Oklahoma Citian David Glover didn’t plan for his “original state flag” license plate to become an alternative to the official “scissortail” plate greeted with a loud “blah” when introduced in 2016.
It just turned out that way.
“I’d seen that (flag) image, read up on it and thought it was a very iconic image,” Glover said.
“Iconic” is not a word often used to describe the blue and white scissortail flycatcher design.
“Nobody we knew could figure out it was supposed to be a scissortail flycatcher,” Tulsan Kim Little said.
Widely panned, the design has already been targeted for replacement by the Stitt administration’s “rebranding” initiative led by Lt. Gov. Matt Pinnell.
One thing the scissortail tag may have done is boost sales of the dozens of “specialty plate” alternatives. The number of specialty tags issued and renewed has increased by 17% over the past two fiscal years, but it’s unclear whether the standard tag’s bland portrayal of the state bird is a major reason for that.
And specialty tags remain a small share of tags issued to cars, trucks and motorcycles — less than 3.5%.
In any event, it’s probably safe to say the scissortail tag at least caused people to consider spending the extra money for an alternative.
“We just thought the Twitter bird or whatever it was supposed to be was unacceptable, and we’re big fans of the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve,” said Little, who with her husband popped the extra $40 each for two Nature Conservancy “Pioneers of the Prairie” plates, featuring a bison.
Half the additional fee goes to the Nature Conservancy (through the Oklahoma Conservation Commission) for support of its activities in the state, including management of the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve in Osage County.
The “buffalo plates,” as many people call them, were unveiled at about the same time as the scissortail tag and immediately proved popular.
“It was a no-brainer,” said Elven Lindblad of Tulsa.
Lindblad said he’d never bought a specialty plate, but the scissortail “didn’t do anything for me” while “the bison plate struck a chord.”
Quite a few people agree. Almost 5,000 of the plates were issued or renewed in fiscal year 2019, which ended June 30. It was the fourth-most popular specialty tag, behind the Oklah oma City Thunder (7,341), Oklahoma State University (5,735) and University of Oklahoma (5,467) and ahead of In God We Trust (3,847).
The next standard tag design, said Lindblad: “Needs to be something that’s more of an historical statement. There’s something out there better than the Twitter wannabe.”
That’s what Glover had in mind when he began work on his “original state flag” plate several years ago. The plate is a replica of Oklahoma’s flag from 1911 to 1925 — a red field with a star bearing the numeral 46 in the middle — and the state motto, Labor Omnia Vincit (labor conquers all things) at the bottom.
Glover said there is not, as some have speculated, some sort of hidden or subliminal message connected to radical politics or labor unions. He says he just liked the image and thought other present-day Oklahomans might, too.
It has not been a huge seller — about 1,000 in the past two years — but that’s actually fairly good as specialty plates go. Of the hundreds that have been approved over the years, many and perhaps most have never attracted the minimum order to begin production.
That minimum is 100 for plates authorized through the legislative process (such as the original flag) and 500 for plates proposed through a petition process (utilized for the Pioneers of the Prairie plate).
Tags without a fundraising component, such as Glover’s original state flag, generally cost an additional $20 for new orders or replacements and $16.50 for renewal, although some restricted plates — such as disabled — are less. Those with a fundraising component are generally $40 extra.
Besides costing more, the specialty tags are more trouble to obtain. They must be ordered through the mail rather than picked up at a local tag office, and can take awhile to be delivered.
But, for people who think Oklahoma’s standard-issue license plate is for the birds, the time and the money seem to be well worth it.
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