Lines formed down sidewalks and wrapped around corners at four Delaware DMV locations this morning as hundreds turned out to scoop up a limited supply of 5-digit tags.
By 10 am, three locations – Wilmington, Delaware City and Georgetown were all out of the free 5-digit license plates. And Dover ran out before lunchtime.
“The fact that we ran out of plates in 3 locations as quickly as we did – that’s a first for us,” said Shelley Koon, chief of communications of the Delaware Division of Motor Vehicles.“We didn’t realize this was going to happen until the last 48 hours. The media were calling our office and DelDOT, and it generated an enormous amount of interest in the giveaway and sale.”
Koon said traditionally DMV offers a statewide release of 5-digit tags at Christmas time to help ease the cost for many who buy the plates as a gift. At those events (usually held in November) they never run out the first day, and they often have 5-digit tags at some offices two weeks after the release.
Richard Brisita, a 28-year-old two-car owner from Claymont, stood in line at the Delaware City DMV today. He already has a black and white stainless steel 5-digit tag and a blue and gold tag but says he has wanted to “trade up” to 5-digit black and white porcelain tags for the last six years.
Today was his lucky day.
“Every time I heard of an event at DMV or somewhere else, I would go, and they were always sold out. Today I arrived at the Delaware City DMV at 7:40, and by the time I walked inside, I got ticket number C147. Today I finally got mine,” said Brisita.
When asked why it was so important for him to land a black and white tag, Brisita remarked, “To me, this is just a Delaware thing, and everyone wants one. They’re just fascinating, and they make the car look good.”
Delaware DMV reports that the first in line at the Dover location arrived at 2 am, and the first in line at Delaware City staked their spot at Midnight. People sat in beach chairs, brought coolers of food and drink, and many brought a good book or a friend along to keep them company.
And they waited.
Others who landed tags said the lines were ‘really insanely long’ — much longer than usual for a DMV giveaway. But at the Delaware City location, all of the registers were open, so people were processed quickly once doors opened.
Because black and white tags in either finish are made to order, only blue and gold 5-digit tags were distributed today. Those who own the title to their cars left with 5-digit tags that they can pay to convert to black and white.
For those who do not own their cars outright, the Delaware DMV reserves 5-digit tag numbers in their name while drivers process paperwork with title holders. The Delaware Historic Tag company will then produce the porcelain black and white tags for $115 each. (Stainless steel and porcelain cost the same.)
DMV’s Koon says she won’t know how many 5-digit tags were distributed today until tomorrow. She added that because many plates are put “on hold” and are awaiting titles from lien holders, “There is no real way to look in the system to see what we actually assigned to customers.”
John Wakefield, who runs Delaware Tag Traders, says today’s release will most likely flood the market, but it won’t cripple the value of the 5-digit tags. “Values for 5-digit black and white tags will be soft for a couple of months. But over the next few months the interest in the secondary market will climb as most will hold onto the tags they purchased today,” he said.
Wakefield says values for 5-digit black and white tags range from $700 for a higher number to $1500 for a lower number or one with repeating numbers.