Automobile License Plate Collectors Association

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The Automobile License Plate Collectors Association (ALPCA) is the largest such organization in the world.[1] Founded in Rumney Depot, New Hampshire, United States, in 1953 and holding its first meeting in North Attleboro, Massachusetts, in 1954, its members have come from all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia (often state subsidiaries exist as well) and twenty-four other countries, although the bulk of its members reside in the United States, followed by Canada, Germany, and Australia.

Despite the club's name, many members also collect and exchange license plates from vehicles other than automobiles.


ALPCA currently has approximately 3,200 registered members and 11,824 registered member numbers,[2] although many of the earlier—and therefore lower-numbered—members are now deceased or are no longer members. When an individual joins, he or she is assigned a membership number, which started with #1 and are currently being issued in the 11,000 range. Members treasure their "ALPCA number" and often are known as much by the time period in which they joined than by name or geographic home. The club hosts an annual convention each June or July that attracts several hundred members, and regional meets take place in a number of countries throughout the year. The 2016 convention, open to members only, will be at Ft. Wayne, Indiana in July. [3]

The most common goal of a license plate collector has been to put together a set of one expired license plate from each state of the United States. Many members collect one or more expired plate from each country of the world. Beyond that, many have the goal of building a "complete run," which consists of a set of a single or a pair (from the jurisdictions that issued them in pairs), for each year that a state issued them. Generally it is believed that Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Hampshire, West Virginia, and Wisconsin were among the US states to first issue standardized plates., Many local jurisdictions required them before that, and there were a plethora of jurisdictions first issuing registration numbers in the early years, by way of a registration card or emblem, but leaving the actual creation of a plate up to the vehicle owner. The old cards, emblems, and discs are now, of course, also highly collectible. Early "pre-state" plates provide another area for collectors to explore. Much has been forgotten or never recorded about license plate registration systems, giving aficionados something else to gather research about as well.

With the advent of "slogan" or "logo" plates, another area of collector interest was born. For instance, New Hampshire had its now defunct "Old Man of the Mountain" pictured in 1926 and Massachusetts had a cod fish on its car plates in 1928. Texas' lone star has appeared on its license plates as a number divider since the earliest days. Today, most states have a proliferation of contemporary "specialty" issues, with affinity organizations sponsoring the majority of them, and usually sharing a portion of the extra cost of the registration fees. Common themes for accumulators of expired plates have included wildlife graphics, such as birds, fish, reptiles, dogs and cats (animal friendly), bears, and wolves. Many coastal states feature lighthouses.

While in the past most states generally employed only one license plate format at a time, there are now overlapping formats in many places. Most occur when a new series starts to replace an older one, over a period of several years. In those places, the old plates finally go away, often to a collector. But, in other places, old plates never die or fade away. Delaware plates issued since the 1940s are still valid there, and that state even allows reproductions of the early plates to be licensed on newer cars. There is an active market in low number registrations (not necessarily for the license plate, but for the rights to use it). California plates issued since 1962 can still be valid, either on the original vehicle, or re-licensed to subsequently assigned vehicles. Montana now issues four types of "general issues," and you can take your pick of any different regular plate series issued over the past 25 years.

Many ALPCA members maintain their own interests and websites, sometimes overlapping, and sometimes going way beyond the confines of license plate collectors. A subset of them are "extra-mile club" members, who seek to visit every county in the United States, often while picking antique shops and other venue for old tags. One member keeps track of the "highest numbers" issued in each state, and his website records what combinations are the latest to be issued. While, like ALPCA, most jurisdictions began issuing license plates with #1, and just kept going, currently, most states now employ some variation of the six or seven digit system pioneered by California in 1955, when it became the first to run out of the most common alpha/numeric combinations. While originally most states hesitated to issue more than a million license plates in a straight numeric format, seven alpha/ numeric characters are now common in the more populous jurisdictions.

While at one time most jurisdictions changed license plates every year, this is no longer the case. Today, long-running registration systems keep the same plate on a vehicle for 3-7 year rotations, and in some cases for the life of the vehicle. Adhesive plate stickers are used in the majority of places, with windshield stickers in a few other, most notably Texas and the District of Columbia. Collectors thrive on viewing the distinctive types and colors of the stickers.

ALPCA members often consult the media for stories on issues in automobilia.[4][5][6]

Plate of the Year[edit]

Since 1970, club members have voted each year to name one United States or Canadian license plate design—and in some years two such designs—introduced during the previous year as the "Plate of the Year," to state media coverage.[7][8] Members vote based both on the plate's legibility and its aesthetics. For 1995, 1997, and 1998, the club recognized one standard-issue plate and one optional-issue plate, while in 1985 and 1989, two jurisdictions' designs tied for first place.[9]

ALPCA Plates of the Year
Year Jurisdiction Times won Design Type Image
1970 Northwest Territories 1 "Centennial" general Blank License Plate Shape.svg
1971 Pennsylvania 1 "Bicentennial State" general Pennsylvania 1972.jpg
1972 Wyoming 1 bucking bronco general 1972 Wyoming license plate.jpg
1973 Prince Edward Island 1 "The Place To Be ... In 73" general Blank License Plate Shape.svg
1974 South Dakota 1 Mount Rushmore general South Dakota 1974 1-32334.jpg
1975 Colorado 1 "Centennial" general Colorado license plate centennial.jpg
1976 Michigan 1 Bicentennial general 1976 Sample Michigan License Plate.jpg
1977 Mississippi 1 "The Hospitality State" general Mississippi 1981 NHP 893.jpg
1978 Wyoming 2 wooden fence general Blank License Plate Shape.svg
1979 Indiana 1 "1779 George Rogers Clark" general Indiana 1980 45X6497.jpg
1980 Kansas 1 wheat general Blank License Plate Shape.svg
1981 South Dakota 2 Mount Rushmore general Blank License Plate Shape.svg
1982 North Carolina 1 "First in Flight" general North Carolina 1999 DXT-4752.jpg
1983 California 1 "The Golden State" optional CaliforniaGoldenState2GAT123.png
1984 Maryland 1 "350th Anniversary" optional Blank License Plate Shape.svg
1985 Nevada 1 Bighorn Sheep general Blank License Plate Shape.svg
North Dakota 1 Theodore Roosevelt optional Blank License Plate Shape.svg
1986 Utah 1 "Greatest Snow on Earth" general 2001SkiUtahLicense plate.jpg
1987 Idaho 1 "Centennial" optional Blank License Plate Shape.svg
1988 Oregon 1 fir tree general Oregon License Plate3.jpg
1989 Nova Scotia 1 "Canada's Ocean Playground" general Nova Scotia License Plate.jpg
Oklahoma 1 "OK!" general Blank License Plate Shape.svg
1990 South Carolina 1 wren general South Carolina 1994 ADJ 630.jpg
1991 Idaho 2 "Famous Potatoes" general 2000 Idaho License Plate.jpg
1992 Mississippi 2 blue gradient general Mississippi98plate.jpg
1993 North Dakota 2 "Discover the Spirit" general North Dakota 1992 DAK 367.jpg
1994 Kansas 2 wheat general KS 1995.jpg
1995 Texas 1 "150 Years of Statehood" general Blank License Plate Shape.svg
Pennsylvania 2 "Flagship Niagara" optional PA-Flagship-Niagara-Governor.jpg
1996 Arizona 1 "Grand Canyon State" general Arizona license plate 2008 series.jpg
1997 Manitoba 1 "Friendly" general Friendly Manitoba Plate.jpg
Wisconsin 1 "Sesquicentennial" optional Blank License Plate Shape.svg
1998 Alaska 1 "Gold Rush Centennial" general US number plate - Alaska Centennial - EBM 468.jpg
Idaho 3 "Wildlife"—elk optional IDWildlifeElk.JPG
1999 Virginia 1 "George Washington Bicentennial" optional Blank License Plate Shape.svg
2000 Wyoming 3 Devils Tower general Blank License Plate Shape.svg
2001 Arkansas 1 "The Natural State"—hummingbird optional Blank License Plate Shape.svg
2002 Oregon 2 "Crater Lake Centennial" optional Blank License Plate Shape.svg
2003 Kentucky 1 "It's That Friendly" general 2005 Kentucky License Plate.jpg
2004 Oklahoma 2 "State Parks"—pavilion optional Blank License Plate Shape.svg
2005 Kansas 3 "Home on the Range" optional Blank License Plate Shape.svg
2006 South Dakota 3 "Great Faces. Great Places." general South Dakota 2008 2KW 954.jpg
2007 Mississippi 3 Biloxi Light general Mississippi license plate.jpg
2008 Delaware 1 "Centennial Plate 1909-2009"[10][11] optional Blank License Plate Shape.svg
2009 Oklahoma 3 Sacred Rain Arrow general 2010 Oklahoma License Plate.jpg
2010 New Mexico 1 "Centennial 1912-2012" general New Mexico Centennial License Plate 2010.jpg
2011 Arizona 2 "1912 Centennial 2012" optional Blank License Plate Shape.svg
2012 Nebraska 1 "Union Pacific Railroad Museum" optional Blank License Plate Shape.svg
2013 Michigan 2 "The Mackinac Bridge" optional Blank License Plate Shape.svg
2014 Alberta 1 "Support Our Troops" optional Blank License Plate Shape.svg
2015 Alaska 2 Grizzly bear general Blank License Plate Shape.svg
2016 Arizona 3 Historic Route 66 optional Blank License Plate Shape.svg

Notable members[edit]

  • Jim Fox, drummer of the James Gang; served as an officer of the ALPCA and authored one of the most prominent published works within the hobby, License Plates of the United States.
  • Robert M. "Bob" Crisler, of Lafayette, Louisiana served as an officer of ALPCA and was inducted as one of the first members of its Hall of Fame. He is a retired geography professor from the University of Louisiana, and authored "License Plate Values," the only collector price guide in the hobby.


External links[edit]