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"Don't Tread On Me" license plates overtake "In God We Trust" 

click to enlarge The personalized plate on this vehicle refers to an anti-Big Brother message. Translation: "Don't Drone Me, Bro."

Julian Walker / Virginian Pilot

The personalized plate on this vehicle refers to an anti-Big Brother message. Translation: "Don't Drone Me, Bro."

The rattlesnake has overtaken Jamestown, wildlife and God.

It left clean-fuel vehicles in its dust and is coming next for Virginia's lighthouses. Autumn likely will fall soon afterward, along with the commonwealth's great seal.

Virginia's "Don't Tread On Me" license plate - yellow and bearing the popular rallying cry for limited government - is quickly climbing the ranks of special tags in the state.

The plates, a re-creation of the Gadsden flag with its coiled snake at the center, were on just 1,500 vehicles in summer 2012, early in their release. By Thanksgiving 2013, there were nearly 21,800.

There are now more than 38,000, good for sixth among Virginia's best-selling special plates, according to the Department of Motor Vehicles.

At this rate, "Don't Tread On Me" could be No. 3 by early 2015. The two most popular tags, the nature-themed "Scenic" and "Heritage," have commanding leads, but their numbers are falling. There were a combined 423,000 in circulation as of June 30, down from 478,000 in 2011.

Plates emblazoned with "In God We Trust" also continue to sell well, rising to seventh in DMV's June ranking, at 31,000.

Revenue from the 200-plus special plates available in Virginia climbed to nearly $12.5 million last fiscal year, with about $3.5 million going to charities, schools and public programs associated with some of the designs, according to the DMV. Special plates with no third-party revenue-sharing agreement, such as the "Don't Tread On Me" tags, go for a one-time price of $10.

As college football season begins, it's also worth noting the commonwealth's most popular university-theme plates. Virginia Tech held the three best-selling designs as of June 30, followed by the University of Virginia, North Carolina, Penn State, James Madison and West Virginia.

Dave Forster is a reporter at The Virginian Pilot.

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