December 12, 2017
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What’s An Old License Plate Worth?

HARWINTON, CT – What’s an old license plate for a motorcycle worth? The short answer is whatever someone will pay for it. Well, a friend desperately wanted one that’s how a $462 charge ended up on one of my credit cards Wednesday evening. Yes, $462 for a small, thin piece of metal with three numbers on it. That works out to $154 per number.

Here’s how it happened: I was doing some quick housecleaning (because some buddies were coming over to play cards on Thanksgiving eve) when the phone rang. It was the friend. He’d recently purchased a 1936 Harley-Davidson VL and had been looking for a matching-year plate for the bike.

He explained that he had just gotten off the phone with a guy cross-state who had some old plates. The guy didn’t have one to fit the bill, but had noticed that one had just popped up on eBay from a seller in Florida. It had a “Buy It Now” price of $450, plus $12 for shipping.

Being focused on readying the house for card-playing – making sure there was enough ice in the freezer was a priority – I wasn’t really clear what my friend was getting at when he explained his dilemma. He doesn’t have a computer (imagine that!) or a smart phone. He still uses a “Star Trek”-style flip phone. He’s never shopped on eBay and doesn’t know PayPal from Metrecal. (Remember Metrecal? If you don’t, Google it, and gag.)

At first, I tried to put him off, saying I’d be glad to talk more about the plate and help him on Thanksgiving morning. While other people were watching the parades on TV, I was thinking that I’d set up a PayPal account for him, get it connected to a bank account, and let him buy the license plate himself. But what if wasn’t still available?

Realizing the risk, and wanting to get back to tidying up, I walked upstairs to my office, fired up the Mac Book Pro, searched eBay for the plate, and clicked on “Buy It Now.” A few more clicks and the plate was his – or mine until he reimburses me. I printed out the purchase confirmation with picture and had it ready when my friend drove over a short time later to see what was coming in the mail.

Actually, the old license plate looks in pretty good shape. He’ll be able to attach it to his VL and ride it legally once he visits the state D.M.V.

Is $450 (or $462) too much to pay for an old license plate? Who’s to say. How many motorcycle plates from Connecticut for the year 1936 still exist? Heck, how many were originally issued? Of the ones remaining, if you could find one, how many have such a low number or start and end with the number “1”?

Given what the VL cost him, I’d say the price for the matching license plate wasn’t outrageous. To him, though, it’s priceless.

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