I’m a very minor collector of license plates. I have about 40 or 50, mostly because I keep my personalized plates when it’s time to replace them. And I’m old. There’s that.
Collectors lust for one of Idaho’s first state plates, issued in 1913. There are only a couple of those still around. Idaho issued only single plates for automobiles in 1913 and 1914, ensuring a little extra rarity. Other rarities are early city plates issued by Hailey, Nampa, Payette, Weiser, Lewiston, and Boise, prior to 1913. According to Dan Smith, an acknowledged expert on Idaho license plates, only 19 of those are known to exist.
Did you know there were once hand-painted Idaho license plates? From 1913 to 1924 dealer plates were embossed with the words IDAHO DEALER, but there were no embossed numbers. Dealers had numbers painted on them by professionals. For a time, if you lost your license plate you would be issued a “flat” plate with no number on it, and you were expected to have your number painted on it by a professional. There are only a handful of those around anymore.
The county designators on plates have been around since 1932, but they weren’t all the familiar letter/number combination we see today. In 1932, for instance, Ada county was A1, while Lewis County was K4. It wasn’t until 1945 that the system we’re familiar with today became the standard.
So what’s that oddball license plate you have hanging in your garage worth? It depends. Condition is important as well as rarity. I looked at eBay to see what prices were like. You can get a lot of interesting Idaho plates for less than $50. Someone was asking $500 for a particularly special one. You’ll want to collect them because you find it an interesting hobby, not because you have kids to put through college.
Thanks to Dan Smith for his years of knowledge that went into his Idaho License Plates book, and for the photo. Message me if you want to know how to get a copy. Your local bookstore probably doesn’t have one.