By DONALD WITTKOWSKI
Some people collect vintage toys or antique furniture or classic cars.
In Sea Isle City, it is popular for people to have beach tag collections that date back years, if not decades.
Among the most highly coveted items for any collector are Sea Isle’s special edition “Polar Bear Plunge” beach tags that are sold each year on a limited basis, city spokeswoman Katherine Custer said.
“They always sell out,” she said.
Starting Jan. 15, the city will begin selling 2020 beach tags inspired by the Polar Bear Plunge, the madcap traditional dip in the frosty ocean that draws thousands of visitors to town each February.
In all, 1,500 of the beach tags will be available for the discounted preseason price of $20, a $5 savings over the regular cost of a seasonal beach tag.
“They serve as a regular beach tag for the 2020 summer season,” Custer said.
Although the frigid winter weather may make it hard to think about leisurely summer vacations at the seashore, Sea Isle has found that beach tag sales can be pretty strong during the offseason.
The city offers an assortment of holiday-themed beach tags, including ones that make for popular Christmas stocking stuffers.
The commemorative Polar Bear Plunge beach tags are a way for Sea Isle to capitalize on what is its most popular winter event. This year, Polar Bear Plunge Weekend will be held Feb. 14-16.
Tens of thousands of visitors and self-styled “polar bears” pack the town for a weekend of partying, dining and shopping that unfolds every year over the Presidents Day weekend. The chilly plunge on Saturday, Feb. 15, will highlight the celebration.
“The beach tag is a memento of the plunge,” Custer said.
Beach tags are sold at the Tax Office on the second floor of City Hall and at the Sea Isle City Welcome Center on John F. Kennedy Boulevard.
They are also available at a cash-only beach tag vending machine on the first floor of City Hall. Sea Isle has bragging rights for being the first town at the Jersey Shore to have a beach tag vending machine. It was introduced in 2016.
Custer noted, however, that the Polar Bear Plunge beach tags do not cover a $25 entry fee that is charged by the plunge’s private organizers. The fee applies to people who take a dip in the official lifeguard-protected plunge area near 40th Street.
“We try to point out to people that the beach tags do not grant access to the Polar Bear Plunge,” Custer said.
Proceeds generated by the plunge’s entry fee help to fund entertainment and tourist-friendly special events sponsored by the Sea Isle City Chamber of Commerce and Revitalization, a private group representing the local business community.