Speciality and personalized plates let
drivers broadcast their interests
Friday, January 2, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 3:59 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

A driver’s attention is often grabbed by a personalized license plate.

Whether laugh-out-loud funny, mind-numbingly dumb, or bewildering and baffling, each personalized plate is unique. But having one sure isn’t.

As of Dec. 4, the state of Missouri had 128,013 registered personalized license plates and another 28,878 registered specialty plates for 2003.

Missouri has 136 different specialty plates from which a person may choose. They range from a local university, such as MU, to Ducks Unlimited and the Safari Club. There are also military plates ranging from Purple Heart to Veteran of the Korean War.

Obtaining a specialty plate for an organization requires approval from both the director of the Department of Revenue and the governor. Organizations usually start by working with their senators or representatives and requesting legislation. The elected official must then propose it as a bill, which must be made law.

Once passed, the Department of Revenue must approve the design of the plate. Before the specialty plates can be made, 100 members of the group must sign up, saying they will purchase the plates.

Some plates serve a dual purpose of entertaining and advertising.

Sandy Ollar’s pink Cadillac sports the license, “S-OLLAR.”


Sandy Ollar(JEFF THOMPSON/Missourian)

“You’ve got to have advertising, and this is just an easy way to get my name out there,” said Ollar, a sales director for Mary Kay Cosmetics.

But more often, personalized plates tell something about the driver’s passions and interests.

“LitenUp” adorns the car of Nathan Semm, who pays $30 annually on top of the registration fee for his Nebraska tags.

“It comes from the book ‘Jitter Bug Perfume’ by Tom Robins, and it’s a book I enjoy a lot,” Semm says. “It’s a reference to what Albert Einstein thought the population of the world needed to do.


Nate Semm (JEFF THOMPSON/Missourian)

“The famous last words of Einstein are ‘mehr licht,’ which is German for more light, but the book suggests he was saying lichten ab, which means lighten up. It’s to remind me to lighten up and to be cool. It’s a message for everybody, not just me, though.”

Kathy Vairo’s “LK BND” plate takes some explanation just to read it.


Kathy Vairo (JEFF THOMPSON/Missourian)

“It means ‘lake-bound.’ I have a lake house at the Lake of the Ozarks, and I go there pretty much every weekend and spend the summers there, so I thought this was appropriate,” Vairo said.

Jennifer Luth’s plate is more earthbound, touching on the theme of her master’s degree for her Illinois plate, “INVTRO8.”

“My master’s degree is in reproductive physiology, and I did in vitro fertilization work in pigs to get my master’s,” Luth said.

Luth’s plate is more than just fun; it can also be practical.

“I sometimes give directions to wherever I am using my license. I tell people, ‘If you don’t see in vitro, you’re in the wrong place,’ ” Luth said.


Jennifer Luth (DON FEITEL/Missourian)

Of course, Luth’s tags haven’t always been so serious.

“My entire family has personalized plates, and this is actually my second one,” she said. “My first plate said ‘Blitz’ which is German for lightning, the name of my horse.”

Illinois vanity tags cost an additional $94 in first-time fees, and then $13 each year for renewal of the plate. The personalized plates, however, only cost an extra $14 annually on top of registration fees.

Missouri personalized licenses require an annual fee of $15 added to the registration fee. Specialty plates are the same, but may require an additional donation fee to the organization the plate is from.

With a total of 156,891 specialty and personalized license plates registered in Missouri as of Dec. 4, the Department of Revenue has collected $2,353,365 this year. But this number changes daily as the number of registered vehicles with fun and informative plates changes.

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