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The "Holy Grail" of Antique License Plates

by Nancy DeWitt

It would be easy to fill a car museum with automobilia, which are artifacts and collectibles associated with motor cars. Indeed, I have visited several museums that have amazing collections of such memorabilia, ranging from gas station signs and headlights to hood ornaments and dash clocks. Some were pleasingly displayed together in cases (like these robe rails and assist straps at the Nethercutt Museum), while others cluttered up the place so much my brain about exploded trying to absorb everything.

We have a few automotive artifacts and small collections on display, including a Tokheim gas pump, radiators and a nice collection of spark plugs. We really don't have room for a lot of additional automobilia, as our walls are mostly dedicated to historic motoring photos from Alaska's post-Gold Rush era. Because we are frequently moving automobiles off the floor and onto the road, we are limited as to how many additional items we can display alongside the cars. Plus, our 100+ historic fashions take up a fair amount of display space.

There are, however, a few items we would love to add to our museum, including an antique electric car wall charger and certain Alaska automobilia, including license plates. Alaska didn't start issuing license plates for all motor vehicles until 1921, 38 years before the Territory was granted statehood. Only a handful of these 1921 plates are known to exist, making them among the rarest plates in the world. One was sold in 2000 for an astonishing $40,000, and its value today is probably close to $60,000.

I have only seen one collection of Alaska historic license plates, and recently found this one on-line. Neither one contains the 1921 issue. So, check your grandparents' sheds to see if another one of these rare plates exists. If you find one, we'd be happy to display it for you!
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