Monday, October 15, 2007

The allure of the black tag

Delaware is quirky in many ways, and one of the things that many don't notice until they have been here for a while is the "black tag" license plate. Whether they are a sign of elitism or just because they look cool, owners of cars in Delaware have the option of getting a "black" tag (as opposed to a "regular" tag) if their license plate number is low enough. And while I thought this number had to be somewhere less than 87000 or so, I saw a car on the way to the beach this weekend that makes me question whether the DMV has decided to elevate a few more thousand tags to "elite" status.

For those of you not aware, Delaware is the only state in the union that has a totally flat tag. The standard tag is blue with gold lettering. If you have a low number though, you are eligible to get the replica tag from the 1940s with your number. Certain restrictions apply. Low, three digit tags have been sold at auction for thousands of dollars. Apparently even people in the UK have been apprised of the "black tag" phenomenon. Regardless, it's a collector's thing like anyone else. People will buy anything if you tell them it's cool enough. Look at some of the junk that is available on ebay or Craigslist.

Nevertheless, I think the black tags are pretty cool, even if there is a hint of elitism with them. At the same time, it bothered me that I saw a six digit black tag on a dark blue or black Mustang (#148558). Not only did the tag look junky, it demeans the whole prestige of having a "low" number. Or at least, that's what I would think if I had a low number and liked the fact that the number of black tags available is fixed.

Maybe the tag was fake, but it had an '09 sticker on it, so who knows. In either case, it was unusual enough to warrant this entry and further research as to whether the whole black tag concept is about to take a lemming run off the DMV cliff.

Apparently the DMV page has changed in the times Google has searched it (current page and cached page), but I haven't been overly successful in finding out whether this is a legislative change or not. Maybe someone else who is more familiar with all of this knows and can chime in.

16 comments:

Matt said...

That six-digit tag was illegal. The reason it looked so cheap was because they didn't get it from the official Delaware Historical Tag company, who are the only folks authorized to make the black tags (out of porcelain!); they won't sell a tag to anyone who can't produce a registration with a number under 87000, but there are plenty of shady companies out there that'll stamp you a cheap aluminum plate with your 6 digit number on it. Just don't get pulled over with it.

Matt said...

I should qualify that statement: you can put whatever you want on the FRONT of your car, since Delaware is one of the few remaining states that doesn't require back AND front tags. I see a lot of folks with cheap black tags with actual words on 'em (which is impossible for an actual license plate) mounted on the front bracket. However, occasionally I see someone with a cheap, six-digit black tag mounted on the BACK, which'll merit you a citation of some kind if the cops get savvy to it.

BobGurwin said...

A few points here:

1) Delaware is not the only state to issue completely flat plates. This trend is growing as many states are moving away from embossed/stamped plates to a silk screen computerized process that is more economical (thank the folks at 3M). Other flat plates include DC, Indiana, Iowa, Nebraska, Nevada, as well as all personalized plates from Ohio and Texas.

2) As Matt pointed out, the 6 digit black tag you saw is illegal. Black porcelain tags for passenger cars can only be issued to passenger tags 86,999 and lower.

Anonymous Delawarean said...

More news on low digit black tags has prompted me to write a follow-up entry to this one.

Anonymous said...

I have seen vanity tags in black as well....

I dont believe the police really care if someone has a "fake" tag or not. All they care about is if the numbers are correct.

Jordan Irazabal said...

Porcelain tags are available for numbers 86999 and below as well as C9999 and D9999 and below. PC tags aren't available in porcelain because they were never issued in porcelain. You can get a stainless tag if you have under 200000 though.

In response to the comment above mine, the police will tell you to get rid of an impostor black tag - you can only have a state-issued blue/gold tag, a porcelain tag issued by DE Historic Tag, or a stainless tag.

Matt said...

Jordan, that's not entirely true; I can't find anything on the DMV website confirming it, but the Delaware Historic Plates company says that illegal black plates are not to be confiscated because there is no rule preventing an owner from displaying it on the front of the vehicle.

Jordan Irazabal said...

You may be right, Matt. However, that is what I hear from cops and authorities on DE tags (i.e. brokers, collectors, etc.).

On a side note, I ordered my stainless tag about 2 weeks ago and the guy ran out of steel! Apparently it won't be done until next week. Lame, huh?

Anonymous said...

The police won't confiscate the illegal tag, but the only Black & White tags that can be LEGALLY displayed on the rear of a Delaware vehicle has to have a number of 86,999 and lower or be a 4 digit number prededed by either the letter "C" or "D". Any other plate with words; mixed letters & numbers; or preceded by "PC" or any other letter(s) is NOT authorized and subject to a ticket for illegal tag being displayed (if mounted on the rear of vehicle

Anonymous said...

Came across this thread while trying to find info on Delaware stainless tags. So Jordan, where can I order a stainless tag from??? DMV said to call Delaware Historic Plate, they say they don't make them, what gives? Can find no info anywhere on how to order one. Please help. thx

Jordan Irazabal said...

You're right about the confiscation. Email me and I'll give you the guy's name and number.

jordan.irazabal@gmail.com

Jordan Irazabal said...

Also -

Feel free to check out my hand-taken collection of low tag pictures!

http://picasaweb.google.com/jordan.irazabal

Best,

j

Anonymous Delawarean said...

Here is the link: Pictures

Someone sent me this blog a couple of weeks ago also, I think this is yours as well: black tag blog

Anonymous said...

DELAWARE HISTORIC PLATE COMPANY TO REPRODUCE 50's ERA STAINLESS STEEL LICENSE PLATES (Check website for pictures)

www.dehistoricplate.com

The Delaware Historic Plate Company, responsible for a majority of the black and white porcelain license plates seen throughout Delaware, has been authorized by the Delaware Division of Motor Vehicles to reproduce Stainless Steel License Plates with reflective sheeting numbers. This style of license plate was originally issued in Delaware between 1951-1958, and is now available for the first time in 50 years for legal registration purposes. This plate can be reproduced for passenger car plates up to 200000, "C" plates up to C50000, "PC" plates up to PC9999, "FT" plates up to FT9999, Trailer plates up to T9999, and dealer plates up to D9999.

Until now, The Delaware Historic Plate Company has only been able to reproduce black and white Porcelain License Plates, which due to historical significance, were only available to tag holders with numbers lower than 86999. Additionally, tag holders with PC, FT, and Trailer plates were out of luck. This new authorization will allow these tag holders, and other Delawareans, the opportunity to display a historic reproduction Stainless Steel License Plate of superior quality on their vehicle.

The new Stainless Steel plates and the Porcelain plates are both available for $94.95, with a two-three week shipping schedule. Orders can be made online at www.dehistoricplate.com, or by phone at 302.369.TAGS (8247).

Anonymous said...

man i have seen a many of fake black tags and i kno 2 people that live near me who have them for years, the cops dont care, im going get one soon

Jordan Irazabal said...

Website - If you're into low numbers, definitely check out my website - http://www.thedelaware3000.org

Stainless - Technically the only company authorized to make stainless reproductions is DHPCo. Personally I think they look terrible but that's the law. I have also dealt with the guy and it was a pleasant experience. I have a few friends that make them perfectly - just like they did in the 50s - and I recommend them to everyone. If you want their contact information let me know.