Top 10 Reasons Why People Collect License Plates

So many people collect license plates of all kinds, from vintage and antique license plates, to newly designed, used and expired license plates.  From the neighbor who  hangs these in a garage or a barn, to celebrities  like Jay Leno who collects both rare and one-of-a-kind vehicles and old license plates.

The reasons are so varied and fascinating enough that we thought we would share the top 10 reasons that people collect license plates.

  1.  YOM or Year of Manufacture, to run on old vehicles.  People buy old license plates to register and run on their vintage, classic and antique vehicles.  This includes automobiles, trucks, motorcycles and even commercial vehicles.  Some of these are “daily drivers”, while others are destined for vehicle shows and competitions.  The way each State governs and manages this process varies, and most have Year of Manufacture or YOM Laws.  Most of the 50 States allow some variety or flavor of this type of use.  Some States base their decision to allow the use of vintage and antique old license plates in this manner based on the number of years old as a minimum.  Others are defined under Antique Vehicle, Historic Vehicle or Horseless Carriage Laws that the State has on the books that specify a manufacture date for the vehicle.  The State of Illinois actually allows a license plate from ANYWHERE to be displayed as long as it is from the YEAR OF THE VEHICLE without requiring the license plate be from Illinois!  This was due to an oversight by the State Legislature and adds an interesting twist there.  Oops!  Other States are very strict and require inspection of the actual plates and availability of that digit combination – in other words – that digit combination cannot be on a license plate of any kind that is on the road in that State at the time you want to register your vehicle and vintage license plates.  Some folks have waited for many years for that specific combination to “become available” after the one in use expires, so that they can rush over to the DMV and get their old license plate registered to their vehicle!
  2. To decorate.  Old license plates are also bought by countless people in order to decorate garages, sheds, barns and mancaves of all kinds.  These cool displays become a focal point of interest and invoke a lot of conversation, where everyone can relax and have a cold one!  Displays of old license plates are a time honored tradition and are typically shared with friends and family when folks gather for activities like sports games, shooting pool, or working on cars.  The types of plates selected for displays like this vary - because some may prefer to show new graphic designs, while others may want to have genuine and authentic old license plates.  Others want specific vibrant colors on the old license plates in order to form complex patterns on a wall.  This is truly only limited by ones’ imagination!
  3. To promote a business.  License plates are often bought in order to promote a business.  There are countless restaurants, bars and barbeque joints across the USCanadaMexico and the World where real, expired and collectible old license plates are focal points and elicit visions of travel, good food and awesome experiences.  Some farms collect old farm license plates in order to display the history of their farm and to promote organic farming, which is referred to as agritourism.  Movie production companies and even Actor Josh Hutcherson from Hunger Games fame buys these to have authentic license plates for shooting their films in order to add an element of realism to the place, time or vehicles used for the scenes.  Some Companies including Ralph Lauren promote a product line with “American Values” or “Canadian Values” and have displays of their products surrounded by authentic old license plates.  Auto dealers have purchased license plates in order to make a map out of old, used and expired license plates from the States that they operate in and hang this prominently in their showrooms.
  4. Arts & Crafts.  Arts and Crafts folks buy license plates to create unique pieces, which is an environmentally friendly and green re-use for old license plates.  There are so many ways to incorporate license plates into a work of art – from creating birdhouses, clocks, maps of the United States or Canada, and custom signs made from individual letters and numbers from license plates.  Convention planners have even made custom place settings for automotive trade shows and conventions using our real, genuine and antique license plates.  It is awesome!  Thankfully, ShopLicensePlates has License Plates In Bulk for those who work on these types of projects.
  5. To complete State Runs.  Collectors buy these to complete full State runs of license plates.  This means that for a specific State, the hobbyist wants to collect every license plate issued since that State started to issue license plates.  The level of complexity for these types of collections can vary.  For example, some are happy with an individual plate from that State and year.  But others want to collect every type of plate that was made and in use.  So in Kansas, for 1950, this would mean that the collection would have 105 license plates just for cars, 105 license plates just for trucks, 105 license plates just for motorcycles, and so on.  Because of these factors, some of these more complex collections can take years or even a lifetime to find and assemble.
  6. Celebrating special events or dates.  Many collect our real, genuine and authentic old license plates in order to have a license plate from a place where they traveled to on vacation.  Some have what is referred to as a “birth run” grouping of license plates where they want a license plate to show what license plates looked like on the year that they were born.  And there are countless folks who like to signify and celebrate birthdays and anniversaries with a display of old license plates, and they want to have license plates that are real, used and expired.  Authenticity of these are a key factor, which is why ShopLicensePlates is their trusted source for these license plates. 
  7. Advanced collecting.  Some collectors focus on specific types of license plates, like motorcycle license plates, dealer license plates, apportioned or semi license plates.  With these advanced collectors, the key is to have a great deal of variety of both types and places in order to help fulfil their goal of completing their collection.  Here again, certain States and locations have unique factors that make an advanced collection challenging.  In Missouri, for example, many Cities issued "resident" license plates starting around 1910 or so.  These Cities wanted to raise revenue to help pay for new roads and to help put regulations around the use of these new, loud and sometimes “scary” motorized vehicles.  Some of these Cities had ordinances that defined their use, and others may have had an ordinance but it has been lost due to fire, flood, or other similar events.  In any case, the list of Cities that used them continues to grow and the history continues to be re-discovered.
  8. Slogans and Vanity License Plates.  Vanity license plates are collected for so many different reasons.  Some see a plate that has a slogan or meaning to them.  Some have their initials on the plate.  Others may collect these in order to have a theme related to specific subject matter, like a diner collecting these to display old license plates where the license plates might have food related slogans.  Examples would be license plates that say BBQ, FOOD, BACON, BREAD or EGGS.  You can see more of these Old License Plates In Action!
  9. Specialty License Plates.  Collecting specialty license plates has really become a challenge over the past 15 years or so.  Prior to this, many States had just a standard issue license plate.  But as technology evolved in the manufacture of license plates, the ability to get creative and design graphic license plates became easier to do.  This, combined with the ability of organizations or States to issue specialty license plates in order to raise funds for specific causes upped the ante.  Some States went all out – like Florida, which has 120 varieties of license plates for its residents to select from.  And as other States looked on and saw the success of progressive States programs, they also started to offer more varieties as well.  Some collectors have specialized into supporting specific Sports Teams, a College, or a University.  Others collect to promote and show support for causes such as Breast Cancer Awareness and the Environment.
  10. Just for fun!  Many collect real, genuine and authentic license plates from ShopLicensePlates because they just want to have a splash of cool graphic design license plates and to have a display with awesome vibrant colors.  We’ve had golf cart owners buy our license plates to display on their golf carts to show off to their friends and to more easily identify which golf cart belongs to them.  Other State License Plates associate slogans and representations of what the State is known for.  Think of Wisconsin being “America’s Dairyland”, Colorado being associated with mountains and skiing, Nebraska being “The Beef State”, or Minnesota and “10,000 lakes”.  From backyard fences to basements and backyards, our collectible license plates are able to help them differentiate themselves.  From goals, careers, hopes and dreams, they help capture the spirit of relaxing and having fun.