Mississippians have a favorite vanity plate and it's not Ole Miss or Elvis

Vanity and specialty plates are popular along the Mississippi Gulf Coast. The most popular are antique car, Saints, USM, Ole Miss and Mississippi State tags.
Vanity and specialty plates are popular along the Mississippi Gulf Coast. The most popular are antique car, Saints, USM, Ole Miss and Mississippi State tags. ttisbell@sunherald.com

Starting in October, Mississippi drivers will get a license plate to replace the blue guitar that has been on vehicles for five years, but anyone who can’t wait can decorate their ride with one of the many specialty plates or a customized vanity plate.

It costs more for these plates, but nearly one in four drivers in the state splurges to show their support for their alma mater, their dedication to butterflies or dolphins, their love for Elvis or their connection to the U.S. military.

Yet none of these isn’t the top specialty plate in the state. That honor — by a long haul — belongs to antique cars. Department of Revenue spokeswoman Kathy Waterbury said that’s because they never expire.

A vehicle has to be at least 25 years old to quality for antique plates, she said. The owner pays a one-time fee of $26 plus $23.75 to the state general fund, $1.25 to their county tax collector and $1 to the state Department of Archives & History.

After that, “you’re through paying,” she said. The car tags are good for the life of the antique vehicle.

Mississippi has 171,089 antique car plates in use, along with 84,679 antique truck plates and 7,867 antique motorcycle plates.

Gov. Phil Bryant may have an antique tag on his 1955 blue Chevrolet Nomad, but he and Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves don’t have the specialty governor and lieutenant governor plates on their personal cars, according to the Department of Revenue annual report on tags and titles.

More than 700,000 of the 2.76 million license plates sold in Mississippi are a special, military, disabled or personalized plate. Last year, the state issued plates for disabled (106,361), whose fees go to the state. Other plates provide funding for organizations such as Ducks Unlimited (2,868) and the dolphin plates that benefit the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies in Gulfport (1,566).

Fans of the New Orleans Saints bought 4,744 of the plates that salute the team, which directed $221,000 to Infinity Science Center in Hancock County last year. The cost is an additional $51 each year when the car registration is renewed, with $44 of that going to Infinity.

Some plates cost an additional $31 plus taxes and fees, some are $51 and some are just $1, Waterbury said. “The university plates are the most popular,” she said.

Universities and colleges collected $1.8 million from the state last year for their specialty plates. Mississippi State topped the list (20,019 plates), followed by University of Mississippi (17,148). Out-of-state schools University of Alabama (3,712) and Louisiana State University (2,343) also benefited.

Some Mississippi drivers (92,286) also did their own thing, creating vanity plates carrying their name or message for the people behind them at the traffic light to figure out.

Mississippi specialty plates for FY 2016

Breast cancer 5,365

Choose life 6,454

Elvis Fan Club 1,409

National Rifle Association 1,912

Nurses Foundation 9,760

Ocean Springs Athletic 899

St. Jude Hospital 2,670

Animals and Wildlife

Wildlife 22,175

Deer 6,687

Hummingbird 3,392

Butterfly 3,343

I Love Animals 2,361


Retired Armed Forces 23,740

Disabled veteran 8,995

Veteran 7,769

Purple Heart 5,429

National Guard 5,296

Vietnam veteran 1,071

Active armed forces 1,043

Ex-POW 633

Mississippi Department of Revenue