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When did personalized license plates begin?


Billy Kingsley
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I have a question for the more knowledgeable folks here. (More knowledgeable than I, I mean). When did the personalized license plates begin to be seen? 

 

As you may know I'm a model car builder, and one of my "pet peeves" in the hobby is when the model companies put year of manufacture license plates with some contrived thing on it, for example 1926 plates that say "26T". 

 

To me that's unrealistic and I refuse to use them, in fact I'd rather not put a plate on at all than use one of them.

 

Am I wrong or did plates like this actually exist back when the cars were new? Thanks.

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8 minutes ago, Billy Kingsley said:

I have a question for the more knowledgeable folks here. (More knowledgeable than I, I mean). When did the personalized license plates begin to be seen? 

 

As you may know I'm a model car builder, and one of my "pet peeves" in the hobby is when the model companies put year of manufacture license plates with some contrived thing on it, for example 1926 plates that say "26T". 

 

To me that's unrealistic and I refuse to use them, in fact I'd rather not put a plate on at all than use one of them.

 

Am I wrong or did plates like this actually exist back when the cars were new? Thanks.

 

Mr Google is your friend.  According to several of his sources, Pennsylvania offered plates with the car owner's initials as early as 1931.  I guess that qualifies as "personalized."

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8 minutes ago, Studemax said:

No, he is not and never was.

That's why I use DuckDuckGo.

 

Meh.  I couldn't care less if Google tracks my searches.  But if that worries you, have at it with Donald.  The point is the answer to the OP question can be found with an internet search using whatever engine.

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I clearly remember a neighbor had his name on the plate of his new his 57 retractable.

He was the wealthiest guy in our area, his estate is still there, but I moved from there when I was in my teens, so couldn't say if its still in the same family.

I recall they always handed out the best candy on Halloween.

He donated land for a ball park that still bears his name.

You will know who I am referring to if you know anything about Tacoma.

 

Funny thing how I remember my youth buy cant remember my next door neighbors name.

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A seminar at a past AACA Annual Meeting

dealt with the interesting history of license plates.

The speaker mentioned that in the earliest days,

people with special connections had personalized

plates made.  He didn't say when such plates

officially began as an organized program.

 

Here is a Pennsylvania plate from 1933, shown at

that seminar.  I photographed it.  Notice, from

the proportions of the letters, that the first letter "H"

is upside down!

 

LICENS71.JPG

Edited by John_S_in_Penna (see edit history)
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The earliest VA personalized plates I remember were around 1972. Usually all that was available were initials or a combination of initials and numbers.

 

Early 80s the Commonwealth realized they could make a pile of money off their "Communi-plate" program. They kept them cheap enough that they sell very well. Then along came the "affinity" or revenue sharing plate which opened up even more $$$. The state gets the license fee and the sponsoring organization gets a cut after so many are sold.

 

Combine affinity with personalized and you can easily double the cost of your vehicle's annual registration fee. But VA is still way cheaper than most.

 

I've had a lot of fun with my plates over the years. The 1976 Ninety Eight wore "I8JAPAN" for years. Hey, big Godzilla-sized 🦖 American car. Wanted "I8TOKYO" but it was taken...🙄

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When RI added letters to the plates they would give you your initials if possible. This continued for a long time. In the 50s my father had JV (his first two initials because there were no more JP's) and my mother had HP - which were her initials.

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1 hour ago, rocketraider said:

They kept them cheap enough that they sell very well.

So well we have more vanity plates on the road than any other state!👍

And we are only 13th in population.

 

I have one antique tag personalized plate, 1 amateur radio plate (WA4CWM), and two regular use vanity plates. 

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42 minutes ago, Frank DuVal said:

So well we have more vanity plates on the road than any other state!👍

And we are only 13th in population.

Add in Virginia's "unusual" license plate font which was added in early 90s "for Virginian cultural distinctiveness".

 

Times-Dispatch reported a few weeks back that well over half of the state's residents weren't born in Virginia, nor do those people consider themselves "culturally Virginian".

 

But they buy the hell out of those Communi-Plates!😜

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14 hours ago, Pilgrim65 said:

No one has admitted to having one on their car so far , here in the Uk they are very common , I have two which have been on various  cars I have owned during  the last 30 years 😊

From what I can see the, UK 'personalised plates' do not have the freedom of choice that they do in North America.  Going by the DVLA's website, one can purchase from a bank of letters and numbers that are already preselected, with the chance of what one wants appeals to them.  From what I can see, hardly any of number/letter combination examples shown stands out in my mind enough to pay the extra price they are commanding for a 'personalised plate' in the UK.  Apparently, spacing between the characters is rather strict with the DVLA. I recall seeing a photo back in the 1980's of a car with the registration number '505 EXY' where the owner got charged for displaying on his car as '50 5EXY'.

 

Craig

 

Edited by 8E45E (see edit history)
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I seem to remember seeing the radio license no. on plates more prevalent than personalized in MD. My car memories go back to about 1970 though. Until probably the last 20 years I dont think they were that popular, and I was under the impression that they were very expensive. Now the cost to register a new car and all of the choices for specialty plates the extra for vanity is minimal. I had them on my wife Benz, and she has them now on her mustang. I was going to get them for my trans am but I have YOM plates instead.

 

As an addendum to this thread, how about how many different specialty plates are available?  Seems like FLA has one for each day of the month.

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1 minute ago, TAKerry said:

I seem to remember seeing the radio license no. on plates more prevalent than personalized in MD.

Actually, that's a good point!  Radio Amateur plates might be considered one of the FIRST personlized plates.  Of course the first three or four alpha-numerics were standard, 'VE6' for Alberta being an example, but the last letters were chosen by the radio operator.  Usually, it was a short form, or the initials  of their radio name.

 

Craig

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1 hour ago, 8E45E said:

From what I can see the, UK 'personalised plates' do not have the freedom of choice that they do in North America.  Going by the DVLA's website, one can purchase from a bank of letters and numbers that are already preselected, with the chance of what one wants appeals to them.  From what I can see, hardly any of number/letter combination examples shown stands out in my mind enough to pay the extra price they are commanding for a 'personalised plate' in the UK.  Apparently, spacing between the characters is rather strict with the DVLA. I recall seeing a photo back in the 1980's of a car with the registration number '505 EXY' where the owner got charged for displaying on his car as '50 5EXY'.

 

Craig

 

The fact the choice is limited in Uk in fact effects the price , often the personal plate is worth more than the car , single digit after initials especially, changing hands for thousands. I bought two plates B4 HUR which I had on a nice  BMW convertible shortly after my divorce , caused a few smiles, now jag  and B9 HUR (Sounds like BEN HUR chariot 😊)had on a sporty car . I paid about 400 dollars each , but now fetch double at least 

27FBD1AC-95C7-46CB-B7DE-DA5544C35A16.jpeg

Edited by Pilgrim65 (see edit history)
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52 minutes ago, TAKerry said:

how about how many different specialty plates are available?  Seems like FLA has one for each day of the month.

 

https://www.dmv.virginia.gov/vehicles/#plate_search.asp

 

Their website says over 200. 😳

 

I remember one from several years back "scenic autumn" which was and is popular. When those were first issued the whole background was leaves. It quickly became apparent that Vajenya's "culturally distinctive" blue characters got lost and overwhelmed in that busy background, which created problems for cops trying to read them. All that had been issued got recalled and reissued with 2nd design which had the pretty leaves only around the edges.

 

But if you have a "thing" the Commonwealth probably has a license plate for it! For a nominal extra fee of course...

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14 minutes ago, Pilgrim65 said:

The fact the choice is limited in Uk in fact effects the price , often the personal plate is worth more than the car , single digit after initials especially, changing hands for thousands. I bought two plates B4 HUR which I had on a nice  BMW convertible shortly after my divorce , caused a few smiles, now jag  and B9 HUR (Sounds like BEN HUR chariot 😊)had on a sporty car . I paid about 400 dollars each , but now fetch double at least 

In the US or Canada, provided its not taken, one can order 'BEN HUR' or 'B4 HER' on a personalized plate.  From my standpoint here, I would never know that is a 'personalised plate' on your Jaguar.  For example, I have 'STUDIE' on one of my Studebakers, and years ago, I had 'INN0CNTI' for my '85 Innocenti Mini Turbo which I owned at one time.  The limitation was the amount of characters, and a letter 'O' had to be substituted with a '0'.

 

Craig

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1 hour ago, 8E45E said:

In the US or Canada, provided its not taken, one can order 'BEN HUR' or 'B4 HER' on a personalized plate.  From my standpoint here, I would never know that is a 'personalised plate' on your Jaguar.  For example, I have 'STUDIE' on one of my Studebakers, and years ago, I had 'INN0CNTI' for my '85 Innocenti Mini Turbo which I owned at one time.  The limitation was the amount of characters, and a letter 'O' had to be substituted with a '0'.

 

Craig

I had HUR not HER ,because My surname is HUR  😁, however HER would have cost more at the time but perhaps should have bought as even more valuable now 

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4 hours ago, TAKerry said:

I seem to remember seeing the radio license no. on plates more prevalent than personalized in MD. My car memories go back to about 1970 though. Until probably the last 20 years I dont think they were that popular, and I was under the impression that they were very expensive. Now the cost to register a new car and all of the choices for specialty plates the extra for vanity is minimal. I had them on my wife Benz, and she has them now on her mustang. I was going to get them for my trans am but I have YOM plates instead.

 

As an addendum to this thread, how about how many different specialty plates are available?  Seems like FLA has one for each day of the month.

Nope!  Closer to one for each day of the year. Last check they were on their way to 200 different ones in FL. Huge money maker for the state.

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4 hours ago, 8E45E said:

In the US or Canada, provided its not taken, one can order 'BEN HUR' or 'B4 HER' on a personalized plate.  From my standpoint here, I would never know that is a 'personalised plate' on your Jaguar.  For example, I have 'STUDIE' on one of my Studebakers, and years ago, I had 'INN0CNTI' for my '85 Innocenti Mini Turbo which I owned at one time.  The limitation was the amount of characters, and a letter 'O' had to be substituted with a '0'.

 

Craig

In the Uk personal plates are usually easily  identified as they have less characters and don’t include the registration year within the characters which is the norm here now 

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13 hours ago, 8E45E said:

but the last letters were chosen by the radio operator.

Not until the FCC changed the rules "recently". Recently being in the last 20 years.... 

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Maybe not a personalized (to the individual) license plate.  But it was personalized to the state of Florida!🤩  I do not know when Florida started this, the '30 plate shown is the earliest I have seen.   1931 & '33 Florida Sunshine plates are owned by me and all have the same general format:  "Florida" in large letters, "Sunshine" in an outline of the state, year of issue and a statement.  The '31 plate has "Florida for Health" and the '33 plate has "Empire of the Sun".  The '32 plate has "Florida all the Year".  No idea when they stopped making them.🤔

 

Capt. Harley😉

 

Skirts are for women and not car fenders!

florida 1930 special tag.jpg

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I know Illinois started offering vanity plates in the early 1970s.  When they first came out, my dad ordered a set for his '70 Electra, then later for a couple of other cars.

 

As far as amateur radio call signs go...  I think ham plates have been around for a really long time.  Vanity call signs were a perk for Extra class hams - so I'd guess date from when incentive licensing was introduced in the 1960s.  At some point in the late '70s the FCC stopped granting vanity calls.  But they were eventually re-introduced in 1996 - which is when I got mine.  They offered the vanity calls through a series of staged "gates":  Gate 1 was for hams who wanted to recover a call sign they, or a close family member, had previously held.  Gate 2 was for Extra class license holders.  Gate 3 for Advanced class, Gate 4 for General class, and then for Tech and probably Novice class.

 

I have ham plates on my 944 (previous non-vanity call sign), and did have my current vanity call on plates on my Suburban.  Was going to put the plates from the Suburban on my Tesla - but then decided not to.  Unfortunately I'd already replaced the Suburban's plates with non-descript ones.  I'm now thinking of putting the vanity call plates on the Reatta.  The problem with ham plates is that these days anyone can type the call sign into google and find out where you live.  So if one accidentally cuts someone off in traffic...

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