Tulsa native brings collection of license plates to Van Buren

Ty Thompson
Press Argus-Courier
A small sampling of Gus Oliver's license plate collection for the past 100 years can be found at Willy Nilly Various Sundry, 617 Main St., in Van Buren.

Gus Oliver has always been a collector. When he received his grandfather's license plates from the 1930s, it sparked a lifelong hobby to collect every type of license plate imaginable. 

Oliver's main focus was getting a license plate from every year in Oklahoma.

"I had trouble find places where I could get them," Oliver said. "Then I found eBay and kind of went wild."

Oliver's collection of Oklahoma plates is somewhere around 2,000. That is after you factor in every year, new car dealers, used car dealers, trailer plates and any other you can imagine the numbers pile up. His favorite is a 1930s state vehicle plate that has the outline of Oklahoma embossed on the face. 

"There's about a hundred years worth of each of those types," said Oliver. 

According to Oliver, he had the fourth-best Oklahoma license plate collection. That was until the man who had the best collection sold Oliver his stash. After that purchase, Oliver started selling license plates through various means and made even more connections with other collectors.

The Oklahoma plate collection may be large, but it's just a small fraction of Oliver's 25,000 license plates. Storage is no problem as he has filing cabinets, places on his walls for license plates, an 18-foot map of Oklahoma with plates on it, and license plates on plywood on the wall that he can flip through.

Oliver has a small booth at Willy Nilly Various and Sundry in Van Buren where he sells his plates.

Oliver has written two books on license plates, including "Oklahoma License Plate History" and a value guide for passenger plates in the USA and Canada.

"I have spent much time researching the city and state statutes and searching archives of newspaper articles, state records and vintage publications since the history of Oklahoma's plates was not well documented by early collectors," he said in his book about Oklahoma.