Jake Wimberley's License Plates

Amateur Radio

American amateur radio operators, or "hams," have the option of ordering special plates with their FCC-issued callsign. Such practice began in most states during the 1950s. I am not quite sure what the original reasoning was for this type of plate, but many hams do have radio equipment installed in their vehicle (some states only allow hams to get a ham plate if they do). Having the callsign visible is a way to advertise oneself to other passing hams on the highway, I suppose.

Callsigns follow an international convention in which each country is assigned a series of prefixes (in the U.S., the prefixes are one or two letters beginning with 'W', 'K', or 'N', or a two-letter prefix in the series 'AA' to 'AL'). The prefix is followed by a digit, then another series of letters. In the U.S., the digit normally represents the area of the country where the ham was living when the callsign was issued. All ten digits are in use, and since the letter 'O' can appear in a callsign, the custom among hams is to use a 'slash zero' when writing or printing callsigns. The states in the zone where zero is used (CO, ND, SD, NE, KS, MN, IA, and MO) all have a special slash-zero die solely for the purpose of making ham plates. I find that neat.

States differ in whether a special type of plate background is used for ham plates; some have the legend "Amateur Radio" or "Radio Operator" while others use some sort of graphical design. The four plates above are simply the usual passenger base with the ham callsign instead of a regular serial. Some states make no distinction between ham plates and vanity plates except perhaps in the fees.

Speaking of fees, some states require registrants to pay a premium for having the ham plate, while others do not ask for fees beyond the usual licensing fees. All states require presentation of a valid license in order to get a ham plate.

The space on the Indiana plate is not part of the callsign.

last updated 2011.10.11 :: return home