Cougs beat Dawgs — and the Hawks

WSU boasts the No. 1 specialty license plate, and the money that comes with it.

It’s been a bumper topic, what can I say?

Allow me just one more little tidbit that didn’t make it into the original story about personalized license plates: all those personalized specialty license plates.

Special design license plates support a variety of causes and feature different backgrounds than the standard Mount Rainier vista.

More than 150,000 drivers have specialty license plates, according to a count the state provided me earlier this year. Of those, 12 percent doubled down and also personalized their specialty plates. (Many of those showed up in the Street Smarts story.)

The most popular specialty license plates:

1. Washington State University (23,700)

2. Seattle Seahawks (18,661)

3. Law Enforcement Memorial (11,755)

4. University of Washington (11,127)

5. Washington’s National Park Fund (6,850)

Having the most popular plate in the state pays.

In 2017, WSU made $613,283 off its $28-per-plate share of fee revenue. All proceeds go to scholarships for WSU students.

WSU staff are proud of their No. 1 status over “some other state university.”

Of the most popular plates, WSU’s has been around the longest, since 1994. But sales really took off in 2011 after a redesign. The other top plates’ debut dates: 1996 (UW), 2005 (Law Enforcement Memorial), 2006 (National Parks), and 2014 (Seahawks).

With over 50 special designs, there are some plates you’re less likely to see.

Only about three dozen folks have opted for a tennis license plate, first offered in January 2017. Proceeds from the tennis plate will help big cities build public tennis courts, with an emphasis on indoor courts. But since it only nets about $1,000 a year in renewal fees so far, that goal may take a while to achieve.

Other relatively new plates still finding supporters are for Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center (October 2017) and for the state’s Future Farmers of America Foundation (January 2017), each with 77 registered vehicles at last count.

But as a major home for Boeing and aviation history, a specialty license plate benefiting aviation programs had no problem taking off. The plate, featuring a Stearman Kaydet, was first available July 2017. More than 580 drivers now have it.

One more fun fact.

Think we have a lot of special designs?

That’s nothin’.

Texas does everything big. The so-called Lone Star State offers nearly 450 specialty plate designs. (Before they discontinued a bunch, it was over 500.)

You can slap just about anything on your bumper there. Half a grapefruit. The cross where Jesus died. An ocelot to stare down any tailgaters you may encounter (I’m still trying to decide whether the endangered cat’s expression is regal or just ticked off).

Pennyslvania is hot on its heels, though, with over 400. Probably every firefighting group in that state has a license plate.

Others try to keep up.

Virginia has about 250. (Jimmy Buffet fans can get a plate there.) North Carolina has about 200 (including a healthy NASCAR selection). Florida has over 120. (I stopped there.)

Seems we have some catching up to do. So, what would you put on a plate?

Street Smarts:, 425-339-3432

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