Our License Plate Collection

By Ken Snyder, ALPCA Member #8948

I started collecting license plates many years ago, but didn't get as involved as I am now until recently.  Now I only wished I'd have become more involved years ago!

United States
I decided that I was going to complete several collections, those being:

As I get one set of each state from 1961 and 1988 I'll probably sell or trade the other ones I have from that state.
Here's a map of the states I have plates from 1988, 1961, and states in general):

I'll update this map from time to time, this is primarily for those who have plates to sell or trade.

Since I've lived in Kansas all of my life (not counting the years I was in the service), collecting Kansas plates was a natural.  It was helped along by the fact that my mother worked for an Oldsmobile dealership and for several years carted home a huge box of dealer plates once the new year plates came out.

Over the years Kansas has had some interesting plates.  From 1913 to 1929 the plates looked the same state-wide.  In 1930, the state decided to start designating which county the car was licensed in.  The first numbers on the plate (from 1 to 105) designated the county, determined by population in 1930.  A "T" preceded the county number on plates for trucks.

Starting in 1951, Kansas decided to try something different.  On the left-hand side of the plate would be two letters, one above the other.  These would designate the county.  This was modified in 1971 when a third letter was added next to the county pair for automobiles, this would determine when the plate expired.  There were 11 letters chosen, your last name determined which initial you got and the plates expired between the months of February and December -- January was the month trailer tags expired.  For example, my family's car tags had an 'S' on them and expired in October.  Non-commercial (pickup) trucks expired in the same month as the cars but had no expiration date on them, and had "TRUCK" stamped on most of them.  This tradition kept going until 1988, with slight changes during that time.

Over the years Kansas usually issued new plates each year.  Some notable exceptions are in 1943, when the 1942 tags got a "43" tab added to them so precious steel could be saved for the war effort.  In 1944, new tags were issued, but were smaller to save steel.  When the new two-letter tags came out in 1951, tabs were used for 1952 and 1953.  In 1976 a few plates were issued in pairs -- something not done for years, and still today only done for personalized plates.  Starting in 1977, stickers were used on auto tags (trucks used stickers starting in 1976), new tags were issued in 1980 for trucks and 1981 for cars, and stickers were used on them.  In 1983, new plates were issued, but were used along with the 1980/1981 plates until 1988.  Starting in 1989, Kansas abandoned stamping the old two-letter county designator and the expiration letter into the plates for the three-letter/three-number plate style used in many other states, and the county designator, month expiration and year were stickers -- this allowed people to move within the state and just get new stickers for the county and year, plus not having to stock each county with their own personalized plates probably saved the state a buck or two.

When I started getting more involved in collecting Kansas plates, I decided to try to get one plate from each Kansas county of the 1983 to 1988 issue, and one of each of the 11 expiration letters from Wyandotte County (my home county), as well as some other unique plates of that issue.  These were the last ones stamped with the two-letter county designator on them.  Here's what one of them looks like:

This is a Douglas County plate issued for vehicles not used on highways -- I'm still learning more about these.  From what I can tell they were used on mobile homes when they were moved, and other objects that might have wheels under them but not typically used on the street.

I've even found one that isn't really a plate: it's a movie prop made to look like a Kansas plate!  Someone also listed an unstamped plate: only the background color, "Kansas" and sunflower graphics are on the plate -- definitely different!  I got that one, too.

Here's a state map, with the letters for each county.  The counties in red are the ones I have collected already (22 more to go!):

Lastly, here's a table that lists the counties, the 1930 to 1950 county numbers, and the letters used from 1951 to present:
Note: County initials in red are the counties already collected for the 1983-1988 issue (see map above)
Kansas Counties
County 1930# Letters County 1930# Letters County 1930# Letters County 1930# Letters
Allen 24 AL Finney 71 FI Linn 49 LN Rice 48 RC
Anderson 52 AN Ford 35 FO Logan 95 LG Riley 30 RL
Atchison 15 AT Franklin 21 FR Lyon 13 LY Rooks 70 RO
Barber 67 BA Geary 47 GE Marion 23 MN Rush 73 RH
Barton 33 BT Gove 88 GO Marshall 20 MS Russell 60 RS
Bourbon 17 BB Graham 76 GH McPherson 26 MP Saline 14 SA
Brown 25 BR Grant 103 GT Meade 86 ME Scott 96 SC
Butler 9 BU Gray 89 GY Miami 31 MI Sedgwick 2 SG
Chase 81 CS Greeley 105 GL Mitchell 55 MC Seward 84 SW
Chautauqua 63 CQ Greenwood 32 GW Montgomery 5 MG Shawnee 3 SN
Cherokee 10 CK Hamilton 101 HM Morris 54 MR Sheridan 87 SD
Cheyenne 82 CN Harper 51 HP Morton 94 MT Sherman 80 SH
Clark 91 CA Harvey 28 HV Nemaha 34 NM Smith 50 SM
Clay 41 CY Haskell 100 HS Neosho 22 NO Stafford 59 SF
Cloud 36 CD Hodgeman 93 HG Ness 75 NS Stanton 104 ST
Coffey 44 CF Jackson 42 JA Norton 61 NT Stevens 92 SV
Comanche 90 CM Jefferson 46 JF Osage 29 OS Sumner 12 SU
Cowley 8 CL Jewell 43 JW Osborne 56 OB Thomas 78 TH
Crawford 4 CR Johnson 19 JO Ottawa 65 OT Trego 83 TR
Decatur 74 DC Kearney 98 KE Pawnee 69 PN Wabaunsee 62 WB
Dickinson 18 DK Kingman 57 KM Phillips 58 PL Wallace 99 WA
Doniphan 45 DP Kiowa 85 KW Pottawatomie 39 PT Washington 37 WS
Douglas 16 DG Labette 11 LB Pratt 53 PR Wichita 102 WH
Edwards 79 ED Lane 97 LE Rawlins 77 RA Wilson 27 WL
Elk 68 EK Leavenworth 7 LV Reno 6 RN Woodson 72 WO
Ellis 38 EL Lincoln 66 LC Republic 40 RP Wyandotte 1 WY
Ellsworth 64 EW

If you should have a plate (in the issue I'm looking for) of any of the counties I don't already have, drop me a note -- I'm willing to deal!

Other Kansas Plates
I'm always looking for unusual Kansas plates.  Of particular interest to me are Dealer's plates from the dealership my mother worked for, the plates had "D-139-" followed by one or more letters.  I have some years in LARGE quantities (some available for sale or trade) but have several "holes" in my collection.

Another unusual plate I've found (and decided to try to get a 105-county collection of) are the "Pickup Coach" plates issued in 1968.  They were for people that had campers on their pickup trucks and were the same size as a motorcycle plate.  Here's an example of one I have:

This one is from Dickinson County, and I have the mailer it came in as well.

Here's another map showing the counties I have and the ones I'm still looking for:

I've found some plates that have the letter 'Z' beside the county initials, 'Z' isn't one of the 11 letters they normally used on the plates -- drop me a note on those.  Just about any Wyandotte County plate (#1 prior to 1951) can get my attention, the more unusual the better!

Here's a list of Kansas/Wyandotte County plates I have already and am looking for:
Kansas/Wyandotte County, Kansas Plates 1913-2003
Year Have Condition Year Have Condition Year Have Condition Year Have Condition
1913* 1937+ 1 G 1961 1&1* VG/VG 1982 1 VG
1914* 1938+ 1962 1* VG 1983 1 G
1915* 1939+ 1 F 1963 1* VG 1984 1 VG
1916* 1940+ pair G 1964 1* VG 1985 1 G
1917* 1 F 1941+ pair G 1965 1* VG 1986 1 G
1918* 1 F 1942+ 1 F 1966 1&1* w/wrapper! 1987
1919* 1 F 1943+# 1 tab F 1967 1* VG 1988
1920* 1944+ 1 VG 1968 2&1* G/G/VG 1989 1 G
1921* 1 F 1945+ 1 VG 1969 1&1* G/VG 1990 1 G
1922* 1946+ 2 G 1970 2 G/F 1991 1 VG
1923* 1947+ 1971a 1 E 1992
1924* 1948+ pair P 1971b 3 E/VG 1993
1925* 1949+ 1 G 1972 1 G 1994
1926* 1950+ 2 G/VG 1973 1 G 1995 1 G
1927* 1 F 1951 1&2pair* VG/VG 1974 1 VG 1996 1 G
1928* 1952# pair VG 1974w 1 G 1997 1 F
1929* 1953# pair VG 1975 1 VG 1998
1930+ 1954 1&pair* VG/VG 1975w 2 F/G 1999
1931+ pair F 1955 1&pair* G/VG 1976 1 G 2000 1 F
1932+ 1 F 1956 1&1* VG/1w/wrapper! 1977 1 G 2001 1 G
1933+ 1 F 1957 1* VG 1978 1 VG 2002
1934+ pair F 1958 1* VG 1979 1 VG 2003
1935+ 1 F 1959 1* VG 1980 pair rare set
1936+ 1 F 1960 1* VG 1981 1 G

Notes:* = no county designated, + = county "1", # = for 1943, 1952 and 1953 there were only tabs issued, 1971a has no large initial after the "WY", 1971b has an initial, 1974w and 1975w have "WHEAT CENTENNIAL" on the bottom of the plate.
Condition codes: E=excellent, VG=very good, G=good, F=fair, P=poor
Also, the years identified with * from 1951 to 1969 are a run that all have the same number.

The Official Resource On Kansas Plates!
While surfing the Internet one day, I found a great resource on Kansas plates, including pictures of every official Kansas plate since 1913 -- check this out:
Kansas Department of Revenue -- History of Kansas License Plates
You can't get more official than the folks responsibile for issuing license plates!

Interested In License Plate Collecting?
The one place I'd start with is joining ALPCA, the Automobile License Plate Collectors Association.  While you're on the Internet, stop by their website at www.alpca.org  It's an excellent site, and once you join there are online reference pages for each state as well as other countries.  I just joined this year, and wished I had a long time ago!

You can collect so many types of plates, the hardest part might be to decide which ones you want to collect.  There are sample plates, issued to show what the new plates look like; motorcycle plates, smaller and perhaps easier to keep if space is a concern or sets like we're working on here.  One of the fine folks I've met since I started getting more involved in collecting plates has one set of Kansas plates from 1913 (first ones issued state-wide) to the present, and has a 50-state run of plates from the year he was born!  I hope to get some collections like that someday, actually finding them is part of the fun for me!

License plates are true Americana, with each state having a little piece of their history, attractions and values out there for all to see.  What better way to decorate the garage?

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