Your Registration Number, It’s All In The Details.

wb Number

VA 1948 WB

Your hull registration number has long been one of those strange things that can be a small detail that either kills the appearance or just goes away, rarely do they actually help the appearance of your classic water craft. Picking the wrong font can be as bad as the wrong font for your transom. It’s not a do the collars match the cuff’s thing mind you, More of a does it look like it would have been done back in the day. Registration numbers in our state at least need to be 3 inches tall, and readable, so a scripted over shadowed look is not only over kill, but not what these numbers are intended for. I will add though that if the name of the boat is in gold leaf, the numbers should be as well. There is a visual language going on that needs to be consistent. The name of your boat is like a logo, the numbers and port name are information and should be simple and informative. That’s of course from a design standpoint.

WB suzy Number

Alan Johnson worked his magic on Suzy’s numbers.

Another option is of course the number itself, if your are fortunate enough to have a low number which can indicate an early registration, its cool. or if you’re lucky enough to live in a state that has an approachable registration process, you can get a custom number if it hasn’t been taken. For example we just got , VA 1948 WB for WECATCHEM. Yes a small detail that no one will notice, but sometimes its the small details that no one notices that are the fun ones.

Sindbad - Home Again

Fellow Woody Boater Richard Dow was lucky enough to get WN 1939 BB – State, Year Built, Baalmann/Batchelor – builders. But said, it was a one time deal.

Keeper Numbers

Our first special number VA 1970 BW for the trusty whaler

So how did we pull it off? Well, it helps to go in person, and at an odd time in the middle of the week, so you are possibly the only one there. I have also found that a photo of your boat helps. Here is the thing, they dont want to do it, it takes a bit of work for the person finding the number to look around, which in my case was part of it. In person its harder for a person to turn down another. I drove 2 hours on a Wednesday with all my documents  and basecly begged. I showed the picture and talked about her history. I originally asked for 1948 CC but someone has that. Some plastic turd out there has that I am sure. My new BFF found WB for Wooden Boat, and I thought, Woody Boater. Wow, even better. So we had a deal.

CO executor

Oh ship!

EXCEPT! OH CRAP! Now this part is embarrassing. Turns out we purchased WECATCHEM from a CO executor, not THE executor,. There is nothing like the sinking feeling that one has when you have driven two hrs to find out you have to return, AND get two other executors to sign a piece of paper.What if this was a set up, what if the other ones now decide to not sign.. OH CRAP!  Needless to say it was a long drive home. The good news is that the other executors were very agreeable and made it happen quickly. Within 5 minutes of the papers making it to me, I was on the road again, and my new BFF’s at the Number place said hi and we made it happen. And that’s the story behind how I got a special number. Was it all worth it. Heck ya, I will do it again…And apparently again.

Keeper tag

Later we talk a trailer can be tweeked with the correct plate if you ask hard enough, and have a plate.

37 replies
  1. Greg Lewandowski
    Greg Lewandowski says:

    That is really cool. I don’t think we can do that in Michigan. I bought my Continental as a gray boat with bill of sale but no title. When I went to the Secretary of State to register the boat after the restoration was complete, my BFF gave me a five minute lecture about why I should not have bought the boat without a title. I had to come back the next day after they did a search to insure the boat had not been stolen. I was then given the original hull number from 1957. At least that had some historical significance.

  2. Larry Forget
    Larry Forget says:

    Nifty Info , CONGRATS.. We had a few original owner boats with only 3 digits . Also some of the suffix could be one letter..
    Other members might like to retire to TENN as there are
    NO license plates or reg for boat trailers here. Could really hang a custom logo .

  3. Troy in ANE
    Troy in ANE says:

    I had no idea they would even do that. Wonder if Maine will?

    Yorktown has a cool number already. We almost lost it when she sat dormant for a decade, but my sister in law was able to convince them to let us keep it.

  4. Andy in Middletown
    Andy in Middletown says:

    Pennsylvania up until the mid 1969s or so issued two identical ‘license’ plates as boater registration. While no longer valid, they make nice period accessories for your boat. My family like to get the year of mfg plates to put on the bow, along with modern registration numbers.

    • Andy in Middletown
      Andy in Middletown says:

      Actually, just check my reference site and PA did plates until 1963… check out the motor boat info below the motor bike info about half way down the page

      If you ever purchased a boat with 4 strange little holes on either side of the bow, in a rectangular paytern, now you know why… they were left from the mounting screws!

  5. Jim Staib
    Jim Staib says:

    In Illinois it is called “Foo”. They don’t like to do it here either. Bring in a box of donuts, set them on the counter and mention that chocolate one in the corner, (with the dead president under it) is really good. Works every time.

  6. Jon H
    Jon H says:

    I tried for a special hull registration number in Michigan when I purchase my Continental from IL. No chance. Then when I moved to North Carolina, I tried to get my MI number so I didn’t need to redo all the gold leaf, only change the MC to NC. No chance here either.

  7. Maadsaund
    Maadsaund says:

    I know it’s none of our business but I would be interested in the selling price. We have a 1946 sportsman and thinking about selling her.

    • Matt
      Matt says:

      The prices on a 25 sportsman can be from 15K to 225K how is that for help. HA.. Ugh.. The answer is always the same with any of these boats. Whats been done to her? In the case of WECATCHEM, she is very original and been maintained very well, and has a 5200 bottom. Her price was very reasonable for both parties. With your boat I would strongly recomend you use one of our sponsors as a broker, depending on where you live, I would also take it to them to sell on location, since many folks do trips to these places with one boat in mind and buy another. As to the price we paid. It didnt really matter, it was the perfect boat for me.

    • Robert E Benz
      Robert E Benz says:

      I have a Higgins 17′ Sportster and I am trying to find information about my boat. The Model is #17 SSS I 185
      Serial Number 13512 can you refer me to any where or any website to help my with information.

  8. Mike W
    Mike W says:

    Hull registration numbers on a classic boat detract from the overall look. It’s unfortunate that there is not an exception for classic boats to be USCG documented like cruisers over 5 tons.

    • Troy in ANE
      Troy in ANE says:

      I tried to document American Beauty. Sent in my $135.00, or so, and was e-mailed back that I needed lots more paperwork (some of which does not even exist). The e-mail said I had 30 days to get the info back to them. Since I didn’t even open the e-mail till after 30 days my money is gone. Registered her this year, wish I had thought about trying to get a special number. Will probably just put the numbers on something that I can put in the window.

  9. Bob Kays
    Bob Kays says:

    From Grandpa’s first boat. Screwed into the wood. When the state changed them ( early 60’s) , he put them where you see them, we never move them.

    • Greg Lewandowski
      Greg Lewandowski says:

      Michigan also had metal tags back in the day. These are from my Uncle’s cruiser, now displayed at our cottage.

  10. Dennis Mykols
    Dennis Mykols says:

    When I went to register my 1959 Lake N Sea, I wanted to re use the original MC numbers for historical purposes also. Current last 2 letters are up in the “TU” range, and the 1959 registration is MC 1871 BA. Clearly going back to the beginning of the boat registration series in Michigan. Well, after much searching they could not find anything in the State files, so I showed my BBF a picture of a 1968 registration sticker that was still on the windshield, and she said close enough.

    • Matt
      Matt says:

      It’s all about being there in person and bringing a photo! That’s the secret. Ya gotta make an emotional connection!

  11. Dennis Mykols
    Dennis Mykols says:

    I put on the new number this spring, and while sitting at the Manistee Hops and Pros show, I noticed on the port side I applied the vinyl lettering wrong. I started right to left and instead of putting on BA, I putt on AB.

  12. Brian F.
    Brian F. says:

    Our 1969 Cavalier Ski Boat was registered in Washington State, Pierce County, in 1972 and scored a sweet two digit RN WN-91-CT. Due to the previous owners never allowing the registration to expire we still get to keep it!! Whenever I get around to repainting the boat I am going to look into a better looking script for it… As it is now we get stopping by the water police at least once a year asking “are you missing some numbers?”. It’s fun but can be frustrating with a boat full of friends and kiddos!

  13. Derk Brill
    Derk Brill says:

    I thought Noel Weber (and Don Hardy) did an outstanding job with the hull number on our 1961 Continental registered in Idaho. Font and year tied into the transom graphic. It’s those little details…

  14. Sean
    Sean says:

    In our neck of the woods, boat registrations were assigned by rather small areas. I have found while researching Greavette Sunflash boats (1960 – 1978) there is virtually no paperwork from the defunct company (and plenty of mis-information passed from owner to owner); since Greavette sent out the original registration paperwork to the government, the true age and ID of these boats can be accurately determined from the original registration numbers. e.g. 6oE 35XX is a 1960 while 60E 115XX is a 1973. The prefix 60E was used for the Muskoka area during this time.

    The more boats you have in your table (along with some established facts) the more accurately you can pinpoint the age as well as estimate the total number of new boats in the area for a given year.

    Many of the early Muskoka boats still bear their original Reg. numbers and almost all of the boats in my Greavette Sunflash Registry do too. So, I’m not really a fan of the “designer” Reg. numbers. But, when it comes to the tow vehicle (or trailer -if you can) have at ‘er, cause Bob’s yer Uncle.

  15. m-fine
    m-fine says:

    Squirt and the Penn Yan both have their original bow numbers. To me, there are historically accurate and not a detriment. I don’t think custom is an option in NY, but I would only try for one if it was an out of state boat that didn’t get an NY number when new.

  16. Steve L
    Steve L says:

    Well, up in the Great White North, (Canada) you have to send your info to a federal office located in New Brunswick. I did this and attached a note tell all about the boat and if there was any way they could include certain numbers. No luck. Our numbers are now 7 digits long with two letters designating the province. That’s a lot of gold…and cash for the sign painter!

    I guess its all done thru the Coast Guard so the is just one federal registry to ID boats?

    • Cobourg kid
      Cobourg kid says:

      Steve , things might have changed recently, ( someone correct me if so) but I believe our friends at the Transport Canada office in New Brunswick are still willing to re-assign a Canadian vessel’s original registration number, providing you can produce physical evidence that it once belonged to your boat and that a search of the electronic registry proves that the number in question is not currently assigned to any other Canadian vessel.

      • Sean
        Sean says:

        That is correct. well, sort of…

        I imported my 1965 Donzi Ski Sporter from LI, NY. Previously, the boat was registered in Connecticut. I had the original registration from Connecticut however, I was told I MUST switch to a Canadian Registration number. So, I now have the same 9 digit alpha-numeric type number that the new boats get.

        As long as the boat was registered in Canada and you have proof of the original number, you may re-register that number.

        • Steve L
          Steve L says:

          All good info…Thanks guys. My boat is from the U.S. I have very little history on it other than the original hull card and I think it spent most of its life in Washington/Oregon.
          I have learned though, that no matter how frustrated you get, you have to be nice and use your patience when dealing with Government clerical staff! Some are willing to stray outside of their boundaries to help you and some wouldn’t do it for their own mother.

  17. don vogt
    don vogt says:

    I think it is important to pay attention to the registration number. Ideally the type face should be period compatible. I used the font style in the 1938 cc catalogue to make sure of this.

    In Idaho the people at the boat registration dept were very nice and searched for a 1938 number for me. Almost no one notices it but fun to have.

  18. mahoganymadness
    mahoganymadness says:

    Just a FYI if you live in Michigan..yo can get boat registrations for historic water craft..I believe the boat has to be at least 30 years old?…so if see on that is mc xxxx hw…hw is the historic and 1/3 the price

  19. Walt
    Walt says:

    Matt, interesting that VDGIF offers this service. I’m familiar with registering old license plate for antique cars. Thankfully my old boats are family heirlooms originally registered here in the Commonwealth so they all have appropriately old registration numbers. Here’s the hull ID for my 1959 Elgin.

  20. Danny Buckingham
    Danny Buckingham says:

    I have the original Maryland number my grandparents got when they bought my boat. It’s the lowest Maryland number (MD 230 F) I’ve ever seen. Not crazy about the font I used back when I put the numbers on years ago but maybe Fontmaster Matt could help a brutha DC area woodyboater with that. 😉

  21. Andreas Reissmann
    Andreas Reissmann says:

    Retaining the original tag numbers can also add to the history of the boat. When I bought my Matlo, it had a low number Bracebridge Ontario registration…the heart of where all things wooden came from (in Canada). I was able to register 60E399 in my name, keeping the Bracebridge regional prefix (even though I don’t live there).

  22. Robert E Benz
    Robert E Benz says:

    I have a Higgins Sportster 17′ with a Ford V8 interceptor engine and Stewart Warner transmission on a very old two wheel trailer with extension hitch. I am looking for anyone with information or website to got more help.

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