LICENSE PLATE COLLECTORS
When I saw Ray Weiner's wife at the grocery store, I didn't know that she would be
indirectly responsible for starting an entire chapter in my book. She was driving her
husband Ray's 1990 gold Chevrolet pickup truck with 4 US POW (for United States Prisoners
of War) on the plates.
Ray is a firefighter who has been involved in the prisoner of war issue. He also is an
inveterate license plate collector. I never knew that there was such a thing as a license
plate collector. During the last two years he has had five related vanity type plates
issued to his truck. he has also had eight special event plates issued to it in the last
three to four years.
He also told me that there is a convention where license plate collectors regularly get
together to show off their collections. The next one is in Chattanooga, Tennessee. I never
knew... Will the revelations never end? As the self-appointed expert in the field of
vanity license plates, is it my duty to attend collectors' conventions? I'm not an expert
on collections, just on the meanings of the plates. Nevertheless, experts always show up
at conventions, even if the convention is not exactly their specialty. I like Chattanooga.
I like conventions. There will probably be some great stories there. Maybe I'll go. Next
thing you know they'll have me collecting these things.
Ray sent me several pictures, and he sent a letter describing his collection. He said:
"Enclosed is the postcard you gave my wife today. I have been collecting license
plates for about four or five years. I have a complete collection of Illinois plates from
1911 to present plus a 1909 and 1910 dashboard disk which was issued before plates in
After becoming involved in the POW (Prisoners of War) issue (I'm a Vietnam Veteran) I
decided to collect Ex-Prisoner of War license plates. I have collected one EX-POW plate
from each state. Alaska, Utah, Delaware and Rhode Island are the most difficult to get. I
had to send over 1,000 letters to get the plates I now have. In addition to the 50 state
run I have about 18 EX-POW vanity plates...
I have about two dozen Purple Heart plates from different states, and six Congressional
Medal of Honor plates."
Ray has the first and only 49-state collection of EX-POW vanity plates. He won first place
in the "Special Theme Display" category at the International Convention in
Peoria, Illinois in June 1992. He sent pictures of them. He also sent the following vanity
POWWW11 - California - (Prisoner of War World War Two)
POWW2A - California - (Prisoner of War World War Two Army)
68 POW - Illinois - (Year in Viet Nam POW)
POW MIA - Idaho - (Prisoner of War - Missing in Action)
1 VN POW - Illinois - (1 Viet Nam POW)
POW 36 - Illinois - (POW's 36 (unknown))
94 POWS - Illinois - (94 Illinois POW's left)
POWS W8 - Illinois - (POW's wait)
4 POWS - Illinois - (For POW's)
POW MIA - Mass. - (Prisoner of War Missing in Action)
5ND POW - Illinois - (Find POW's)
PWX331 - Michigan - (Prisoner of War X (331 at random))
PO15 - Texas - (Texas EX POW Plate with low number)
DAV POW - Wisc. - (Disabled American Vet - POW)
GOHPOW - Wisc. - (Initials of former POW)
POW JPN - California - (POW - Japan)
IM X POW - Utah - ( I'm an EX-POW)
Since Ray was kind enough to give me so much information on this subject, it occurred to
me that perhaps other people with special licenses (i.e. Purple Heart, Congressional Medal
of Honor, etc.) might like to be included in this book. I started asking people with these
plates. Here are a few responses.
Frank Miceli has POW/MIA commemorative plate number 173 that he received from Illinois on
the 173rd national POW/MIA Recognition day. He served in the 173rd in Vietnam.
I LUV 173 is on the license of Dawn Dinardo. She has it on her copper Buick Somerset. She
said that this license reflects her feeling for the 173rd Airborn Brigade...first in and
last out of Vietnam.
Brian Altergott has A3744 on his 1989 blue Oldsmobile Cierra. He received his award plates
for wounds he received during combat in Vietnam. The numbers on the license total the age
he was when he enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps (eighteen). He was nineteen when he was
wounded in Vietnam in 1967. When Purple Heart plates became available (on his fortieth
birthday) his wife applied for them for him.
USMC 165 is on a green Pontiac Bonneville. He enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps in 1964.
He got the 165 to represent January 1965. He couldn't get '64. He will retire in 1995 (30
years). His first choice was USMC E8 (for his Rank - Master Sergeant). His wife suggested
the plates when he returned from Desert Storm.
Big Jake has a beige Ford pickup with commemorative plates. He was in Viet Nam and proud
to show it.
Well, I went to the convention. There were almost five hundred people registered from all
over the United States. There were even some people there from Canada, France, and
Australia. They had huge collections of license plates. Some were sets of years from an
individual state while others, like Ned Flynn's plates, NED, were the same thing from many
states. He has a total of 140 plates with NED on them from all the states as well as other
jurisdictions. He is still collecting them. All of this was quite fascinating.
Many attendees carried in their collections in picnic coolers, using airline-type rolling
luggage holders. Those license plates get real heavy, you know. Everyone was quite cordial
and they all encouraged me in my book effort. I was able to obtain a number of good plates
to write about in the book as well.
The one that gets the "Traveler's Trophy" for going the longest distance to the
convention, is HH918. It's from New South Wales, Australia, and it belongs to John Hudson.
HH stands for Huddy's Hauler and it is on his Toyota Hi-Ace. The 918 is just the number
that was issued. He got it as a birthday gift from his girlfriend.
Somehow I knew that at the convention I would find the plate VANITY. I did. It belongs to
Evan Remington Haupt. It is a South Carolina plate. He said, "Vanity describes the
ultimate personalized plate!" He has EVAN, his uncommon first name, on his maroon
15NOV75 was on the Tennessee plates on a brown Ford Aerostar driven by Dave Stratton. He
and his wife Jocelyne were married on November 15, 1975. I guess he won't be forgetting
AAA 000 is on the Indiana plates that are on a red Buick Skylark. The owner of the Skylark
is a license plate collector and he collects sample plates from all over the U.S. Twenty
to twenty-five states use AAA 000 as their sample plate. Indiana uses 00A 0000, so he was
able to get a "sample plate look" on his real plate.
EWE, on Ellen W. Epstein's Florida plates, has nothing to do with sheep. She simply wanted
her initials on her Acura Legend. She had the same plate in New York. Her husband Dave has
DNE 1 (his initials) because just DNE (with no number) was taken.
In North Carolina it is difficult to get single letter plates. Sharon M. Kruck is the
proud owner of the letter X. That is her entire plate. It is on her red Mazda pickup
truck. A family of few letters: her husband, William, has WM., but at the time that he
ordered it the state wouldn't allow punctuation, so he forged the period. He said that
they would let him order punctuation now. I was surprised to hear that.
Collectors are more tuned in to the subtleties of important plates, so many of them have
low numbers or single letters. These plates stand out and are quite hard to get.
John D. Garst has C on the Washington, D.C. plates on his grey Mercedes Benz and he has T
on his black Chrysler convertible. He and his wife wanted single letters. In Washington,
D.C. there are only 25 single letter plates issued. The I isn't issued. He said he really
should have given the C to his wife Carol who drives a Chrysler and who's maiden name was
Steven West has 50 on the Florida plates on his white Ford Ranger. John Nemec had to
settle for 91 on the New York plates on his white Ford Explorer. It is a Birthplace of
Baseball Commemorative plate (Cooperstown, NY). This commemorative plate is the only one
that New York issues with a number only. He also has 66 on another vehicle.
In Washington, Q belongs to Jim Dowell. He has it on his tan Ford Ltd. He reports that
there are only 32 single character plates in Washington. The letters I and O and the
numbers 1 and 0 are not issued. This is part of his license plate collection. He said,
"I was working on a set of vanity plates with multiple Q's on them. When I first
moved to Washington state in May 1984, I requested and received vanity plate QQ which was
the lowest number of characters available at that time. In early June '86, I saw a small
article in the local Sunday paper that said the state legislature recently authorized
single character vanity plates. I immediately applied for J, Q, and Z and received the Q.
I truly enjoy having a single character license plate. Not only is it an easy license
plate number to remember, I also notice in my rear view mirror at stoplights other drivers
sometimes pointing at my single Q plate."
Roy A. Carson has Y on his New Mexico plates on his silver Honda station wagon. He
requested X, Y or Z. He has collected license plates since 1945. He has fun with this
plate at gas stations. When he uses a credit card to pay for gas, they ask for his plate
number. He says "Y", and of course, the gas station attendants think he's saying
He also has had:
Arizona plates: 17, 17 SEZ and MAGOO.
Nevada Plates: ALPCA, KOKUA
ALPCA stands for American License Plate Collectors Association. KOKUA means
"help" in Hawaiian.
Anton Kuntz put his ALPCA number, 3474, on his white Mercury Grand Marquis' North Dakota
Grant Wolf, one of the many collectors that I met, has for his personal plate FCPO. This
stands for Fellowship of Christian Police Officers. He is the National Executive Director
of this evangelical ministry to those in law enforcement. He said that on his front plate
he has KANSAN because he is a native of Kansas. I thought it was illegal to have two
different plates, but considering Grant's credentials, it must be OK in Kansas.
Ken Mauck has ALPCA on the Indiana plate on his red Cadillac Sedan DeVille.
Judy Rutledge has SEEYAA (see you) on her Illinois plates on her grey Plymouth Voyager.
She became involved with vanity plates because of a friend of her brother, Jim Dowell,
(mentioned earlier). In 1980 when Illinois first began to issue vanity plates, her
brother's friend needed an Illinois plate for his collection. The friend sent a list of
interesting "sayings" and a check for the extra vanity license fee. From the
list, she liked SEEYAA the best. Now Jim and her use it to say goodbye whenever they write
or phone each other.
Judy also helped out her brother in his collection by getting 4RUTS on her recreational
trailer. It stands for four people named Rutledge, two adults and two children.
Jim got DOWELL for his dad, George Dowell. He already had plates for his car so he used
his dad's car to get the family name on a plate.
Another license plate collector, Clifford Lauk, from Spokane, Washington has PL8MAN on his
Washington plates on his 1953 blue Ford Truck. He collects plates. His wife Donna gave him
John Mifflin III has STANG 67 on his red 1967 Ford Mustang. He bought the car in 1991 and
in 1993 he had some extra money so he decided to see what plates might be available. He
was surprised and pleased to find this excellent plate that went so perfectly with his
Lloyd Voss has VOSS on his red Oldsmobile 88. He is also a collector.
Rita Voelkner has MY LBC on her blue Saturn's Wisconsin plates. It stands for, "My
little blue car.". She never had a car of her own, picked out just for her. Blue is
her favorite color. Her husband did help her pick out the plate - not the car.
DEETOUR is on John and Andree's Michigan plates on his tan Ford pickup truck. I was sure
it was some kind of a joke. John said it is for the village of De Tour, Michigan. DETOUR
was taken, and the state computer will not recognize DE TOUR with a space the way it
should be spelled.
JWM RSM is on the Florida plates on a silver Cadillac Sedan DeVille driven by James W.
Martin. It is his initials and his wife, Regina Sue Martin's initials.
A cute one belongs to another collector's wife. It is the North Carolina plate on her
white Ford. She has
FISH LADY. She works in a seafood restaurant. He thought FISH LADY would be a good plate
Another clever one belongs to John F. Moore. He has it on his brown Dodge Caravan. It is
POETIC. He says it is a case of "poetic license". His wife is also an election
judge so it could also stand for "poetic justice". His wife picked the plate.
MY VICE in on the Kentucky plates on the white and grey Chevrolet S-10 Blazer that Bill
Schnitzker drives. He said that people that don't know him think it refers to his truck.
Those who do know him, know it refers to his license plate collecting hobby. His second
plate is ALPCA. It is on his blue Chevrolet Cavalier.
WEED MAN is on Dennis R. Johnson's Maryland plates. He has them on a red Dodge Shadow. He
is a biologist with the USDA doing research on the biological control of weeds. Those who
work on weeds are called "weed men". On his other vehicle he has the license
LICENSE. He hopes to include it in a collection of plates saying "I collect license
plates" for display to advertise his hobby.
T RUGOSA is on the Virginia plates on Dale Burzacott's blue Ford Escort. It's the name of
a species that he studies in Australia.
WRLDPL8S (world plates) is on Pat McMahon's North Carolina plates. They are on his maroon
Ford Probe. He collects license plates of the world.
NYG BUF (New York Giants vs. Buffalo) is on the Florida plates of a blue Chevrolet Caprice
that belongs to Jeff Francis. It is a 1991 Super Bowl 25th Anniversary Florida tag. He
attended the game. The Giants beat the Buffalo Bills 20 to 19.
HELM is on a silver Toyota Camry that is driven by license plate collector Richard Helm.
No nautical meanings, it's just his last name.
TRAVEL is on a tan Chrysler 5th Avenue that belongs to sixty-eight year old Virgil Regehr.
He had Heritage Tours and did tour planning and guiding so he thought this would be
appropriate for the business.
Another collector gave me a whole list. He has GO 4 ITT on his Washington D.C. plates.
This refers to a time when the company ITT was in trouble in 1985. It also has a more
positive meaning. He has CLASSIK, CLASSIQ, and MERCDZ on Maryland plates. He also has TAG
GUY, and for his wife, TAG GAL, on Virginia plates. Another Virginia plate that he has is
4 LUVRS, as in Virginia is for lovers, the state's slogan.
Steve Armstrong's wife has MY GP on the Indiana plate on her Pontiac Grand Prix. He has
HIS VAN on his Ford
E-150 Van. He didn't want to be outdone by her. He had his initials, SWA, before. He has
ordered a new "child abuse" special issue for his van for 1995. He has tried to
get his home town "LINTON" a couple of different times but a fellow in
Indianapolis reserves it each year and it is not available. He does have an older
"LINTON" in his vanity plate collection.
Last but not least from the trip, but not the convention, I found AKISS4U (here's a kiss
for you) on thirty-six year old Dacia Paschall's navy Jeep Cherokee with Tennessee plates.
She chose these plates as a nice way to cheer someone up, or offer a nice surprise. She
said it never fails that on a "bad" day, that someone doesn't drive by, honk,
and blow a kiss in return. That always makes her day!