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A license plate purse is a small, usually handcrafted bag that is made from new or used license plates originally designed for use on an automobile. Creating a license plate purse is one way to repurpose and recycle license plates, including vanity plates from schools, fraternal organizations, sports teams and associations.
Creating a license plate purse generally requires at least two license plates, which are held together with wire or bolts, though a single plate can be bent to make a small bag. The number of plates and the design one chooses will determine the size of the finished purse. One can add chains or straps to create a shoulder bag or use the purse like a standard clutch handbag.
The pattern used determines the shape of the purse. Crafters may use sheet metal inserts or mini-hubcaps for the sides of the purse, but one also can arrange the license plates into shapes that only utilize license plates for the bottom, sides and top. One can bend the license plates to create a box that requires no other metal. One can create vertical or horizontal barrels that resemble a small beer keg. Styles made popular by eco-designers also include cylindrical, rectangular and square shapes.
A good-quality license plate purse may have a liner to protect the owner’s hands and the bag's contents from being scratched by the metal. Leather, vinyl or a durable fabric are common lining options. In addition, the purse’s creator may provide a fastener or catch that allows one to close the purse. Hinges may be required to create a durable flap closure for a license plate purse.
Standard license plates have edges that might cause injury. Unless the designer bends or folds the top, bottom and sides under to keep them from rubbing against things, the plates could cut the skin of the person carrying the bag. For this reason, the edges and sides of purses that don't have folded edges should be sanded to decrease the potential for injury.
Craft companies and designers sell generic and customized license plate purses in retail shops and online. Unless one has metalworking skills and tools, ordering a purse that someone else has created may be easier than constructing one at home. The main consideration for purchasing a license plate purse from a designer is the quality of the construction and the cost.
@Scrbblchick -- I'll actually admit to buying one in the 80s. I bought mine at a craft fair because I wanted tags from my state. It was a fashion statement for a year or two, and then became passe'. I could probably dig it out now and carry it and it would be cute and retro. How times change. What used to be fashionable becomes old hat and then comes back as "retro." Nothing new under the sun.
The one thing about it was that it was indestructible, which was good for me, since I'm tough on purses. But even I couldn't do too much to a license plate purse.
I remember seeing these in department stores in the late 1980s. They were a fad item then. You could also find them for sale at nearly every craft fair, since license plates were easy to get and some people even collect them.
License plates are different today, and the ones for my state are not nearly as sturdy as they were years ago. I don't know that you could make a purse out of them now. They would probably break if you bent them that far. They're not made of sheet metal like they used to be. I'm sure that's to save money.