first one.


just got my license plate renewal notice in the mail

wish i could get this one.

A rare, first-of-its kind Chicago license plate, ‘the holy grail’ is up for auction

A black-and-white aluminum plate stamped with just the single numeral “1” gives bidders a chance to earn a piece of automotive history. The plate was made in 1904, the first year that Chicago made metal license plates, and the only year the city made plates from thin, stamped aluminum.

“Only a handful of these were made,” said Mike Donley of Donley Auctions. “And it’s number 1. It doesn’t get any lower than that.”

Before Illinois began making statewide license plates, Chicago issued its own plates between 1903 and 1907, Donley said. From that era, auctioneers said, those made in 1904 are the rarest. For the next few years that followed, the flimsy and damage-prone aluminum plates were replaced with heavy-duty solid brass. Even more rare, this plate is graded “VG,” or very good condition.

This particular plate was issued to prominent Chicago lawyer and art collector Arthur Jerome Eddy, who in 1900 became the first person in Chicago to receive a license badge for a motor vehicle. Before plates were distributed, license badges, meant to go on drivers’ coats, were issued to drivers as a way to tax city residents for funding road projects, Donley said.

Eddy was an early adopter of automobiles, Donley said. He set an auto distance record in 1901 by driving 2,900 miles from Chicago to Boston and back over two months, The New York Times reported. He even published a book about it the following year — one of several he authored — titled Two Thousand Miles On An Automobile.

Eddy also helped found the Chicago Motor Club in 1902, to advocate for driver rights and promote safe vehicles and roads. That club has since evolved into the American Automobile Association (AAA). He’s also credited with putting Chicago on the map of the modern art world, according to auctioneers, by drawing interest to the Art Institute of Chicago.

More recently, this plate belonged to Lee Hartung, a well-known collector of motor vehicles, who died in 2011. Much of his personal collection was auctioned off years ago but, when his partner was preparing to sell their house, she found a stash of more auto memorabilia — including the No.1 plate.

Donley estimated the plate will sell for around $4,000 to $6,000 at the auction, which ends today. But the intrigue it has garnered could hike up the bids. The auctioneer took the plate to a license plate show over the weekend, where he said the item attracted collectors from out of state to see the plate and gauge its authenticity. “There’s a lot of interest in this,” Donley said.

as close as i can come, is owning this foam fan finger


“you have to be odd to be number one.”

-dr. seuss




credits: emma bowman, npr, donley auctions, new york times, cpr news

61 responses »

  1. That private plate would be a lot more expensive here. Low numbers or obvious initials can fetch small fortunes in Britain. This is the current top seller.
    ‘The 25 O tops the list as the most expensive private plate ever sold in the UK. Purchased in 2014 by a classic car dealer and collector, John Collins, for £518,000.’
    (That is $609,000)
    I find them to be rather pretentious, and I am happy to stick with the one issued to my car by the authorities. Out of interest, it is AR07KWF. The ‘A’ denotes the county of Norfolk, the R the sub-division, and the 07 the year of registration. The KWF is a random set of letters to identify my car. We don’t have to renew them, as they stay on the car for life unless we pay to change them for a private plate.
    Best wishes, Pete.

    Liked by 2 people

    • yes, I’m happy with mine, too. interesting how it works over there. we have to renew ours every year, though the plate stays the same, unless it wears out or we choose to change it or personalize it.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Beth you are number one! I see numbered plates every so often here. Had a friend who had a numbered plate – 730. It had been in the family since her grandfather had had it. Sadly, she moved to Florida and it’s no longer in the family. But is way happier from November to March, and probably much of the year. Have a fabulous Sunday.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. What a fascinating post! My grandfather collected old cars in Greenville, SC. Cars have always been a love of my father and my brother. I enjoy seeing the old cars myself! I have to share this with my brother! Thanks for such a cool post!!

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I think you’ll get more use out of the foam finger.

    and maybe I could write a book “Two Hundred Thousand Miles On An Automobile”. I would hope it would sell at least 100 times more than Eddy’s book…

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Fascinating. My current plate promotes Rocky Mountain National Park. The state offers several dozen different plates promoting different causes, in addition to the standard issue plates. I didn’t feel I’d truly arrived here until I put that first Colorado plate on my car.

    Liked by 1 person

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