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CSI - DMV Albany

CSI - DMV AlbanyI found a matching set of original unused 1962 NY License plates on eBay for my 1962 Comet.  Now all I had to do was register them for my car.  But apparently the local Monroe County, NY DMV can't approve the use of vintage license plates when you register a vintage vehicle.  They can register the vintage vehicle with new plates. They can hand you the vintage plate form, and they can look at your vintage plates and shrug their shoulders. But the vintage plates have to be "Authenticated" by the DMV in Albany.

During the registration process, and after 3 different people had reviewed my paperwork, It looked like I was golden.  As the teller was stapling the forms (back to back for some reason) I pulled out my 1962 NY License Plates and with a smile, I exclaimed ".. and I have Vintage plates".  The teller behind the counter gave me the "deer in the headlights" look.  "We can not authenticate vintage license plates." she said in her monotonic voice.  The one she practices each morning until all emotion has been drained from her vocal cords.  "They have to be authenticated by Albany" she continued, as if Albany was some superior being, high up on a hill somewhere.  Now, I knew the rules, as I had read up on using vintage plates in NY state.  From my research I knew there were three important requirements.

1.  They had to be original license plates issued for the year of the vehicle.

2.  You had to have two plates if that year required two plates.

3.  They could not be repainted.

So I offered the plates to her to verify for herself that they were real.  I pointed to the "62" that is clearly embossed in the lower right hand corner.  And I also pointed out the rust that was forming on the edges of the plate, proving that the paint was original. "We can not authenticate vintage license plates." she repeated.  "But I have the form already filled out", I said.  She then pointed out that the form had the Albany address clearing written on it and that I should have known to send the form to Albany.  Well I countered with the fact that ALL the DVM forms have the Albany address on them.  How am I supposed to know which ones can be done locally and which ones I have to send to the great and almighty "Albany".  She had no answer.  She then started to describe to me the "Authentication" process.

 So, I imagined CSI DMV Albany (cue The Who song here).  I figured that they must use some high tech gadgets to scan the plate and create one of those green-lines 3D computer images that spins around on the screen.  NY Vintage License Plate - HolographicOr, better yet, the image floats in mid-air like in "Minority Report" and they manipulate the holographic plate to view it from all angles.  Sounds like some really cool stuff.  Paint samples are probably removed and placed into test tubes, which are then spun in a centrifuge.  The results would be viewed on a spectrograph to identify the chemicals in the paint.  The age is determined by carbon dating.  There had to be lasers involved, there always are.  Of course, they would have to dust it for prints to see if the plates were involved in some 50 year old unsolved crime.  Then they must use a black-light to see if there were any blood spatter patterns or other bodily fluids, unseen with the human eye. 

Snapping out of my little fantasy, I learned that the "Authentication Process" consists of sending a single 4 in. x 6 in. color photo of the license plates to Albany along with the car registration paperwork. Hun? That's it?

So let's recap. The local DMVs are trusted by Albany to issue drivers licenses and process passports. But they can't be trusted to verify that original 1962 NY State license plates, placed in their hands, are legit. That can only be done by Albany reviewing a 4x6 photograph, "showing both plates". Which means each plate is about 1 in. x 2 in. in the photo. And we know that photographs can't be altered in any way, so that's a pretty robust process. I imagine in Albany there is a room full of desks, at each sits a person with one of those large Sherlock Holmes magnifying glasses, wishing that they had some high-tech equipment to use.

I had taken half a day's vacation from work, thinking that I could walk out of the DMV with my registration in hand.  Now I was headed home to photograph my license plates.  I took a quick picture and printed it out on my Kodak thermal photo printer.  I put it and the rest of the paperwork in the mail that afternoon.  I added a tracking number so I could make sure the mighty Albany received my package.  After all, I was sending the original title and if that got lost, I was screwed.

And now I wait. 

All Hail, The Great Albany

I waited and waited.  For 10 days, I checked the mail, looking for something from the DVM.  I asked any family member home during the day to text me if something from the DMV showed up.  One day, there was no mail!  I wondered if it was deliverd to the wrong house or that maybe the mailman put our mail along with a package somewhere in the garage, or sandwiched between the screen door and front door.  No such luck.

Each day I would log into the NY DMV web site to see if I could somehow determine if my registration had been processed.  You see, they don't have any online ability to check on the status of a vintage vehicle registration, but I figured out an alternative method to determine the status.  Like many states, NY allows for personalized plates. CSI-DMV NY Plate Better yet, they have an online personalized plate check.  You can type in any combination of letters and numbers to see if that particular combination was available.  It occurred to me that at some point in the process, my plate number would become unavailable.  Before I purchased the plates off of eBay, I ran the numbers to make sure they were available.  So now I was using the same system to see if Albany had registered my plates into their system.  For several days I was presented with the almost cheerful response of "This plate combination is available to request."  They even slammed the message home by displaying a picture of a NY license plate with the number/letters you had chosen.  Dissapointed, I also tried some other letter combinations, just to amuse myself.  So in case you're wondering, "B00BS" is either already taken or it's forbidden, banished from the list of millions of possible letter/number combinations by the great Albany.  

Finally on the 10th day after I had sent in my paperwork, I got the wonderful response of "Sorry, this plate combination is not available."  Woohoo!  I had never been so happy to be rejected in my life.  Then I started thinking that maybe someone else had grabbed my numbers or that by typing them in so many times, I had flagged them somehow.

Then, on a rainy Thursday, 13 days after I had mailed in my paperwork, the registration arrived in the mail.  It was bowling night, so after work I was home then out the door rather quickly, with no time to slap it on  the car and go for a ride.  Later after bowling, I reviewed the registration and temporary inspection sticker.  I was surprise that there were no request for additional info or paperwork.  No note saying that I had to submit a blood sample or light some incense and face East.  I was disappointed that the USPS used up 3 of my 10 days based on the date stamped on the temporary inspection sticker.

Is it a Classic or a Collector Car?

One of the things I needed to consider when I put my 1962 Comet back on the road was Classic Car Auto Insurance.  There are several types of insurance to consider when shopping for insurance for your classic car and the costs vary greatly.  The insurance goes by many different names, Classic, Collector, Vintage or Antique Car Insurance, to name a few.

1962 Comet Classic Car insuranceIt's worth getting a quote through your regular auto insurance company, but be aware you are going to pay 2-3 times (or more) what you will be quoted through one of the specialty Classic Car Insurance agencies.  Many of the big insurance companies have started to offer classic car insurance, but I think they are too new to the game and/or don't have the vested interest that some of the specialty insurance companies do.  Even among the companies who specialize in collector or classic auto insurance I found the prices varied greatly, for the same coverage.  I did make note that several of the big name special insurance companies are "attached" to a few of the bigger name insurance companies.  I don't know if this is just a business to business arrangement or if they are actually owned by them.

A few of the things you need to consider, before you get your quote are:

1. Category - The age of your vehicle matters but it matters differently to the different companies as they each have their own definitions. There is no automatic qualification based solely on age.  Be sure to ask which category your car falls into.  You may be surprised.  What you think is an Antique Car, is really a Collector Car or Classic Car.  Nothing is automatic, based on age.  My car is 50+ years old, and it was considered a Classic Car, with the company I ended up choosing.  It also matters if you have made modifications making your car no longer original.

2 - Usage - How you will be using your car will matter as well.  They'll want to know the typical number of miles you will be putting on the vehicle along with what type of use it will see.  Typically, you can say you will be using it for cruise nights, club events, parades and car shows.  That will get you the best rate.  Make it clear it is not a daily driver.  If it is, you had better be getting the quote from your regular insurance company.  I listed 1000 miles or less for my car, which should be plenty.

3 - Household drivers - They will want a list of ALL licensed drivers living in your household and they will want to know who will be driving the vehicle.  If you have young drivers in the house, that won't be driving the vehicle, be sure to make note of that.   Every driver in the house will need a regular vehicle to drive.  So if you have two young drivers who share a vehicle, they may not insure your classic car, as they feel it may be used for regular transportation.

4 - Pictures - They will need pictures.  I needed to supply two different picture of the vehicle to document that there was no existing damage.  One picture from the front left and the other from the back right.   More will be required for customized vehicles.  Since the insurance company will probably not be local, they can't send an agent over to take them.   You can easily email them digital photos.  

Read more: Is it a Classic or a Collector Car?