Sep/Oct 2021 edition
Issue #18 AutoMobilia Resource Magazine
Photos and story by Michael Wiener
I began collecting license plates in 1972, right after graduating high school and making my first cross-country trip. As an active member of the Automobile License Plate Collectors Association (ALPCA) for 49 years, I got hooked on collecting political plates, from the first time I observed low-number political plates during a visit to Washington, D.C. To me they are very unique.
Of course, anything coveted and derived from official governmental action is apt to be turned into a reward for political support. So, it was in the early part of the 20th century, that low-number license plates became a way for politicians to say “thank you” by conveying favored status to the holders of such plates in the eyes of the powers that be. Law enforcement was likely to think twice before ticketing a motorist displaying a low-numbered plate.
New York low numbers / some Political Types: Some Rare and Historic plates from the Empire State. 1937 “NYC” was issued and used by NY City’s most famous Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia, the 1951 #1 was used by Governor Thomas E. Dewey, 1963 #1 from Gov. Nelson Rockefeller, #4 and #5 were issued to former NY Governor’s after they left office. Photo by Michael Wiener.
Massachusetts drivers have had a strange obsession with low-number license plates from the very beginning, nearly 120 years ago, as a point of pride and to highlight their Bay State family lineage. Governor Michael Dukakis continued the trend of handing out low-number combinations to political supporters – until a week before he decided to run for President. Then he fired his Registrar of Motor Vehicles, Alan Mackey, for giving out low-number plates to friends and relatives and instituted a very popular Low Plate Lottery, where any Massachusetts motorist is now given an equal chance to get a low-numbered plate, bringing the political favoritism tradition to an end.
Look for more political plates in Part II!
To read more great columns like this one from License Plate Expert Michael Wiener...