About This Site: How To Read

The information presented on this website was slowly developed over the last thirty years and has grown, like a city, in several different directions over time.  It started as a way for me to keep track of basic information on passenger plate numbers, all in one small notebook (before the computer era).  Therefore, to keep the summarized data as concise as possible, early on, I developed a standardized format to list the various parameters of information when it applied to multi-year baseplates.  An example of that format, and how to "read" it, appears below.  As research progressed, I added truck plates, motorcycle plates, county codes, color schemes, sizes, pre-state plates, and more.  The result is what you see today on this site.  Updates are still being made weekly!

When it comes to the actual plate numbers listed, all are numbers that have actually been seen on license plates, unless noted that they are inferred from registration records, statistics, or some other source.  The only exceptions are as follows:  1.) Low numbers, such as 1, 100 or 1000, etc. are listed as such if it is reasonably known that it was the lowest number issued, even if that plate hasn't been spotted.  2.) Ranges of numbers where a state has issued serial formats by county and/or weight class; we can't record highs and lows of all 105 Kansas counties, so we express an expected range of possible numbers in the system.  3.) Sequencing in predictable systems, such as Michigan's 1979-83 base where numbers began at BBB-000 and ended at ZZZ-999.

We used to have a key to codes and abbreviations on this site, but I have attempted to remove as many of these cryptic 1-, 2- or 3-letter abbreviations as possible, making a key hopefully unnecessary.  Some vestiges of my old system remain:  An * after a number means that the number is higher than registration figures for that year and type (and *t means the same thing for passenger figures unless trucks are included).  In other words, the number is "too" high.  However, this is common especially in states with multiple issuing offices, each of which had to be stocked with a sufficient quantity of plates to get through the year.  The results?  Number "inflation", and possible leftover unissued plates with lower or higher numbers.  No attempt has been made to distinguish issued numbers from unissued ones.  If a plate was produced, we'd want to collect it whether it was issued or not!

Registration figures, unless noted otherwise, are from the U.S. Department of Commerce (1901-55 passenger, truck and total), U.S. Department of Transportation (1956-75, passenger only), and Transport Canada (1903-73, total only).  Alaska and Hawaii figures start in 1959.  When figures become available from a state or provincial source directly, these are considered to be more accurate.


  1        2         3            4         5             6
5-1-81  "MAY 82"  Type 1       BAA 100 - BTH 647      (329,048 P)
May 84  "MAY 85"  Type 2       BTJ 109 - CBY 976      (128,668 P)
Jun.88  "JUN 89"  Type 1a      CBZ 128 - DJX 999      (490,472 P)
                                                (TOTAL 948,600 P)
1 First date of issue, or earliest known month and/or year of issue.
2 Earliest possible or earliest known expiration date on plate.
3 Die variation, if more than one occurred on this base.  Die types are described separately below the
  entry.  Type 1a is a subtype, identical to Type 1 in construction and appearance.
4 Lowest number known, verified or observed.
5 Highest number known, verified or observed.
6 Total number of pairs (P) or singles (S), calculated by multiplying the letters and numbers used,
  and subtracting omitted series, if known.  This number is useful for the comparison of relative rarity.
  In this case, Type 2 plates only represent about 13.5% of the total issue, with 257,336 verified.
Non-passenger types have been researched for all U.S. and Canada jurisdictions up through 1979.  In several cases, research has been done beyond 1979 according to the table below:
Alaska               2014      Maine            1987      Oregon                1980
Delaware             1992      Michigan         1983      Tennessee             1982
District of Columbia 1984      Mississippi      1981      Texas                 1984
Georgia              1982      Missouri         1981      Utah                  1985
Hawaii               1980      Nebraska         1983      Vermont               1989
Idaho                1986      Nevada           1983      Virginia              1980
Indiana              1980      New Hampshire    1987      Washington            1986
Iowa                 1984      New Jersey       1985      West Virginia         1981
Kansas               1980      New Mexico       1984      Wisconsin             1986
Kentucky             1982      New York         1986      Wyoming               1982
Louisiana            1983      North Carolina   1983
Guam                 1987      Alberta          1983      Prince Edward Island  1980
Puerto Rico          1984      British Columbia 1985      Quebec                1982
Virgin Islands       1980      Manitoba         1982      Saskatchewan          1989
Canal Zone           1980      New Brunswick    1985      Yukon                 1990
U.S. Forces Germany  1982      Newfoundland     1981      Northwest Territories 1985
                               Nova Scotia      1981