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How To Get Cool Vanity Plates? (They Started The Game Of Name 33 Years Ago…)

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This Wednesday, when I tried to search for the history of Vanity Plates, I found an interesting article named Hot Plate – The Game of the Name written by Ed Lucaire which was published in 1984 in the Citywide column of New York.

After reading you will find that how people name their vanity plates with their creativity based on their Name, Job, Hobby and so on, like a doctor named his vanity plate SAY AH. Hope you will enjoy this 33-year-old article as well.

Every weekday morning during the school year, a chauffeur-driven Mercedes-Benz station wagon whisks two blue-blazered boys away from 135 Central Park West and takes them to a nearby private school. This is not particularly remarkable in New York, but the car’s license plate does arouse curiosity. A so-called vanity plate. it reads METHOD.

The station wagon belongs to the family of the late Lee Strasberg, director of the Actors’ Studio. But the plate also brings to mind a line from Hamlet and suggests that there is a method in the madness of paying a premium to have personalized license plates on one’s car. Actually, there seem to be many methods, with people celebrating their name, occupation, sport, even their favorite composer. in order to buy their way out of anonymity.

Approximately 300,000 Create-a-Plates, as the Department of Motor Vehicles calls them, have been issued in New York State, slightly under 3 percent of the cars registered here. But despite the ego of Mayor Koch. the 1978 black Oldsmobile bearing the plate KOCH is not his. It belongs to a woman named Koch who lives in East Green-bush. Mayor Koch’s plate is 4280-ALJ and is on a black Lincoln. Similarly, the plate CUOMO is on a blue Cadillac owned by a man named Cuomo (no relation to the governor) in Endicott. Governor Cuomo’s plate has the single digit “1.”

The New Jersey plate ZABAR is often seen in front of Zabar’s, on the Upper West Side, but is not owned by one of the Zabars. One of the Zabars did have ZABAR on his New York-registered Dodge Colt several years ago. but he let the plate expire.

The blue Cadillac with the plate SCAASI is in fact owned by dress designer Arnold Scaasi and is usually seen near 681 Fifth Avenue, where Scaasi’s offices are. But the 1982 Buick Riviera on Pearl Street with the plate HALSTON does not belong to the designer. The plate was issued to the owner of a racehorse named Halston. And the plate WEITZ is not owned by designer John Weitz but by a Long Island store owner.

Some people simply borrow a famous name for their car. MOZART is on a 1977 Volkswagen owned by a Hicksville man named Strauss. (STRAUSS, however. is owned by another man named Strauss.) VERDI makes his appearance on a ’76 Mercury in Lynbrook, while SIBELIUS is on an Upper West Side Saab. For music lovers so inclined, the plates LISZT, BRAHMS, DVORAK, and BERLIOZ are available.

Art lovers seem to be less represented in the world of vanity license plates. PICASSO is still out there, registered to a drive-in pizza place in Depew, but MONET has expired. CEZANNE, MATISSE, and CHAGALL are still available.

Literary figures are even rarer. THE BARD resides in Centereach, Shakespeare being three letters too long. DICKENS can be found on High Street in Yonkers, but the man who owns the car isn’t necessarily literally inclined: His name is Dickens. TOLSTOY, PROUST, KAFKA, and CAMUS are still available.

Another license-plate tactic is to list one’s occupation. DENTIST is on the ’81 Cadillac of a Bayside, Queens, dentist. A dentist in Scarsdale is more creative: His plate is CAVITY. SAY AH is owned by a doctor.

The plate RX LTD is on an ’82 Mercedes-Benz often parked in front of a drugstore on Madison Avenue. GEE CLEF is the plate on a Mercedes 600 seen frequently on East 42nd Street. The owner runs an ad-jingle company. Another Mercedes, MR WIG, belongs to the owners of a Long Island City wig-making company, and WEATHER marks the car of Robert Kovachick, a weatherman on WTEN-TV, in Albany. The plate I NSUR U, seen recently at Broadway and 84th Street, is clearly a pitch from your friendly insurance man.

Television shows seem to be popular on license plates. DALLAS, DYNASTY, and MASH are represented. of course, but even GUNSMOKE is remembered, on a 1973 Chevrolet. HILLST, by the way, is still available. But there’s at least one misleading plate: ILUVLUCY appears to be a tribute not to Lucy Ricardo but to a woman named Lucy in Lake Carmel. The obvious “love” plate-I LUV NY—was scooped up by a woman who works for the Department of Motor Vehicles in Albany.

Sports fans are a particularly demonstrative bunch. A White Plains woman declares herself a JETS FAN; KNICKS can be seen on a red BMW wending its way from Tappan to Madison Square Garden on cold winter evenings; and a dentist in Farmingville has the rather cryptic plate NYILNDRS. The YANKEES plate was owned by Billy Martin, who, naturally, let it expire. RANGERS, men, and cosmos are available now, but you’ll have to wait until September to get NETS.

Not all personalized plates are approved by the Department of Motor Vehicles. Any plate deemed “obscene, lewd, lascivious, derogatory to a particular ethnic or other group, or patently offensive” will not be issued. The cost for a New York Create-a-Plate for the first year is $20.25 over the regular registration fee, which varies by vehicle type and size, and $15 each year thereafter.

All things considered, personalized license plates are now an art form, with or without the element of vanity. The eight-letter (or -digit) license plate is a true creative challenge, like the seventeen-syllable Japanese haiku. The ultimate license plate, speaking of poetry, is on an ’83 Lincoln owned by a real-estate firm based in Hartsdale. The plate is POETIC. Now, that is license!

Recommended by Jenny, Marketing Manager at Fuwong License Plate
21th Jan. 2017

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