My License Plate Fetish

Everyone should have a hobby, right? Mine is collecting license plates. Well, OK, not quite: I don’t go around swiping license plates off cars or buying them at estate sales. I live in a studio apartment and what disposable income I’ve got mostly goes to the dog. There’s no space or money for collecting tangible objects.

What I do is spot license plates. Every January 1 for the last 22 (approx.) years I’ve started with a blank map. The goal is to spot at least one of every state’s license plates before the year runs out. I’ve achieved this goal, I think, once: North Dakota is the perennial spoiler, the one I’ve spotted exactly twice in those 22 years. But I keep trying.

For some background on my little obsession, see License Log, the newest page on From the Seasonally Occupied Territories.

2011 was a pretty good year. The only states I didn’t score were Idaho, Alaska, and — you guessed it — North Dakota. If you’re on Martha’s Vineyard and you spot a North Dakota license plate, message, e-mail, or phone me, OK?

Here’s my map/log of the year just past:

About Susanna J. Sturgis

Susanna edits for a living, writes to survive, and has been preoccupied with electoral politics since 2016. She just started a blog about her vintage T-shirt collection: "The T-Shirt Chronicles." Her other blogs include "From the Seasonally Occupied Territories," about being a year-round resident of Martha's Vineyard, and "Write Through It," about writing, editing, and how to keep going.
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6 Responses to My License Plate Fetish

  1. Sara Piazza says:

    I used to do this as a kid in Edgartown – the island is a veritable license plate spotter’s paradise. I guess you could score big-time by planting yourself at the SSA ramp while the ferry unloads.


  2. Great way to have a collection if you have no storage room. We’ve gotten to the point that if I enter the house with anything in my hands my husband says, “What are you going to get rid of?” He swears our home is a super saturated solution about to happen!


  3. I don’t recall exactly when I started doing this, but I seem to always notice where a car is from by looking at its license plate. It could have begun during my summers on the Vineyard when I was young, where it wasn’t unusual to see cars from all over the country, including Canada.
    Great hobby…and inexpensive too!



    • Cheap is definitely a plus. 😉 Back when most Mass. plates were either all numbers or 3 numbers + 3 letters, I could usually figure out which plates were issued on the island or the Cape. Then the combos got more complicated and the patterns were harder to see, so I gave up. A couple I once worked for had two vehicles. One’s plate ended with EPA and the other’s with CIA. Cracked me up.


  4. Jill Lane says:

    What fun! I used to do a project like this with my students to get them to learn the states. I may join you in keeping track of my sightings this year.


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