So this was the beginning … What a hard job it was to copy into the diary the rare Arabic plate shown on home page!
Even today I am unable to explain why I am so fascinated by these small metal or plastic pieces attached to a vehicle. Perhaps by their hidden meaning of single letters or numerals, perhaps by their mysterious smell of distance (at least for foreign plates), perhaps by their diversity. But is it necessary anything to explain? Ask a stamp or a coin collector why is he interested in stamps or coins? He probably answers he just likes them. So I like registration plates. The boy-child surely didn’t anticipate what a long way he had to go from copying plates through photographing to collecting. I have always been interested in these strange alphanumeric combinations, I have often thought why some plates are white or black whilst the others are, for instance, blue, red or green.
I was particularly trying to find out where this or that vehicle had come from. It was not enough for me to distinguish an Austrian plate from a German one. I beat my brain as to what V means, and why somebody has St, or if Berlin is marked B and Munich M. So where the guy with TIR on his plate came from? It was of double importance for me because a German plate with the TIR mark had been the very first one I had put down into my diary.
You can imagine how lucky I was after receiving small highway map of then Federal Republic of Germany with full list of codes. At last I learned TIR was a code for Tirschenreuth and had been able to locate this town on a map. Or what happiness to find a map of France in a World Atlas and to discover surprising relation between numerals of single departments and last two digits of French registrations! Please don’t laugh at me, I was 10 years old at that time, internet was waiting for its invention and I lived behind the iron curtain. It was nearly impossible to find any information even from “ideologically correct side of the curtain”; more to the contrary, it was easier to gain something from another side.
I used to write letters to worldwide automobile associations or ministries of transport asking at least for basic information regarding local vehicle registration system. Slowly but surely I completed the puzzle and learned gradually how to decode even such strange systems like British one with county index marks and year letters, or the Norwegian one with block of letters alphabetized nicely geographically from the south to the north. And one fine day some 25 years ago I found in my mailbox not only a letter with beautiful exotic stamps but also a parcel containing two real number plates. On that day I started to collect plates as well. Before it didn’t cross my mind at all that plate collecting could be possible. These two plates were sent from the island of Jersey and together with hundreds of other worldwide plates that I got during following years are displayed on these pages.
Wherever possible I added details for you to be also able to unveil meanings hidden under often strange combinations of letters, numbers and colours. A lot of facts has been acquired from my friends and colleagues from many countries; without our common hobby I would probably never become acquainted with them. Like any other plate enthusiast I have been for years certain of my exceptionality of this hobby and have never assumed that there are hundreds of similarly hit individuals scattered throughout the globe. What’s more, that even plate clubs gathering together colleagues regardless of their education, profession, rank, age or nationality exist. One such club I met at my first lonely wandering in the plate world and if I feel sorry for something that I had not “discovered” until 1987. If I can only bring out the name on my pages as acknowledgements or dedication, herewith I do it and give thanks for the honour to be its member – The European Registration Plate Association (EUROPLATE).