In 1978, Gary Fox moved to Arizona from Wisconsin, and brought his car and license plates along with him. He needed to switch over to Arizona plates, though, so he headed over to the Motor Vehicle Division.
One problem: The state workers wanted his old Wisconsin plates, and Fox wanted to keep them as souvenirs. He was handed a screwdriver.
Fox begrudgingly turned over one, and then slipped the other behind his back. The MVD employee didn't notice that Wisconsin law required a front and rear plate. Fox still has the one he hid, which is now part of his collection of about 1000.
See some of Fox's vintage license plates after the jump...
Fox has at least one Arizona license plate for every year since 1912 (when Arizona became a state), and a few from before that, when cities printed their own plates. He especially prizes three of them made during a stint in the '30s when the state manufactured copper plates.
Fox prizes Arizona plates for their uniqueness, simplicity and odd historical stories. In earlier years, when Arizona plates were numbered based on the size of counties, Greenlee citizens complained enough to have their number switched from 13 to 15 (they blamed their accidents on bad luck).
In addition to the Arizona plates, Fox collects plates from around the country made in his birth year (1953), a regular practice for a lot of collectors. But Fox isn't making things easy on himself; the plates also have to end in the number 53. He's collected about half of the states so far -- "The easy half," he says. But, still, hunting down plates from 50-plus years ago isn't exactly easy.
Fox's hobby has landed him in some trouble, too. He purchased a personalized license plate with the numbers "000," for a unique touch. State police use 000 as a default number for cars to be on the look-out for, Fox says. He got a parking ticket after a Tucson attendant accidentally left the default number, and got pulled over twice because officers ran the plate as a stolen car. After the first time, Fox caught on.
"I said, "Let me guess, this car came up stolen," Fox says he told the officer.
He eventually took off the license plate, but still keeps it around as part of his collection.