The Way Cool License Plate Book

Reviewed: December 27, 2002
By: Leonard Wise
Publisher: Firefly Books
64 Pages, $9.95

A book like this would not have come into being without the rise of the so-called “vanity plate”. This is such a recent innovation in the history of vehicle registration that it might not occur to mostly of us that it’s really a return to the origins of the plate.

“In 1901,” writes Leonard Wise, “ (the licence plate) was nothing more than the owner’s initials painted on the back of the vehicle.” The size and shape of these letters was standardized for the ease of the police, and vehicles were assigned registration numbers. At that point, these were painted or fastened to a plate that was still owner made.

It only took two years for the state (Massachusetts, in this case) to get into the act and issue the first metal plates. It was 1937 before the vanity plate began to make a comeback, no doubt made possible by the improvements in record keeping technology during the interim.

This is a book full of pictures of vanity plates. Near the beginning of the book Wise presents a collection of licence plate based travel games (rainbow bingo, alphabet hunt, EZ Bingo, etc.) to help harried parents survive the rigours of the family trip, but the main purpose of the book is to collect and present pictures of clever and amusing combinations of letters and numbers.

As the promotional material for the book suggests, lots of plates are selected by their owners JST4FUN and using some of the ideas in the books will make it just as EZ AS PI to travellers to have fun with them, too.

While the author is Canadian, the vast majority of these plates are American. Wise has assembled his collection in categories. From occupations we have I FIX-BAX (a chiropractor), BOWK4U (a florist), HIZZONR (a judge), K9 TUTTR (dog trainer), CGOOD (an optometrist) and REALST8 (a realtor).

Other categories include animals, sports terms, exclamations, car terms and sayings. If you do have a long trip in your future, this book might come in handy. You might as well GO4IT; it could be an XLNT choice.