Collecting Political and Low-Number License Plates

New York Governor

New York Governor

Kentucky Chief Justice

Kentucky Chief Justice

Ever since the days of early motor vehicle registration there has always been fierce competition amongst drivers to obtain a low-number license plate. In many states, to many motorists, bearing a low-number plate has an instant connotation of status, power, wealth, and even political connections. While there are some states where this phenomenon is more prevalent than others, here I will examine the collectability of the elusive political license plate.

Arkansas House Parlament

Arkansas House Parlament

Arkasas House of Representatives

Arkansas House of Reps

Arkansas Secretary of State

Ark. Secretary of State

Arkansas Speaker of the House

Ark. Speaker of the House

Arkansas Senator

Arkansas Senator

Connecticut Congress

Connecticut Congress

Idaho Governor

Idaho Governor

Illinois House

Illinois House

As soon as license plates were adopted for use on automobiles, very often it was the governor, motor vehicle commissioner or some other political person of influence who would receive low-number license plates. It is true that traditionally the governor of each state does receive a license plate bearing the number one. As time passed, and the number of license categories has proliferated (i.e. passenger car, bus, truck, motorcycle, veteran, senate, purple heart, handicapped, etc.), we now have low-number and number one license plates for many of these categories. Here I will use the state of Rhode Island as a prime example. In Rhode Island, not only does the governor use the number one registration (this particular plate bearing the number one flanked by two state seals), but look at the other categories of number ones: Sheriff, U.S. Senate, U.S. House, School Bus, Purple Heart, Ex Prisoner of War, News Photographer, State Police , etc.). Collectors always get excited over a number one license plate, and when it comes to collectability, it seems that the political plates are the most sought after. In our post September 11th world, fewer political figures are using political license plates. Many simply do not want to be a possible target of an attack or crime, and therefore prefer to keep a low profile. As such, political license plates have become a bit mores scarce these days. Of course, those using these plates never seem to have a problem when it comes to parking! Number one and or governor license plates can usually be found in nice condition and, depending on the state, can sell for between $50 and $500 each. Senate and legislative plates with higher numbers can often be found for as little as $15-$25 each. Often a collector will ask the political figure to autograph the license plate.

Idaho U.S. Representative

Idaho U.S. Rep.

North Carolina House

North Carolina House

New Hampshire Governor

N.H. Governor

Maine Horseless Carriage

Maine Horseless Crg.

Tennessee Legislature

Tennessee Legislature

New York U.S. Congress

N.Y. U.S. Congress

Tennessee U.S. Senate

Tennessee U.S. Senate

New York U.S. Senate

New York U.S. Senate

In the low-number realm, certain states have a policy that allows a low-number plate to be willed to a family member (this is true in almost all of the New England states) and others, such as Delaware, have a policy that dictates that a license plate remains with the vehicle when the vehicle is sold. As a direct result, Delaware has created a scenario where the pursuit of a low-number plate is somewhat of a religion. Often, one can see a vehicle for sale for several thousands dollars more than its true worth, simply because there is a hefty premium on the attached low-number license plate. On Feb. 7, 2008 the number six registration was sold in Delaware for a record $675,000. It is important to note here that in these cases it is the rights to the registration and not the actual license plate as a collectible is what command such a high price.

Rhode Island Governor

Rhode Island Governor

Rhode Island House

Rhode Island House

Rhode Island Purple Heart

R.I. Purple Heart

Rhode Island Sheriff

Rhode Island Sheriff

Rhose Island U.S. House

Rhose Island House

Rhode Island U.S. Senate

Rhode Island Senate

Rhode Island State Police

R.I. State Police

New Jersey Governor

New Jersey Governor

So you may ask at this point, what license plate does the president of the United States use in the District of Columbia? Currently, President Barack Obama’s car (alias The Beast) bears a generic Washington, D.C. license plate. It is actually the Mayor of Washington .D.C., Adrian M. Fenty, who is assigned the number one license plate!

Maine Indian Representative

Maine House Indian Representative

Maryland House of Delegates

Maryland House of Delegates

Rhode Island News Photographer

Rhode Island News Photographer

New Hampshire Governor's Council

New Hampshire Governor's Council

Texas U.S. Senate

Texas U.S. Senate

Utah U.S. Senator

Utah U.S. Senator

Vermont Senate

Vermont Senate

Utah Governor

Utah Governor

Political and low-number plates are interesting and challenging categories for collectors of both license plates and political memorabilia. If these areas is of particular interest to you, be prepared to write a lot of letters!

Andy Bernstein is a Worthologist who specializes in collectible license plates.

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No Comments

  1. Andy,
    Once again and interesting and informative article. I wonder how many people will guess (I tweeted the question) the number on license plates that gets people excited.
    Thanks Andy.

  2. J.N.K says:

    Mr. Bernstein.

    Again, I must thank you for such great information on what is fast becoming a subject that my sons & I feel we could share as a small past time, there is very little nowadays that a father & three boys could get involved with that isn’t plucgged into a wall socket or an LCD / Plasma screen.

    The more we read your articles here, the more we are looking forward to discovering all we can about the history & production of plates within the USA & perhaps further afield.

    J. Naipier-Kane.

  3. Kevin says:

    in the state of connecticut, it is a citizen not the governor that has plate # 1 and it is AWESOME….if you google it, you will see it on flickr……great, great article….

  4. Hi I’m looking to find out who owned u.s. senate license plate#2 from R. I. 1966 and what it might be worth any help would be greatly appreaciated