The following editorial first appeared in the Ketchikan Daily News:
Alaska might get a new license plate design — or more specifically, a new version of an old design — and the sooner the better.
A CarInsurance.com survey ranked Alaska 48 out of 51 when it comes to most attractive license plate; not much of a ranking, to say the least.
Rep. Peggy Wilson, R-Wrangell, has introduced a bill that would bring back license plates with a standing grizzly bear. That design dates back to the U.S. bicentennial in 1976. The current plates feature the Alaska flag, and are blue and gold, with the slogan “The Last Frontier.”
Rep. Wilson’s bill would give Alaskans a choice between the two designs.
According to the CarInsurance.com survey, the most attractive license plate is Wyoming’s, with its bucking horse and rider silhouetted against a blue Teton Range. Wyoming has had that design since 1936, so there’s something to be said for the traditional approach.
The survey says Delaware has the least attractive plates. The gold-on-blue plate has no art, just a motto: “The First State.” Alaska’s “Last Frontier” plates also edge out Arkansas (next to last) and Michigan (just below Alaska).
Alaska’s 1921 plates, of which less than half a dozen exist, are a collector’s item worth $20,000 each, according to the insurance website.
When states started issuing license plate numbers 110 years ago, motor vehicle owners were told to design their own plates, using numbers assigned by the states.
When states start providing designs, it doesn’t always go as expected. In December of 2002, Kentucky released a plate that featured a rising sun with a giant smiley face. People couldn’t help themselves and started drawing mustaches and frowns on the plates. The state did a redesign at a cost of $3.5 million.
The U.S. Supreme Court has given the OK to alter the appearance of a license plate as long as the numbers and tags are displayed as directed. The court, in a 6-3 First Amendment ruling in 1977, said motor vehicle owners didn’t have to display a logo they found repugnant, after a New Hampshire couple objected to that state’s “Live Free or Die” slogan.
The grizzly on Alaska’s plates should propel Alaska in the standings for most attractive license plate. All it will take is for the Legislature to pass Rep. Wilson’s bill (HB 293) this session.