Tuesday, September 6, 2011

A Property Interest in License Plates

I've never had an easy-to-remember license plate number.  It's always some alphabet soup that requires a horrible mnemonic to recall. 

If only I lived in Delaware.  Delaware is one of the few states that grants its citizens a property interest in their license plate numbers.  Car owners can bequeath or even sell their licenses to other owners.  The state reserves license plate number "1" for the governor, number "2" for the lieutenant governor, and number "3" for the secretary of state; The rest are up for grabs.  At auction, three-digit plates can fetch $50,000 and two-digit plates can bring over $200,000.  In 2008, plate number 6 was sold for $675,000 (see video):

No other state grants as many rights in plates as Delaware, but Massachusetts and Rhode Island come close.  In both of those states, low number plates cannot be sold, but they can be transferred to relatives.  Leave it to D.C. to take something cool and make it crooked.  In the District, the mayor has discretion to dole out numbers 1 through 1250.

Steve Clowney


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