Q. During World War II there was a metal shortage and everyone was asked to donate metal to the government to build war materiel. Starting in 1943 and ending in 1948, Illinois made its license plates out of soybean fiberboard. One of my pictures shows a 1946 fiberboard plate. The other picture shows a pair of metal Illinois 1946 plates. To my knowledge Illinois never made metal 1946 plates. Can someone do some research and let me know about these unusual plates?
— Guy Buswell, Fort Worth, Texas
A. The license plate experts tend to congregate in the Automobile License Plate Collectors Association (www.alpca.org), of which I’ve long been a member. I don’t collect so much as accumulate, but that’s another story. Indeed the ALPCA archives hold the answer to your question. As you say, Illinois passenger plates were made of a soy-based fiberboard from 1943 to 1948. A persistent legend says they were susceptible to being eaten by animals, primarily goats, but eyewitness accounts are lacking. Your steel pair, however, are truck plates, although they are not identified as such. The “B” signifies they’re for a truck of 8,000 to 10,000 lbs. GVW. The reason for labeling them as FRONT and REAR is unclear, except that it may be to indicate to law enforcement that they were issued in pairs and the vehicle should have two plates. The rationale for steel may have been simply that trucks were expected to endure conditions where fiberboard plates would be damaged (exposure to goats, maybe?). That said, apparently a few fiberboard 1946 truck plates have turned up in collectors’ hands.
Q. In the July 25 Q&A, you made the statement: “Regarding the tax benefits of non-cash donations, in order to qualify, a deduction of $500 or more must be substantiated by an appraisal which is the responsibility of the donor.” This is not correct. Maybe it was a typo, but the amount should be $5,000. Not $500.
According to the IRS: “A donor who claims a charitable deduction of $5,000 or more for a single item or for multiple similar items of personal or real property must obtain a qualified appraisal of the item’s or group of items’ combined value.”
— Frank Scheidt, Communications Director, Early Ford V8 Foundation, Auburn, Ind.
A. Thanks for catching that error. It’s a conflation of two separate limits on my part, not a typo. Charitable donations are recorded on Schedule A of Form 1040. Schedule A instructs that property donations worth $500 or more require filing Form 8283, which in turn instructs that gifts of $5,000 or more must be substantiated with an appraisal. As with all such legal matters, you should not act solely on advice in this column, but consult your tax advisor or attorney.
Q. Regarding that police cruiser door (July 4 Q&A); having attended college in Potsdam, N.Y., from 1964 to ’69, I can attest that the Potsdam police did use MoPar police cars. I can’t recall whether they were Dodges or Plymouths, but I can recall the times they pulled me over.
— Pete Hallock, via e-mail
A. Thanks for that. I was pretty sure I was on the right track, but it’s nice to have confirmation. I hope they let you off lightly.
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