How to Start Collecting State Plates

article by ron bowen

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Sunday, Apr 18

People collect some strange and wonderful things, and if you’re interested in collecting license plates, also known as tags, from all over the United States, it can be a very exciting adventure indeed. In fact, license plates are one of the easiest things in the world to collect, especially if you’re specifically looking for U.S. or Canadian plates.

Introduction

The Automobile License Plate Collectors’ Association, or ALPCA, is the leading association for people interested in collecting license plates, so joining this organization is the first thing you should do if you want this to be your hobby. They sponsor several events each year and even have local events in nearly every state. Plus, they’re a wealth of information for both newbies and those who have been collecting license plates for a very long time.

There are other organizations you can join as well, and the more of them you belong to, the more you’ll learn about this very fun hobby. While the hobby may feel overwhelming for people who are just getting started, it doesn’t have to be that way. In fact, when you’ve decided to become a license-plate collector, the following tips will make it much easier on you.Ghostbusters Ecto 1_Image by Andrew Martin

Visit Garage Sales and Estate Sales

In-state and out-of-state tags are sometimes found at estate or garage sales, so going to as many of them as possible is a smart thing to do. Regardless of where you live, you can usually find several of these events to go to every weekend during the summer months, so if you don’t find what you’re looking for the first few times, keep going back and you’ll eventually find something you can’t wait to add to your collection. In fact, if you like, you can even ask if the people organizing the sale have an old license plate they’re no longer using. Most people do, so it’s worth a shot to ask.

Car Shows

Car shows can be found in most states, and many of them have not just cars, but anything that is automobile-related, which includes license plates. Better still, many car shows have license plates that are very old and unique, which makes them even more valuable. While these car enthusiasts normally are familiar with the value of a certain license plate, that doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll have to pay a lot of money for it. If you do pay a lot, so what? That just means it’ll be worth even more a few years from now!

Antique Stores

Antique stores tend to have a lot of variety when it comes to the products they have available, and finding old and even new license plates is not that uncommon. In fact, if you do find a license plate at an antique store, it is very likely to be an old one, which means you’ll love adding it to your collection. Some items in antique stores are rather expensive, and they may not have what you’re looking for the first time you visit them, but if you are consistent with your visits to the store, you’re likely to find a good license plate eventually.

Online Stores

Naturally, going to Amazon and eBay regularly is a great way to find rare items such as license plates, but you also have to be aware of scammers. To keep yourself away from illegitimate sellers, check them out thoroughly before doing business with them. Check their customer ratings, browse their other items, and check on their shipping policies to make sure it doesn’t cost too much to have the item shipped to you. The “Buy It Now” option on eBay is a good sign, and you might also want to contact the seller with some type of question or inquiry. The sooner they reply back to you and the more professional the reply sounds, the more likely they are an authentic seller who will deliver what they promise.

Social Media Stores and Markets

Facebook has a marketplace you can look at, and there are also dozens of local garage sale groups that all offer unique items that may include a license plate or two. Whether you’re interested in newer tags or plates from many decades ago, these are great places to look. Some marketplaces from other states are also accessible if you don’t mind paying a shipping fee. If you search regularly, you should eventually find something that will fit perfectly with the other license plates you’ve already collected.

Junkyards

There are not only junkyards that might be willing to provide you with a license plate or two, but also check with used auto part stores that buy parts from people with older vehicles and resell them to the public. Both of these places are more likely to have tags available at very reasonable prices, so they are definitely worth visiting. These facilities are easy to find because they are always listed in the phone book, and because they specialize in all types of car parts, they are very likely to have a license plate for you to buy at least occasionally. Even better, many of these owners have no clue what license plates are worth, so buying one at a great price but which is very valuable is not at all unlikely.Junkyard_Image by Thomas Buchenberger

Final Thoughts

As a collector of anything, but especially license plates, the main thing you have to do is be on the lookout 24 hours a day, seven days a week, because the bottom line is, you simply don’t know when or where you’re going to find your very next license plate. In fact, it is always possible that you’ll find a license plate where you least expect it, so you shouldn’t limit the places you look just to the places mentioned above. Collecting license plates is always fun and rarely difficult, unless your goal is to find plates from other countries, which can be a bit of a challenge. Nevertheless, this is one hobby that you’ll be able to participate in for a long time because it is neither difficult nor terribly expensive.

 

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