My husband and I started collecting tacky state plates because someone had to. Old ladies were downsizing to nursing homes and their tourist-themed plate collections were turning up at garage sales, thrift shops, and flea markets across the country. What their relatives wouldn’t do, we would, and we began our 50-state collection plate by plate. Our two kids got into the act as well, joining our search for plates in our Midwestern tri-state area.
We had rules: 1, The plates must be kitschy, and 2, they must be cheap — 10 or 25 cents up to a dollar or two per plate. We did pay $3 for our first Iowa plate, but we live there so we made an exception. Generally we have one plate per state. However, we have two Iowa plates — again, because we live there. We also have two Texas plates — a standard state plate and one from the Texas State Fair, featuring Big Tex, that is just too tacky to give away. Maryland and Delaware share a plate, but the states are neighbors, so why not?
The original plate in our collection features Yellowstone National Park, purchased for 87 cents at a Salvation Army store in Ames, Iowa. The final plate, our state number 50, was New Hampshire, found at the St. Vincent de Paul store in Marshfield, Wisconsin. When they learned that our state plate collection was complete, certain well-meaning friends encouraged us to expand, and sent us a set of Florida salt and pepper shakers. But for now they stand alone. We’re running out of shelf space.