The 2009 numbers are out for Florida specialty license plates and once again, the Florida Gators are champs. The University of Florida plate ended the year with 120,858 total plates sold, up more than 7,000 from 2008.
Specialty plates as a whole, though, were down for the first time in years, perhaps a sign of the slumping economy. The 113 available plates made up for a total of 1,623,309 total sold, only slightly down from the 2008 total of 1,630,330.
New plates sales made up the biggest difference for the overall drop, down almost 100,000 from 336,097 in 2008 to 238,654 in 2009. There were more 90,000 more renewals in 2009, though, with 1,384,655, up from 1,294,233.
Even the plate at the top saw a slump in new sales, with the Gators plate selling only 17,547 new plates compared to 26,074 the previous year.
As far as 2009 plate trends go, the top 10 plates remain the same, with some slight shuffling for spots. After UF this year, at No. 2 is Helping Sea Turtles Survive, up two spots from 2008. At No. 3 is Florida State University, also up two spots from 2008. Last year's runner-up, Protect Wild Dolphins, drops two spots to No. 4 as does Protect the Panther, coming in at No. 5. Save the Manatee remains unchanged at No. 6, then Marine Corps at No. 7, up one from last year. Dropping a spot is Protect Our Reefs at No. 8 followed by Choose Life and Tampa Bay Buccaneers at No. 9 and No. 10, both unchanged from 2008.
Two plates that passed the Legislature in 2008 made their debut on Florida roads. The In God We Trust plate came in ranked 61st out of 113 with more than 5,000 sold while Horse Country came in 93rd with almost 1,400 sold.
Of the rest of the plates, the biggest gainers in rank were Play Tennis (up 26), Visit Our Lights (up 21), Tampa Bay Rays (up 18) and Protect Florida Springs (Up 14). All but the Rays plate were either new or in limited released in 2008, which may account for the move up the charts. The Rays plate increase could be attributed to the team's World Series appearance in 2008.
The biggest declines in rank went to Rollins College (Down 8), Florida Gulf Coast University (Down 7), and Kids Deserve Justice, Florida Memorial University, University of North Florida and Palm Beach Atlantic University (All Down 6).
The biggest gainers in total sales were UF (Up 7,296), Army (Up 2,573), University of South Florida (Up 1,918) and Air Force (Up 1,784). Other plates seeing an increase of more than 1,000 more sold include Play Tennis, Tampa Bay Rays, Salutes Firefighters, Visit Our Lights, Protect Florida Springs, Animal Friend, Marine Corps, Navy, Save Our Seas and Support Law Enforcement.
The biggest declines in total sales were Protect the Panther (Down 7,005) and Protect Wild Dolphins (Down 4,885). Others seeing a decrease of at least 2,000 in total sales include Challenger/Columbia, Save the Manatee, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Support Education, Helping Sea Turtles Survive, Conserve Wildlife and State of the Arts.
While the state is in a three-year moratorium on new specialty plates that began in 2008, exceptions to the moratorium allow the consideration of new plates that were in the application process before the moratorium took effect. The Legislature passed only one new plate in 2009, although there were 14 proposals afoot. That new plate is for autism awareness.
Some of the same plates that didn't make it in 2009 will try again in 2010, including the late Sen. Jim King's push for a St. Johns River plate as well as one titled Endless Summer, for the Surfing Evolution & Preservation Corporation, one for the Fraternal Order of Police and one titled Catch Me, Release Me for the Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun