Making a statement

In spite of their higher cost, vanity plates are pretty popular around Webster County, said Deputy Treasurer Kathleen Hay.

“We get quite a few of them,” Hay said.

Of course, plates cannot contain any profanity or other offensive language, she said.

Specifically, the Iowa Department of Transportation will not allow any terms of “vulgarity, contempt, prejudice, hostility, insult, or racial or ethnic degradation,” according to the application for personalized plates.

It also will not issue any combination of characters it determines to be sexual in connotation, recognized as a swear word, a reference to an illegal substance or to a criminal act, an offensive or a foreign word falling into any of these categories, or any that conflict with the regular license numbering system.

If at a later date the plate choice is determined to be offensive or in conflict with the regular numbering system, the Department will recall the license plates.

Applicants for a vanity plate must also explain the meaning of the desired letters on the application form, Hay said.

“Mine says ‘MOO’, so I put ‘The cow sound,'” she said.

That’s not the only way license plates can be a little more personal. There are also myriad specialty plates available.

Currently there are 72 varieties of specialty plates, ranging from old standards like the Iowa Department of Natural Resources plate, college plates, breast cancer and organ donor awareness, and the relatively new professional firefighters’ plate, according to the DOT’s website.

More are being created all the time, said Webster County Treasurer Jan Messerly.

For example, a Boy Scouts plate is in the works.

After the initial application for a new style, an organization has one year to collect 500 paid applications for those plates, she said.

The Fallen Peace Officer plate is the newest specialty plate available, Hay said. It features a purple stripe through a picture of Iowa with the caption, “In valor there is hope.”

Messerly said the DNR plates are the most expensive of the lot. Those seeking a DNR badge and also a personalized number will pay $90 the first time, and $30 additional years. Of that $45 the first time and $25 subsequent years goes to the DNR.

Hay said there are plenty of reasons people turn over the extra money. Her own plates, in addition to the “MOO” custom number, also are “Cattlemen Care” specialty plates.

“I guess the only reason I did it is because our kids grew up showing cattle, and we raise cattle,” she said.

But people have all different reasons, she added.

“Some people want to support their college. Some want to support their hobby. Usually the organ donor ones or the breast cancer ones are someone who – that has had some impact on their family and friend.”