Forty years ago, when Arlington resident Andrew Pang was 6, his friend Howard Wall brought him a souvenir from Louisiana, a robin’s-egg-blue 1976 dealer license plate. Pang, who was already interested in travel and geography, decided to buck the stamp-collecting trend and focus on license plates. “By the time I was 9 years old, I had one from every state.” The accountant and married father of two is still collecting, as well as selling and trading online. His treasures wallpaper the garage and fill a room in the basement.
Pang is one of perhaps 25 collectors in the world who has a numbered plate from every inauguration for which they were issued. Though later sold as souvenirs, the plates were originally intended for vehicles in the inaugural parade. (After initially declining to issue plates, the Trump inaugural committee changed its mind and is offering a commemorative plate; as of publication, it was unclear whether the committee also would issue numbered plates for the parade.) Pang’s favorite plate, from the first year they were issued, is a No. 7 plate from Franklin Roosevelt’s 1933 inauguration. Only 500 sets were made, and only about 70 plates are known to have survived. The plate’s low number indicates that it belonged to “someone very, very high up in the government,” Pang says. At more than $5,000 in 2013, the price was high as well. Inaugural plates can give “When they go low, we go high” a whole different meaning.
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