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401 Meeker St Delta CO 81416 970.874.4421

A license to collect

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Photo by Don Benjamin Frank Swancara Jr. poses with a small sample of his extensive license plate collection. He is particularly proud of those shown on the right. The "18-77" and "VL-77" all belonged to the same person. He's happy to have them but disap

Frank Swancara Jr. is a man of few words.

Asked how he managed to amass his well-ordered collection of 850 license plates, he pauses then responds.

"I always saved my own and when I retired and my wife and I moved to Montrose I finally had a garage. So I had a place to keep them."

His wife died in 2003 and that summer he consoled himself with a trip to Durango where, in a secondhand store, he discovered a mint-condition 1938 Colorado license plate.

"It was a beauty. So then I thought, why not get some others? Soon I found that collecting them was quite a pleasurable pursuit."

His collection now includes at least one copy of every Colorado year beginning in 1913. New plates were issued to each motorist every year up until 1976 when the state began issuing stickers instead of replacement plates.

Prior to his retirement in 1995, Frank enjoyed a 25-year career with the U.S. Forest Service serving among other places in the South Platte ranger district and as site manager of Grey Towers national historic site in Pennsylvania, the home of Gifford Pinchot, the nation's first chief of the U.S. Forest Service. Before his forest service career, he taught science in Denver for more than a decade.

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