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Chance find leads to 50-state plate mission

Published: Monday, Feb. 4, 2013 11:40 a.m. CDT • Updated: Monday, Feb. 4, 2013 12:15 p.m. CDT

It all started a few years ago when Mt. Pleasant resident Doug Harrison and his son, Troy, were digging around their garage and uncovered a 1947 Iowa license plate.  They thought it was pretty cool, so they tacked it up on their garage wall, as many people do.

Then came an auction at an auto dealership that was going out of business. Doug likes going to auctions to see what he can scruff up. In addition to some old cars that caught his attention, there were a couple of old license plates.

Without putting much thought into it, Doug bid on the plates, and was the top bidder, maybe the only bidder. He tucked the plates away in his garage and forgot about them.

The big “ah-ha moment” came at the Quarter Maybe More store in Mt. Pleasant. Doug ran across a whole box of 35 license plates, for a buck each. Once again, without putting  much thought into it, he purchased the whole box.

Several of the plates turned out to be quite valuable. Still, at this point, Doug wasn’t thinking much beyond selling the plates at the Old Threshers garage sales. It was Troy who suggested that, since he had a big chunk of all the states’ plates, he might as well go ahead and complete the set.

Doug found out pretty fast that some plates, especially Alaska and Hawaii, are pretty tough to come by.

At a swap meet on the Old Threshers grounds, he found an additional 10 plates, along with the rare Delaware plate. Doug’s competitive spirit kicked in. He had just two plates to go, Alaska and West Virginia.

He turned to eBay and paid $15 each for those, a bargain. Set complete!

One of the license plates he found was a 1972 Iowa plate. He registered it with the state and put it on his vintage 1972 Datsun 240Z, which makes it a legal license plate. The 240Z was his first car.

He’s a little disappointed with the Alaska plate. It was very difficult to find, and the one he has doesn’t even say “Alaska” on it. It says, “Land of the Klondike” and “Yukon.” Oh, well.

One of his favorite plates is the solid black California plate with gold letters. Hawkeye colors.

So what is Doug Harrison going to do with his collection of all 50 license plates? He plans on tacking them up on his garage wall. They will eventually be passed along to his son, Troy, a senior at UNI, along with the 240Z, no doubt.

What is Doug Harrison’s favorite license plate? Believe it or not, it is the solid yellow Iowa plate, with black numbers. Once again, Hawkeye colors.

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