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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 Illinois.

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 plate pictures:

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 Toyota Cressida.

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 his anniversary.

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 Converse.

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 "Why?".

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 plates.

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 the idea.

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 car.

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 for her.

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!


©1994 by Dennis R. Cowhey
All rights reserved.
Library of Congress Number: 94-96301 Guest Post