But it wasn’t just any old license plate…
Someone just paid $34,000 for an antique license plate, demonstrating to non-gearheads that it’s not just cars which are pulling down the big bucks at auctions. The license plate in question was issued in 1904 by the city of Chicago and simply features the number 1, that’s it. All these factors combined for a crazy bidding war and that final bid, making the seller undoubtedly quite happy.
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Issued to early automotive enthusiast Lee Hartung, this plate is one of the few left from Chicago. Back in the day, some municipalities licensed cars instead of state governments. Chicago was one of the first cities to start the trend, but the practice was later abandoned.
This plate is made of stamped aluminum, something Chicago only did for 1904. Before that, the city provided metal numbers and the owner had to mount them to leather or wood for display on the car. Starting in 1905 the city made the plates of brass since the aluminum plates were damaged easily. That means this is one of the few survivors.
After 1907, the state of Illinois started issuing license plates, marking the end of a very short era for Chicago. Probably to ensure nobody could steal and claim the plate for themselves, Hartrung scratched his name on the backside.
According to Kelley Blue Book, the average new car price for July of 2022 was over $48,000 but it wasn’t that long ago it was more like $32,000. If you think it’s insane to spend that much on a license plate, no matter how old or rare it is, obviously at least a few people with that kind of cash to blow disagree.
The auction house estimated the antique license plate would sell for $2,000 to $4,000 so the fact a bidding war broke out and the final amount was about ten times that certainly was a shock.
Check out the lot listing here.