F A Q
- Where can I get a license plate from __________ of the year ______? (Fill in the state and year of your choice)
- Your best options are: Join ALPCA and read the classified ads in our bi-monthly PLATES magazine, or go to a swap meet. Go to a car show where they have a lot of dealers selling car parts, every big one has at least a few vendors dealing in license plates for use on antique cars. Look at the online auctions on eBay. There are always several thousand plates up for bids.
- I have a plate from the year ______ from the state/province/country of _____. How much is it worth?
- The value of a plate depends on its condition. Using a grading guide, such as the grading guide endorsed by ALPCA, should enable you to determine its condition. Once the condition is known, one of the easiest things to do is look through some ads to see what value others have placed on a plate. There are many classified ads in each issue of PLATES magazine, and some collectors may have online lists of plates with prices on their websites (see our links page). Also, there are a couple of different price guides available with complete plate values. These guides may be available through your local book store. If none are in stock, they may be able to order one for you. Price guides are also avilable through the classifieds in PLATES. And if all else fails, ask a collector for an opinion.
- How do I join ALPCA?
- To become a member and receive our PLATES magazine, which is published six times a year, join today! Membership privileges include attendance at ALPCA sanctioned events, and access to the ALPCA Archives.
- How can I find the name and address of the owner of a car given the license plate number?
Current plates: In most states, this kind of information is highly confidential. It is the sort of thing an employee at the department of motor vehicles would be likely be fired over if they looked up a number for other than job related reasons. Generally, the only way to obtain this information is to have a valid legal reason; then your local law-enforcement agency can assist you.
Old plates, e.g. 1920s: Records of older plates are incomplete at best, and you may not find what you're looking for. The best place to go is the department of motor vehicles for the state in question. Or, if you know of a serious collector who specializes in the state in question, they may have come across a listing of names during their years in the hobby.
Commercial publishers were responsible for publishing some of the earliest registration lists. While a very few states continued to publish lists of registration numbers as late as the 1970s, most states had abandoned these publications by World War I. In any event these publications were usually for official use rather than for public distribution.
Generally, The chances of identifying the owner of any specific plate are very small. Some state libraries or motor vehicle departments have kept this information, but only for the earliest years of registration. With the advent of computers many of the earlier records were destroyed.
- Are license plates expensive? How much will I spend to develop a good collection?
- It all depends on personal taste. Some license plates are very commonly found and therefore quite cheap. Others might be more expensive because of an unusual or desirable design, for example, N.W.T. bear-shaped plates, or Tennessee state-shaped plates. Some plates are valuable because of their scarcity, or their age. Plates from areas of low population tend to be expensive. Older plates tend to be valued higher, as do plates which have just been newly-issued. Some plates can be very expensive, but others are only a dollar or two in nice condition. There are plates out there for all budgets, whether you're a millionaire or a student working part-time.
- What happens at a license plate meet?
- License plate meets are generally held either outside or in a hall, such as a convention center or a school cafeteria. Collectors usually pay a small fee to set up a table from which they can display and trade/sell plates. In order to set up a table at a meet, you usually need to be a member of the club which is holding the meet, call the host of the meet to find out. Some meets are open to the public, so if you're curious about plates, or just want to buy some, go to a license plate meet and check out the action.
- Is ALPCA involved in collectible items other than license plates?
- ALPCA is a club for license plate collectors and it only deals with either plates themselves, or authentic plate-related items such as DAV keychain tags or tin platelets found in cereal boxes. Many ALPCAns also collect items such as road signs, highway maps or bus rolls, but these items are collected outside of ALPCA. Some collectors bring a few of these items to the license plate meets, however.
- I sent in my application and payment for membership. How long until I receive a reply?
- You should hear back from the ALPCA Secretary within 3 weeks. Your membership packet was mailed via media mail and USPS handling varies. ALPCA's Secretary handles all items involving new memberships, membership renewal, and address changes and generally responds immediately to your requests. If you have any questions, please contact the Secretary at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Is it O.K. to own U.S. government license plates?
- Unfortunately, no. Below is a statement from the GSA, clarifying the government's position:
HAVE YOU SEEN A GOVERNMENT LICENSE PLATE FOR SALE?
You can tell because it has U.S. Government printed on the face. Did you know that government license plates always remain government property? It's true. The government will always have a right to take them back so don't waste your money purchasing government plates! And if you are in possession of a government plate, you could be charged with Illegal Possession of Government Property, a violation of 18 U.S.C. § 641.
This is serious business. On March 14, 2011, the U.S. Border Patrol arrested thirteen illegal immigrants wearing U.S. Marine uniforms who were transported in a van with stolen government license plates. The van was selected for secondary inspection while attempting to go through a U.S. Border Patrol check point. The United States is on the lookout for possession of government plates by anyone outside the government. If you have government plates, you must return them. You can even do so anonymously. Contact the GSA/OIG Mid-Atlantic Regional Investigations Office at (215) 861-3550, or send them directly to: GSA/OIG, Mid-Atlantic Regional Investigations Office, 600 Arch Street, Room 4452, Philadelphia, PA 19106.
Let us know if you hear of anyone selling or trading government license plates by calling (215) 861-3550 or leaving an anonymous report at https://www.gsaig.gov/content/hotline-form.