|Scouting License Plates
|Plates in Production
License plate collecting is as old as the automobile, with some of the first porcelain license plates dating back to 1903. License plates with Scouting themes are a much more recent phenomena that are currently gaining in popularity across the nation.
Special interest license plates are created by an act of a state's legislature to support a particular group or cause. For example, in New York there are over 200 special interest license plates available for colleges, fraternities, military veterans, sports teams, the arts, the environment, Harley owners, Porsche owners, Masons, Rotary, etc., each displaying the organization's logo or other designation. A portion of the plate's proceeds is typically allocated to the special interest group. There are currently seven states and one Canadian province producing Scouting special interest plates with several others still in the design phase. (Most states require a minimum number of plates to be ordered before they are produced.) These special interest plates are listed below.
In addition to the special interest license plates that are available all the time, some states issue special event plates to commemorate a particular occasion. Illinois has issued at least five Scouting-related special event plates. Production numbers for these Illinois special event plates are usually quite limited (200 maximum) and the plates are typically valid only at the time of the event. They are: 1990 Grant Pilgrimage, 1990 Lincoln Pilgrimage, 1991 Grant Pilgrimage, 1992 Girl Scouts 80th Anniversary, and 1995 Lincoln Pilgrimage.
One relatively unknown Scouting license plate is the "Boy Scout & Orphanage" plate from Arkansas. This plate is issued to buses or trucks used exclusively for Boy Scout or orphanage purposes. There is an initial charge of $1 for the plate and then no subsequent registration fees. Plates issued from 1960-1968 had a "BSO" prefix while plates from 1969 on have "BS & O" along the bottom edge.
Booster plates, or souvenir plates as they are sometimes called, are license plates that are used by a supporter (i.e. "booster") of a particular cause or product. They are not used for automobile registration purposes. In states that do not require a front license plate, car owners will sometimes mount a booster plate onto the front of their car. The vast majority of collectible Scouting license plates fall into this category. They have been issued by councils, camps, Order of the Arrow lodges, national organizations, and individuals. Homemade booster plates are generally not sought by collectors, although some airbrushed examples can be very attractive. One homemade booster plate seen at a recent National OA Conference was essentially an enlarged color photocopy of a lodge flap that was laminated and affixed to the car's front bumper!
Of special note are the souvenir plates used at several BSA National Jamborees. In 1957, 150 sets of special Michigan license plates were issued for the National Jamboree held in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania. These special plates were affixed to complimentary Plymouth vehicles that were used by guests and VIPs. After the Jamboree, they were given away to Boy Scout VIPs and other dignitaries. At another Jamboree (1953 or 1960?) special license plates were attached to a fleet of Buicks on loan to the contingent from Flint, Michigan for driving to the Jamboree. In 1997, special license plates made by the State of Virginia were used as vehicle passes on the Jamboree site. Although not meant to be bolted to the car, they were nevertheless used by Jamboree Security as a means of controlling vehicle access. There were six series used: red - visitors, yellow BSA - National staff, yellow S - Jamboree staff, blue M - military, blue P - private vehicles, and blue V - vendors.
The last major category of Scouting license plates are vanity license plates, also called personalized plates. Most states will allow a person to order a license plate customized with a name or initials or clever message. Many Scouters take advantage of this opportunity and order plates with their troop, lodge, council, Vigil name, Wood Badge patrol, or other Scouting affiliation. Of course, it is difficult to collect plates in this category since a) vanity plate owners are usually not willing to part with their plates, and b) some states require that old plates be turned in when obtaining new ones. One could never hope to collect anything but a random sampling of this category, but fortunately, hundreds of thousands of examples are on the road today, and more are being produced daily!
Two license plates that fall outside of the above major categories above are two bicycle plates that were produced for both the Boy Scouts and the Girl Scouts. They are small, measuring 2 13/16" x 4", and simply indicate that the person is a member of the respective organizations. It is not known when these plates were issued, but a guess would be in the 1960's based on their similarity in size and construction to bicycle miniature name plates of the same era.
Two other pieces of Scouting license plate indicia are the license plate registration stickers from the Canadian province of Prince Edward Island. In 1977 and 1989, PEI hosted the Canadian National Jamboree. To commemorate these events, the PEI registration stickers in those years bore the CJ77 and CJ89 designs. The license plates themselves were otherwise unremarkable.
Please contact me with any additional information on Scouting license plates as the accompanying listing is far from complete. I would also appreciate trading or buying any of my plate needs marked with an asterisk *. For general information on license plate collecting, check the Automobile License Plate Collectors Association website. If you are interested in seeing a Scouting special interest license plate in your state, contact your local state legislator to get the process rolling, or click here to see if the mechanism to qualify a special plate already exists in your state.