Just 32 items – including 354, C122 and PC65 – will finish Jordan Irazabal’s 13-year quest for photos of Delaware’s lowest license plates, which often have tremendous sentimental and cash value.
It all began in 2007 when he saw a cool D7 tag on a car, and it accelerated when 6 sold for $675,000 early in 2008. First with a spreadsheet, and now with The Delaware 3000 website, plus Instagram and a Facebook with 7,000 followers, he pursues photos of plates 1-1000, C1-C1000 and PC1-PC1000.
It’s all for fun, with the idea of creating a coffee-table book when he finishes, said Irazabal, a native of New Jersey (“one of the least plate-conscious states in the country”) who moved to Delaware in 2001. He now lives and works in Wilmington.
One wall of his home showcases part of his personal collection, in chronological columns: tags for government vehicles, tags for towed vehicles, vanity plates, handicapped plates and motorcycle tags.
Irazabal owns two vehicles with five-digit tags hidden behind vanity tags, one showing he’s a Salesianum alumnus and the other saying OMG GO, as in oh my God, just go!
He’s asking for help completing the collection, although his determination and diligence means that he already knows “a lot about the ones that are missing.”
He’s researched plates through Carfax, sometimes posting the town, make, model and year of vehicles with plates on his wish list.
He’s become friends with other “productive and meaningful” fans who’ve shared photos of plates.
And he’s also reached out to people he’s learned have the tags he needs. “The vast majority are very open and sometimes proud, especially downstate,” he said. But some deny they own the tags or say they don’t want their tags photographed.
Eight of his targeted tags are not registered to vehicles, the Department of Motor Vehicles told him. Delaware also allows owners who ask to retain low-digit tags after the vehicle has been sold, which means that some finds could be stashed out of sight, saved for another generation.
Still, he perseveres.
Delaware issues multiple types of vehicle tags, and Irazabal pursue the main ones: Plain numbers, C tags (standing for commercial, starting in 1923) and PC tags (pleasure or commercial, starting in 1953).
The cachet with low-digit tags starts with a single 1, for the governor. The lieutenant governor gets 1, and the secretary of state gets 3. One family owns three of the other tags with just a single digit in a collection that in 2016 included 17 plates valued at over $3 million, Philadelphia magazine reported.
To many buyers and sellers of low-digit tags, they imply deep roots in Delaware.
Irazabal’s website also collects photos of the first 100 of tags starting with D (dealer), FT (farm truck), HP (handicapped), MC (motorcycle), MP (moped), RV (recreational vehicle) and T (trailer). Another page highlights even more varieties. And a recent Instagram post tracks sale prices.
Residents of only a few states – such as Illinois, Virginia and most of New England, he said – share Delawareans’ fixation and fascination with low-digit tags.
Consider the Delawarean who told Irazabal that someone once stopped her at a traffic light and offered her $1,000,000.00 for 5. In cash. She turned him down.