Wednesday, December 8, 2004

Playing Tag

Florida has added eight new license plates to its tag collection, bringing to 97 (!) the total number of different types of specialty plates available from the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles.

The proceeds from the $25 plates go to nonprofit groups, but many residents simply want to choose a tag to match their car, said Michael Towner, a British-born marketer from Boca Raton who is promoting the new Lennon, Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and soccer tags.

He said research has shown that of the 1.2 million car owners who buy specialty plates in Florida, 72 percent are sold based on the color of the plate. For example, the “wildfire” plate goes on Volkswagen bugs, the “Save the Whales” tag goes on blue Mercedes, he said.

“People spend a lot of money on their cars,” Towner said. “This is one more accessory.”

For the organizations promoting them, these accessories can translate into money. The state collected a total of $25 million last year on specialty tags, with the largest percentage benefiting the preservation of the Florida panther.

Among the new ones: The “Family Values” tag benefits Sheridan House, a Christian-based program that serves children with behavioral problems and their families in Fort Lauderdale. The “Imagine” tag, which features a line-drawing portrait of Lennon, done by the musician in his youth, benefits Florida’s food bank program for the needy. And the “Support Soccer” tag benefits the development of youth and adult soccer programs in Florida. [Miami Herald]

The theory behind this flood of special plates is that it will raise funds for the non-profit groups they advertise, but I think it’s just because the regular plates are unattractive. I have the old standard Florida tag on the Mustang. Fortunately I missed out on getting the new one with the state’s website on it; it’s just plain ugly, and the twin oranges with the branch look like…well, I’ll let you draw your own conclusions. I have the State of the Arts plate on the Pontiac. It has two advantages: it supports the arts and it’s virtually unreadable from a distance.

(Thanks to my friend David Nicholson at for the additional pictures of the plates. Check out his site; it’s a cool collection of license plates from 1969 onward.)