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Here we have a pre 1951 Japanese plate from Gumma prefecture
As Found ... Interesting story how I got this plate ... !

I heard on the Yahoo Plates Listserve about an old Japanese plate that turned up on American Pickers a newly-minted show on the History Channel. Yes, another one of those Reality TV shows, but this one features two mid-western guys who cruise around the countryside of America looking for barns full of old junk, with the underlying theme that one man's junk is another man's treasure. They hop from one promising location to another, buying anything they think they can make a buck on. Well, one episode featured them finding this old Japanese plate in a garage for $5 (Hey, why can't I find stuff like that?!), so veteran collector and good-guy Tom Allen the Yahoo List brought it up.

I gave the thought of pursuing this but thought naah... no way for an ordinary guy like me to reach anyone on National TV. Plus, I figured between the time they probably film the show and when they actually broadcast, they would have long since sold off anything acquired. But when Norm Russo reminded me of that same show a week later I thought you know, maybe I should look into this

Where to start? I figured the show had its own website, and turns out they do. Next, how to contact these guys on the show? Hmm, how about finding that episode featuring the Japanese license plate, at least then I'll know what we're dealing with, but if it's as old as they said it was, then I'll most likely need it! I watched one episode that featured a rare Vespa Ape a bizarre motor-trike arrangement of the common Vespa scooter, then a couple Yamaha early 70s dirtbikes, and found it pretty neat as I'm into old bikes but alas the Japanese plate did not appear on that episode.

Now what? I see they have a forum, so I'll ask someone there how best to get in touch with these guys. Turns out one guy replied, giving me the eBay handle of Michael Wolfe, the lanky guy who had the interest in motorcycles. Great, it's worth a shot. So, I give my spiel, and state my website on Japanese plates and tell them I'm truly interested to know what kind of plate they have (hoping they still have it)! I actually get a response, saying they've got the plate. Wow!. He tells me to call the shop. And so I do, getting their secretary, and leaving a message waiting anxiously for the return call. Sitting on pins and needles for a couple days I get a call! Now they send me the photo.... drumroll please... Aha, it's definitely Japanese, and one I need! Who cares if it's a little worse for wear - this is war-time stuff!

Turns out this plate is exactly the same kind I've missed twice in this plate collecting hobby. The first time, it was at Hershey, and the fellow who found it, I know well, but wouldn't trade it to me :-( Oh well. Second chance also was futile. Some guy with a knack for finding good stuff came up with one in nice condition, but decided to eBay it instead of selling it to me directly for what we both felt was a fair offer. Well, I think you can guess where that went! Yup, leaving me still looking!

So here we go, lightning strikes 3 times! Now after having a nice chat with Michael Wolfe on the phone, needless to say the $64,000 question comes up. What's something like this worth. Well, you know what I was thinking - these guys are probably shrewd, thinking if I offered $X, then it's gotta be worth $2X ! I get that game all the time. Michael thought my offer was more than fair, and to my shock, he actually let me have the plate for half of what I offered! I thanked him That's really generous of you to which he replied, Oh, we just like to see our stuff go to the right home, it's our name of the game. Well he was certainly right on that one. Still though, I couldn't get over it. I don't even know too many people in the plate hobby who would do that - do you think more are the type looking for twice what you offered ?!

I suppose the routine of getting the plate was anticlimatic - you know the drill - send payment using Paypal, anxiously await it in the mail. Well as luck would have it, it came the day before the Spring Thaw meet in Annandale VA, on March 6, 2010 and I now had quite the show-and-tell time. I gave a presentation of the story behind this plate and everybody loved it.

Here I am, telling a captive audience all about this plate (incidentally, I'm not sure if it's pre-war or early post-war, but I do know it's from an official vehicle of Gumma Prefecture)

So thank you Michael Wolfe, and the rest of the crew at American Pickers you really made my day, plus I feel privileged that a regular guy like me could actually reach someone on National Television. How about that, it's nice to know in today's society we have down-to-earth shows and the people who run them, making this possible. Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoyed my story even half as much as I enjoyed telling it!

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Page updated Mar 16, 2010