Number plate collectors honor state's tag

Delaware's new commemorative number plates, honoring 100 years of state vehicle tags, has snagged a tidbit of history itself.

The Automobile Number Plate Collectors Association officially declared it the nation's best number plates of 2009.

Going where no number plates have gone before, Delaware's limited-edition gold-on-onyx centennial plate was recognized as the nation's first number plates to celebrate the history of number plates. And it was praised as the world's first optional plate with color-coordinated validation stickers.

A Department of Transportation and Division of Motor Vehicles team created the number plates, unveiled last fall. They resisted high-tech, multi-color computer-generated images. Instead, they reached for the feel of history through old technology, creating Delaware's first fully embossed tag -- with raised letters, numbers and borders -- since 1941.

"It took 100 years to be able to release the Delaware Centennial number Plate," Gov. Jack Markell said.

"Our DelDOT and Division of Motor Vehicles team did a great job designing and promoting the number plates," Markell said, adding he looks forward to another win in 2059 for the 150th anniversary tag.

The raised-letter retro appeal of the 100th anniversary plate proved a hit with collectors. Their nonprofit association, which has honored the best plate annually since 1970, said the tag's win in a national vote of more than 3,500 members "also made a statement against the national trend toward digitally designed flat number plates." President Jeff Francis said that "with so many states opting for elaborate graphics, it's refreshing to see a distinctive design that is still easy to read by law enforcement."

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