A license plate (hoped to be) worth more than its car?

ebay wall st license plateA 2002 Mercedes located in Saratoga Springs with the New York license plate "WALL ST" -- the "most sought after plate in New York" -- was up for bid on eBay this week. The bidding closed this morning without a single bid -- the reserve price was $12,000.

The seller told CNN Money he got the plate back in the 1970s when the state first started issuing more flexible vanity plates.

Curious about the (attempted) markup for the vanity plate, we looked up the Blue Book value for the car: $5,529 in very good condition. So, that's more than $6k for the plate. Which is... a lot.

This got us thinking about the question of who actually owns a license plate -- the registrant or the state? You know, if you sell a car and don't transfer the plates to a new car, you're supposed to turn them back into the state. (It appears to be possible through some process to transfer a vanity plate to another person in New York.) This question came up recently in a Supreme Court case in which the state of Texas argued it shouldn't have to allow the logo of of a group called the "Sons of Confederate Veterans" on a license plate because the speech on a license plate is technically that of the state, and not the car owner.

Farther afield: A license plate in the United Arab Emirates sold for $14.3 million at auction in 2008 in Abu Dhabi. [ABC News]

Earlier on AOA: Bumper gawking

photo via eBay item "2002 Mercedes-Benz S430 New York State Tag: 'Wall St'"

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