Ode to the Mistake on the Ohio plate

Near Darke
By Hank Nuwer

If you watch The Simpsons, you know Homer Simpson’s shout after a flub-beyond-repair is “D’oh.”

Well, no doubt you heard that the new Ohio state license plate crashed and burned upon liftoff.

True, the new plate was gorgeous, depicting a nice sunny background and an illustration of Wilbur and Orville’s epic 6.8-mph plane flight across the North Carolina Outer Banks in 1903.

Unfortunately, the plate’s design team placed the “First in Aviation” pennant bassackwards on the plane.

D’oh!

North Carolina’s Department of Transportation immediately caught the gaffe. Staffers mocked poor Ohio’s BMV on social media. The jabbers reminded one and all that the Wright Brothers flight occurred on their state’s soil.

Ohio corrected the plate design and announced plans to destroy 35,000 defective plates.

D’oh!

Second big mistake.

I would urge Gov. Mike DeWine to give an executive order to preserve a few of the marred plates.

Hopefully, a few can be put on display at the Statehouse, the Ohio History Center and the Smithsonian Institute.

For sure, any “First in Aviation” plates escaping destruction will become sought-after “collection plates.”

And I don’t mean the kind of plates ushers pass around in church.

Stamp collectors know the worth of a rare mistake.

In 1918, stamp collector William T. Robey purchased a sheet of 100 24-cent airmail stamps depicting a Curtiss JN-4 plane. Engraved in blue and carmine, the “Jenny” stamp’s frame was printed upside down and gave the appearance of the plane being flown upside down.

Somehow it escaped the notice of the postal clerk. He handed the sheet across the counter to Robey for $24.

D’oh!

After no more inverted Jenny stamps turned up, Robey and subsequent buyers sold individual stamps for a pretty penny. Had Robey left the page of 100 stamps intact, its value would be priceless today.

One auction of a single “Jenny” stamp brought the seller $525,000. On special occasions, the Smithsonian displays the stamp to visitors.

While not as numerous as stamp collectors, serious license plate collectors abound. They seek out plates from every state going back to the first plates in 1907 and 1908, which were issued for state revenue and to identify traffic violators.

Collectors today even subscribe to their own PLATES specialty magazine.

Even in the 1950s, some 250 worldwide plate collectors met annually at a conference to share tips and trade stock.

They cleaned and restored plates so they looked almost new.

At the 1959 convention, collectors agreed that a 1910 Maryland plate was the rarest of all plates.

Another sought-after jewel was the 1921 Alaska plate. Only four are known to exist, and the last one brought $40,000 from a plate enthusiast.

Another famous stamp “invert” error was the 1996 Richard Nixon commemorative stamp. The former president’s name was printed upside down on it.

About 160 “Nixons” were taken illegally from a New York stamp printer’s offices. The culprit was a machinery cutter for the firm.

The federal government charged Clarence Robert Robie with theft of property after he sold them in bulk to dealers.

Moreover, the government tracked down the stamp buyers. The feds made them return the purloined stamps purchased for up to $8,000 each.

D’oh!

Hmm, is it possible someone with access to the recalled Ohio plates is thinking of filching a small batch?

Will diehard collectors seek a new treasured license plate if some escape recycling?

It makes for fun speculation, doesn’t it?

But no stolen Ohio plates for me, thank you.

I’ll just treasure my one-of-a-kind Indiana “Moby Van” plate affixed to my big-as-a-whale white Chevy Uplander.

But if you do obtain a purloined “First in Aviation” plate, congratulations!

I’m sure it will look nice nailed to your prison cell wall.

Hank Nuwer is an author, columnist and playwright. He and wife Gosia live on the Indiana side of the Union City state line. Viewpoints expressed in the article are the work of the author. The Daily Advocate does not endorse these viewpoints or the independent activities of the author.