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Penny-pinching motorists scorn personalized plates

Sales of vanity license plate are down in Wisconsin.

Thousands of motorists wishing to convey a bit of their identity on their car's bumper are deciding they can do without the vanity plates, and go the anonymous, cheaper route with standard issue plates. The number of vanity plates has gone down in the state the last three years. There are now 20,000 fewer of them compared to those on the road in 2005.

Department of Motor Vehicles program specialist Philip Thomas says it may be sign of tough economic times.

"Someone may get a personalized plate and then after a while tire of it decide that it isn't worth paying the extra $15," he says.

That $15 can add up to more if a motorist choose specialized plates where part of the purchase fee goes toward an organization. There's two dozen different plates to choose from, everything from endangered resources to the Packers football team. But animals and athletics don't come close to the most popular plate. Thomas says the best seller over the years has been: the state of Wisconsin.

"The most popular special plate that we've ever had has been the sesquicentenial which is what we issued for a brief period around the time of the celebration in 1998."

Nearly a quarter million of the one-time-issue plates were snapped up by proud Wisconsinites. Even the Packers can't beat those kinds of numbers: Thomas says there are currently 7,000 motorists registered with the Green and Gold.