Do people still collect license plates in their garages? I remember as a kid, both my dad and then, later, my father-in-law had them tacked up on the wall of the garage. But of course, his father and father-in-law both were mechanics, so he came by it naturally.

(Donley Auction Services, Union, IL, via
(Donley Auction Services, Union, IL, via

A very rare Chicago pre-state of Illinois regulation era license plate was auctioned off on Sunday for $34,000.

According to Donley Auctions, the 1904 plate made from stamped aluminum was expected to fetch $4,000 - $6,000.

Donley auctioned off some 600-plus lots of license plates, city vehicle tags, and “toppers” (akin to today’s license plate frames) mainly from Illinois, but some from St. Louis and Kansas City, Missouri, and some from cities in Michigan (Flint and Saginaw).

(Donley Auction Services, Union, IL, via
(Donley Auction Services, Union, IL, via

The items all came from the collection of Lee Hartung of Glenview, Illinois. Hartung died in 2000 and most of his collection was well-known and was sold just after he died. But, apparently, many of these favorite items were at his home and weren’t sold then.

Donley’s site says,

“The highlight of the collection is the 'Chicago set'. In the early days of automobiles most licensing was done at the city level. Chicago started issuing plates in 1903 and continued until the state of Illinois took over in late 1907. These plates are incredibly rare because there were very few issued, but the rarest of all is the 1904 which was made of aluminum. Only a few of these have ever turned up and what makes this special besides its beautiful, original condition is that it is plate No. 1 and was assigned to Chicagoan Arthur J. Eddy.”

Eddy, who was born in Flint (he was the mayor’s son), was a lawyer and prominent art collector but was also a major proponent of cars in the very early days of motorized transportation.

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A funny story about Eddy, on Wikipedia. Eddy set a record in 1901, traveling some three thousand miles by car in just two months. (Remember, this is 1901, and there are no paved roads. The following year, he drove to Flint, and gave Margery Durant, the daughter of William Crapo Durant, her first automobile ride. Her father said, “Margery, how could you, how could you, be so foolish as to risk your life in one of those things. William Durant went on to be the founder of General Motors.

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