Legislators look to profit from license plates
April 18, 2011
In Summit County, local longevity is its own kind of status.
Among the longtime locals, there are the select few who have earned the right to wear that status on the front and rear bumpers of their cars.
ZL and ZR license plates were once the unique stamp of a Summit County car. Or ZB in Grand County.
When the state switched to a new alpha-numeric system, many residents were reluctant to give up their distinctive ZL, ZR or ZB license plates, so lotteries were held to determine who got to keep the plates. The winners now wear the letters with pride and rarely give them up – even as they fade with time.
Today, with the letters completely out of production, a ZL or ZB plate is one example of a plate that might be worth its weight in gold.
Colorado legislators are betting on it.
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The state Senate approved a bill Thursday that would organize a group to administer the marketing and auctioning of current and expired plates and numbers as a way of alleviating budget shortfalls.
“What we are doing is discovering old plates’ numbers that may have historical value and auctioning them off to people who see value in them,” bill sponsor Rep. Jim Riesberg, a Greeley Democrat, told The Denver Post.
The bipartisan House Bill 1216 is based on an idea that has worked in other states. Texas has garnered more than $2.5 million selling vanity plates, while in Delaware – a state where the plates were numerically ordered, making lower numbers more unique and popular – a plate with the number 11 went for $675,000.
In Colorado, the money raised through license plate sales would subsidize services for the disabled, a budget that has been hacked away in recent years, resulting in a waiting list for services of 14,000 people statewide.
The question is: Would it work? How much would Coloradans pay to have a license plate bearing special words or numbers?
“There might be people who’d pay quite a bit to get their ZL plates back,” Clerk and Recorder Kathy Neel said of Summit County drivers.
The plates were in high demand while they were still being remade on the new color scheme, Neel said.
But, requests for specialty plates or personalized plates bearing certain letters or phrases have dropped off with the downturn in the economy.
The state currently offers a variety of license plate options, including personalized or alumni plates and plates supporting groups or charitable organizations from the Boy Scouts to Italian American Heritage.
Specialized plates generally include an extra up-front registration fee and a yearly extra renewal fee.
The Denver Post contributed to this story.