Ted Smith, 80, of Savannah, Ga., displayed a picture of himself at 4 on a tricycle with a license plate.
“Everybody wants to know if I still have that plate,” he said. “No, I don’t, but I have the picture. I can‘t say I was a collector in 1934 when the picture was taken, but I did have a plate then, so I‘ve had interest for all these years.”
He is selling off much his collection because his family doesn’t share his interest. He once had a complete run of Georgia plates dating back to 1914, but he sold it.
“I had a real good offer,” he said. “It took me 15 years to get a complete set, but now I’m reducing everything I have.”
One of Smith’s favorite tags is the Georgia “American Eagle,” because it is patriotic and it’s a nice plate.
“The hummingbird is a nice plate, but I guess my favorite is the drunk-driver plate,” he said. “If you’re convicted of drunk driving in Georgia, they take your plate away and they give you one of these ‘AI’ series.”
Robert and Roberta Robinson drove three hours from Liberty to the show. It is one of the four events they attend during the year. The couple travels to Indiana twice a year and once to Crossville. The Robinsons began collecting about 10 years ago. He likes plates shaped like states. Roberta began collecting Tennessee “sunshine plates” because she tired of setting at the booth. Her goal is to build a set of all 95 counties. She needs 30 more to complete the “run” or set.
Craig Hardesty became interested about 15 years ago when a college friend nailed a couple of tags to the wall in the dorm room.
“I thought it was incredibly neat,” he said.
He drove to Cleveland from Bradenton, Fla., mainly because he didn’t have anything else to do over the weekend and thought it would be a fun thing to do. Besides, he sees the same people all the time at Florida shows. He just took the opportunity to go outside the area and meet different people.
His collection has grown to about 200 license plates. He brought a display of West Virginia plates and some from the Caribbean.
Patsy Hamby and June Williams, both of Harriman, sat at the booth while their husbands, Tom and J. D., visited some of the 39 booths in the room. Tom Hamby began in 1959 with Tennessee plate 33-0125. June’s husband started in 1946 when he pulled the tag off their car the year they married.
The following are some tidbits about license plates Joe Sharp gleaned from newspapers:
- County Court Clerk Asbury W. Rogers reporting only about 300 of 1,400 vehicles in Bradley County had their 1923 license numbers.
- The words “front” and “rear” will be printed on the plates for 1926 to prevent “splitting” the number sets.
- Tennessee was one of the leading states in reduced gas consumption, in large part due to the high gasoline tax charged by the state, being seven cents a gallon. Many cars were “put up.” According to statistics, there were 50,051 cars registered in 1932 in the State of Tennessee than in 1931.
- The design of the 1957 tags was described as “much criticized” in a contemporary newspaper article. “Police have had difficulty in reading the small county identifications on the 1957 plates. It was also reported that the white-on-black color scheme of the 1957 plates was difficult to spot on cars of certain colors.