2025.

50 state collection of low-numbered plates.

One of the best painted displays I have seen. I'm not quite sure what the overall theme is. Lots of "share the road" plates, among others.

I'm not sure what the connection was between the license plates and the battleships is.

The license plates of Iceland. Personally, I try to obtain a license plate of every country I visit. I went there in 2000, and have a few Iceland plates in my collection as souvenirs, although I obtained them after I got back.

Ten very nice Arizona plates. Arizona is a tough state to get old plates from, because the population was so small in the early days of the automobile. Same problem with Nevada, unfortunately for me.


Impressive collection of Indian tribal motorcycle license plates.

License plates with a 41, or from 1941. During WWII, many states didn't issue a new license plate, due to the metal shortage. California, for example, issued a tab in 1942 to put over the top of 1941 plates. In 1943, there was a "V" tab, for victory in Europe. In 1944, they issued windshield stickers.


Motorcycle plates of California.


Very impressive collection of older California plates. The "kit plates" are from the 1905-1913 era, when the state didn't give you a license plate, they told you your number, and you had to make your own. Hardware stores sold kits for this purpose, usually consisting of a piece of metal or screen, and house numbers.


Modern Arizona plates.


Historic truck plates from Nevada.


Military plates. I have a Guantanamo Bay plate too.


Well done display of California plates from the 1920's.


50-state set of motorcycle and cereal plates.


California sample plates.


Alaska plates.


Montana samples.


Nevada highway patrol.