ST. MARYS — The garage of Vern Kreckel’s St. Marys home is filled with a couple of his greatest passions — cars and license plates.
There are six cars in the garage, including a ‘92 Ford Ranger. Since Kreckel’s father died, he took over the cars, which are all tagged and fully documented.
Altogether, Kreckel has collected 672 plates over the years — 426 Pennsylvania plates, 198 out-of-state, 47 specialty and one city tax plate from North Carolina. The plates cover the walls and even beams of the building, which Kreckel and his father built together.
“When I was kid and family members came to visit, it fascinated me,” he said. “I would remember their license plates.”
Kreckel also recalls his father bringing license plates into the home. He started collecting himself in 1987.
Kreckel is part of The Automobile License Plate Collectors Association (ALPCA), and has also met other license plate enthusiasts through online resources. There is also another St. Marys man who is an avid collector.
The license plates Kreckel loves have come from several sources, including farms or junk yards. Each one is different, and about every three months, he’ll add another one.
“Family and friends will give them to me, too,” he said.
Around the year 2002, Pennsylvania replated its plates, Kreckel said. When they do that, the old license plate will either be thrown away or given to a collector.
Kreckel also collects vintage advertising pieces, such as items with a dealership’s name, letterboard dealership signs and a gas pump from Texaco. He has a glass case in his home with around 800 of these items.
The oldest license plate Kreckel owns is 106 years old and porcelain. In the ‘50s, plates went to aluminum. He has a “timeline” of plates over the years, including classic car, truck and antique plates, and even rare registration stickers.
License plate collecting isn’t a very common hobby in the area, Kreckel notes. Many ALPCA members also involve their children.
“There are collectors who have thousands of plates,” he says. “I’ll collect as long as a I can.”