Brake for clowns: JP Patches license plates are up for bid

EDMONDS — Shelling out big bucks for a license plate that has never been so fun.

Several bids already top $1,000 in an online auction for 20 of the new Patches Pal specialty car plates with beloved TV clown JP Patches and his sidekick Gertrude.

“People desire these low-number plates as kind of a status symbol to show that they were one of the first people to get it,” said Curt Hanks, who designed the plate and oversees jppatches.com, the official Patches website.

Hanks is among the generations of kids who grew up with “The JP Patches Show,” airing from 1958 to 1981 on KIRO-TV. The man with the painted face and patched jacket was Chris Wedes of Edmonds. He died in July 2012 at age 84.

Proceeds from plate sales will benefit Seattle Children’s cancer immunotherapy research. Wedes and Gertrude made frequent visits to young patients in the hospital.

“We are hoping to raise $250,000 from the plates in general,” Hanks said. “For the auction, we were hoping for $10,000 and it looks like we’re on course to at least make that.”

Plate numbers 1, 2 and 3 are already claimed and not available in the auction. The bid for lowest number 4 was $1,015 on Tuesday. The bidding war was on the number 5 plate, with the high bid of $1,600.

“I’m not sure what the significance of number 5 is,” Hanks said. “It must have some significance to at least multiple people.”

The lowest bid was $260 on plate 14. The auction started July 21 and ends July 31.

Gov. Jay Inslee signed the bill in March for the creation of the Patches Pal plate, which is slated for public sale through the Department of Licensing starting Oct. 1.

The first 25 plates were allotted for charity purposes, Hanks said: “Five of the 25 are going to members of the organization committee who worked tirelessly over the past six years to make sure these plates became a reality.”

Tireless is right.

Over the years the push for a Patches plate couldn’t make it through the Legislature.

“It never had enough votes or it was never a priority,” Hanks said. “This year was probably going to be our final push to get it through.”

At his home in Edmonds in 2008, Chris Wedes transformed himself into the popular clown Julius Pierpont “JP” Patches. Wedes was battling cancer, which took his life four years later. (Dan Bates / The Herald)

Senate Bill 5741 to create the “Patches Pal” plate finally made it in 2022. State Sen. John Lovick, D-Mill Creek, was among the sponsors.

A Washington wine special license plate also was approved this year. The state’s other 40 special plates include those that recognize the military, sports teams, schools, parks, breast cancer awareness, firefighters, farmers, ranchers, elk, deer, orcas and the state flower.

In addition to plates, there is other patches merch to be had. Hanks designs JP Patches items such as lunchboxes and figurines for his employer, novelty giant Archie McPhee, which is headquartered in Mukilteo and has a store in Seattle.

Auction winners won’t receive their plates until after the Oct. 1 release date.

“No one’s getting theirs before anybody else,” Hanks said.

No need to stay up until 12:01 am on Oct. 1 to order a plate.

“They’ll make as many as the demand calls for,” Hanks said. “People can wait until their tabs are due and need to renew.”

The auction bids do not include state special plate and renewal fees.

More: dol.wa.gov

Andrea Brown: 425-339-3443; abrown@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @reporterbrown.

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