The Top 10

1. WYOMING 1978 base

WY-17 3 BD

It’s the rustic fence background behind the state name and year, the iconic bucking bronco, the low fence with opening welcoming us into the corral, the font, and the color scheme which seems to match the state perfectly…this base is my favorite plate of all.

2. MICHIGAN US Bicentennial base

MI-DFC727

Take a whole plate and convert it into a miniature resemblance of an American flag. For some reason, it just seems genius. And with the entirety embossed, it makes the features stand out more boldly, capturing the spirit of the flag–and America itself.

3. FLORIDA Challenger

FL AHR 471

This plate remembers the space shuttle Challenger disaster of 1986. As far as the design goes, the band of orange exhaust, puffy white clouds, baby blue sky, along with the majestic rise of the shuttle and script at the bottom is a beautiful combination. But in historical context, the plate serves as an important forerunner of the specialty boon, pays tribute to American history, and acts as a sobering reminder that mankind is both infinitely intelligent–and entirely too fragile.

4. TENNESSEE State Parks

TN-EV0778

This specialty plate, a redesign of a prior version, is cast in lovely shades of purple, periwinkle, and light blue. The curvature of both the state name and slogan, and the neat fit of the prefix and serial between the flowers, adds appealing symmetry.

5. ALASKA US Bicentennial base

AK-ARW 265

This base has a standing Kodiak bear separator with shaded tan mountains and a large, red, embossed state name is proud and appealing without overstating.

6. MARYLAND War of 1812 base

MD-7AM0075

This Maryland base plate is a stunning tribute to the place and time which inspired Francis Scott Key to write “The Star-Spangled Banner.” The perspective of the flag flying over Fort McHenry, burst of red firework on the upper right, and fonts and color scheme all bring that place and time vibrantly to life.

7. PENNSYLVANIA U.S. Constitution optional

PA ^US^03648

This plate was on my “White Whale” list for a looong time until I acquired it at the ALPCA International Convention in (fittingly) Valley Forge, PA. It was available only for a limited time in 1987, and is highly sought after by collectors.

8. CALIFORNIA Olympic Games optional

CA ^US^08330

Few plates catapulted my interest in license plates as a youth as much as this one did. Issued only in 1984, with about 1,000 pairs sold, it was an extra-cost optional. For a hefty $100, motorists could show state pride as Los Angeles, California hosted the 1984 Summer Olympics.

9. ARKANSAS AGFC Black Labrador

AR ^GF^EHZ

The Arkansas Game & Fish Commission has helped produce a series of lovely plates depicting various species of wildlife, but the best in my opinion is of a domesticated animal in a wildlife setting.

10. FLORIDA Protect Wild Dolphins

FL DG32J

A playful dolphin leaps out of a pretty blue ocean, arching over a yellow sun against a yellow, orange, and red sky. This plate has enough of a cute factor and enough realism to make it a gem.

 

Honorable Mention:

CALIFORNIA 1982 Sun base

CA 2BWY547

California has managed to squeak out just one graphic general issue base (it actually started as an optional) in its long history, but when it did it was a true winner–with just a few simple orange bands, a sun, stylized red font, a blue serial, and a slogan it perfectly reflected the sun ‘n fun culture of The Golden State in the 1980s.

 

More Favorites (In progress – this is not complete by any means):

AK ECG 330AZ-EGZ 424CT 392-LBSFL-RAA 845FL PAA 687ID-3982FIN-57(A)5362IN 94(J)5338KS UCNDOITKS BUFLO BKS-OBV 103KY-XND 370KY 5282^EX^KY 2968^EV^LA-437A604LA ^EE^ 3835MD 874 AEYMT-ABQ-688NV-AR3314NV-798-BBC (2)NV ^PF^0416ND-KE602OK 027 OKSheader testPA ^RC^497JPN-MHB 419SC-JZX 479TN AAT-488VA 194 454PE 38-722US 59446MX UUW-35-04