Personalized or "vanity" plates hold a particular fascination for many people. For some, getting one for themselves is enough. For others, trying to figure out what each new plate means as it goes by becomes a pastime.
Seeing what people choose to put on a personalized plate is interesting. In my early days of my plate-watching, I had an Access database that I used to categorize plates as we spotted them. It turns out that the most common subjects on personalized plates are:
It's hard to fit all four of these onto a single plate. EDSTRK manages to fulfill the first three. I personally feel that spending the creative space on a plate on any of these topics is a waste of a good opportunity to be clever. There are exceptions, of course -- finding a punny way to cover one of these topics in a clever or hard-to-guess-and-then-the-lightbulb-goes-off kind of way can be really rewarding.
In the simple personalized plate category, there are three basic types:
The standard plate
The "caribou" plate
The "mountains" plate
The newer personalized plates on the decorative backgrounds (types II and III above) are no longer embossed, but rather simply have their letters printed directly onto the plate:
This font seems harder to read to me, especially from far away or if the plate is dirty. Embossed plates can be read even when coated with mud.
There are now also personalized Veteran plates available.
You can apply for personalized plates online.
When applying for a personalized plate, keep in mind that "O" (the letter O) and "0" (the number zero) are tracked separately. If you apply for a personalized plate in person or on the Internet, you can specify which one you want, but if you apply by mail, no clarification is asked.
There are some rules that seem to apply to personalized license plates. Many of these are rules taken straight from the DMV request form. However, there is occasionally a plate that slips through the cracks.
For example, no personalized plate is supposed to have more than six characters (also counting a space as a character), but the plates below clearly have letters and spaces that add up to seven:
Also seen: [SELL IT] [KS N OS]
Another exception is how the plates are centered. The DMV used to say that they had no way of entering this information. The new paper registration forms let you pad your requested plate with spaces in any way you'd like. You can't do this with the online form, however.
You're also not supposed to be able to get personalized plates with combinations of letters that might appear on standard plates, but there are exceptions to that rule, too:
It's actually fun to be on the lookout for plates that break the mold.
After watching plates for along time, I started to notice a specific pattern: what I like to call "aviator" plates. These plates aren't actually a separate plate type; they're just personalized plates with the identification number of an aircraft on them. There's quite a few of them on the road. Pilots are clearly proud of their aircraft.
Click on the photo for FAA Registry information about that number.
This one fits the pattern, but is not a valid tail number, so it's currently a mystery:
There's currently nothing (that I'm aware of) that prevents anyone from getting plates with the identification number of an aircraft that doesn't belong to them.
Since it's a unique number with a particular pattern (X9999X), I would like to lobby for a new plate design. This plate would honor aviation's role in the history and development of the state of Alaska. The method of registration would be similar to that of the Amateur Radio plates in that you would have to provide official documentation showing that you had been issued that tail number. Special artwork could be commissioned for the plate background.