My 85-year-old mother-in-law was recently showing me all the junk accumulated in her garage. "I've just got to get rid of this stuff," she said as she pointed to various piles. "Look up there, on that shelf. Old license plates. Those things need to go in the trash!"
Whoa, wait a second! Apparently my mother-in-law is not an avid ebay shopper, or even internet connected, because just a simple google search will reveal that used license plates are a hot item these days. Yes, the internet has opened up a world market for every item imaginable, and these 12" by 6" classics are no exception. There's even a fancy marketing term for them: YOM plates.
Say you own a 1967 Chevelle. In most states you have several options for what will adorn that significant rectangular area on the back of your car. Besides your basic county-issued plate, or the "been there, done that" vanity plate, you could also purchase a YOM plate, otherwise known as a Year of Manufacture plate. Maybe in that pile of plates in my in-laws garage, they might have a 1967 Florida plate. You could buy that, mount it to your Chevelle rear, and announce the year of your classic to the world. Technically, you would now have a historical authenticated license plate.
Mounting a YOM plate takes more than just a flat-head screwdriver, though. Each state has its own rules as to how to make this a legal transaction. For example, if you live in Florida, after buying your 1967 plate online for about $25, you'll need to fill out a special DMV form that gets sent to Tallahassee along with the actual tag for verification.
Another option for the back of your car is the understated "Antique" tag. In Florida, these are light blue and available through your local tax collector's office if your car was manufactured in 1946 or later, is 30 years old or more, and equipped with an engine that's 30 years old or more. When I'm driving around and see a sharp classic driving down the street, I make it a point to check out the license plate. When I check out a classic car, and see the authenticity stamp of "Antique", I nod my head and say, "Nice..."
So, no matter the state, put whichever style of plate you'd like on your car. And certainly, if you have a stack of old license plates in your garage like my mother-in-law, take the advice I gave her: "They're worth good money. Don't throw them away! That stack of utility bills from 1972? Those you can throw away."