Michael Wiener of Albuquerque New Mexico Answers Three Common Questions About Collecting License Plates
Automobile license plate collecting has been popular ever since the use of motor vehicles began, and state authorities started systems of registering vehicles for use on public roadways. In this article, world-renowned automobile license plate expert Michael Wiener of Albuquerque New Mexico answers three of the most commonly asked questions he receives about collecting license plates throughout the U.S. and around the world.
Why Do People Collect License Plates?
License plate collecting attracts fans who are interested in rare and valuable items, but the hobby is especially attractive to those who enjoy history, politics, geography, and networking/fellowship with other collectors. License plate collecting can easily become a lifetime passion, with unlimited opportunities for travel, research, and meeting other collectors and sources of collectible plate information.
Certain plates are highly sought after, and avid collectors crave the excitement that comes from making a spectacular find in an old barn or garage. The stories that collectors accumulate over the years make for as many memories and shareable moments as the actual license plates they collect.
License plates are physical monuments of the political history of local, state, and national governments across the world. Those who are interested in the story that each plate can tell about what was happening at some time in the past in particular jurisdictions find the fascination of collecting and understanding the entire series of plates and special commemorative items irresistible.
How Do People Get Started in License Plate Collecting?
The U.S. is clearly the best country in the entire world to start collecting license plates. The U.S. has been the most car-obsessed country since the dawn of motor vehicles and has produced more automobiles that have been used in multiple different states than anywhere on Earth. For many years, each state issued new metal license plates every year for each automobile. Most people throughout the motor vehicle era have not thrown out old plates but have kept them somewhere in garages or barns. The ample supply of general license plates means that a new collector can start finding plates at reasonable prices close to home almost all the time.
An excellent resource for anyone interested in beginning a license plate collection is a local or national license plate collecting or hobby club, with the largest and most popular is the ALPCA, the Automobile License Plate Collectors Association. Collectors clubs and associations are typically great resources for classified ads and other ways of obtaining specific plates.
Where Do Collectors Find License Plates for Their Collections?
Like most collectors of old and valuable items, license plate collectors develop hunting skills for finding plates in antique stores, garage and estate sales, and automotive shows. Local flea markets and general swap meets often have old license plates for sale.
The ALPCA and other clubs organize regional swap meets for collectors to get together and trade, sell and purchase plates. Recent advances in online selling and trading have made eBay and other online auction and sales sites the most popular ways for collectors to shop from the comfort of home.
Many collectors are interested in sample license plates, and the Department of Motor Vehicles offices across the country are usually available online or by telephone to provide information on obtaining plates directly from a particular governmental entity.
About Michael Wiener:
Michael C. Wiener of Albuquerque New Mexico is a world-renowned license plate collector, researcher, and consultant. He is considered to be America’s leading authority regarding automobile license plates and motor vehicle licensing systems. By the time he was 23, he had visited all 50 states and has now explored over 100 countries across the globe. Mr. Wiener was elected as an Albuquerque City Councilor, a New Mexico State Senator, and a Bernalillo County Commissioner. He was elected twice as International President of the Automobile License Plate Collectors Association (ALPCA), and has been featured on HGTV’s Offbeat America,” CNBC News with Brian Williams, and appeared in an episode of AMC’s Breaking Bad and was featured in New Mexico Magazine. Michael serves as a consultant for motor vehicle departments, law enforcement agencies, and television and motion picture producers on subjects related to motor vehicles and automobile plate history. He has been nominated twice, by his peers, to the ALPCA Hall of Fame and was given the “Outstanding Leadership” Award by the Mid Region Council of Governments in 2013.