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License Plate Gallery

License Plate Sticker Colours, Part 1: The Origin of Stickers

Validation stickers on license plates are ubiquitous today, and have been ubiquitous in most states for more than 40 years. How did it all begin, though? Surprisingly, ancillary means of revalidation have existed for nearly as long as license plates themselves.

[Michigan dashboard disc] The distant ancestor of the validation sticker was the metallic tax disc, usually fastened to the wooden dashboard of a car. In 1907 the state of Michigan began to issue dated dashboard discs on an annual basis, displayed in conjunction with an owner-provided multi-year plate. Michigan discontinued discs in 1910, but Nevada, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire experimented with similar systems (sometimes for motorcycles only) through the course of the teens. Other states also issued metallic dashboard discs in this era, but used them in conjunction with annual dated plates.

[California 1916 license plate] In 1916, the state of California issued a porcelain-enamel baseplate. The base was intended to be used for four years, and had rivet holes for annual metal tabs to be affixed directly to the license plate itself.

Several states and provinces followed California's lead and experimented with multi-year base use and metal tabs or inserts in the teens and 1920s, but few of them stuck with it for long. Small tabs were difficult to identify for validity at a glance, and easy for thieves to steal. By 1925, every jurisdiction in North America was issuing annual license plates in embossed steel.

[Connecticut 1937 license plate] In 1937, Connecticut bucked the prevailing trends and brought out a multi-year base that was designed to be used for many years and validated by annual date tabs from the outset. Durability concerns were mitigated by the fact that the plates were made of heavy-gauge aluminum with no background paint (making them immune to fading and rust), and the fact that the annual renewal tabs were brittle and difficult to steal helped salve concerns about security. It was a sign of trends to come.

[Ohio 1943 trailer plate] Due to metal shortages and rationing concerns during World War II, all states and provinces were forced to look and scramble for ways to save material. Some jurisdictions issued license plates made of fiberboard or other alternate materials, some discontinued front plates in reaction, and many of them revisited the concept of multi-year baseplate use. The most common strategy was to issue metal date tabs, proven by Connecticut. Some states instead elected to issue windshield decals. Trailers and motorcycles lacked a windshield to stick things to, however...so alternate means of revalidation had to be used.

In 1943, trailers and motorcycles in Ohio were revalidated by a decal that was affixed to the license plate itself. This was the first example of a validation "sticker" in North America...although the decal was not self-adhesive and needed to be soaked in water before use. Delaware, Manitoba, and Nova Scotia also experimented with plate decals during the war.

[Missouri 1953 license plate] The first self-adhesive license plate stickers in the United States were issued by Missouri in late 1952, partway through the 1953 expiration year. The trend snowballed quickly, with no fewer than six states issuing them before the decade was through:

U.S. plate stickers predating 1960
Arizona Metal tabs - 57 58 -
California - 55a - 57 58 59
Missouri 53a 54 55 56 57 58 59
Nevada - 55 Annual plates
Pennsylvania Cars/MCs Annual plates 59
Trucks 59
WashingtonCars Metal tabs 58 59
Trucks 59

a Stickers issued to late registrants only; others received metal tabs.

Validation stickers were first issued in Canada during 1963, making their appearances in the Maritime provinces of Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick that year. Since stickers were less expensive, less cumbersome, and more theft-resistant than metal tabs, the older format of revalidation made a rapid disappearance as the 1960s drew to a close. The last North American jurisdiction issuing metal tabs was Manitoba, which switched to stickers in 1971. Indiana finally discontinued issuing annual plates to passenger vehicles ten years later, and multi-year sticker-validated baseplates became universal...except in New York and New Jersey, where the stickers went on the windshield instead.

Ironically for having been the state that pioneered stickers in the 1950s, Missouri later regressed and reverted to annual dated plates from mid-1967 expirations through 1980.


Stickers indicating years of issue and primary use (as opposed to dates of expiration) are noted in italics.

Canada
British Columbia Cars Annual plates through 1970. 70 71 72 - 74 75 76 77 78 >
Trucks Annual plates through 1973. 74 -
Motorcycles Annual plates through 1974. 75 76 77 78
Alberta Annual plates through 1973. 74 - 76 - 78
Saskatchewan Annual plates through 1977. 77a 78
Manitoba Metal tabs through 1970. 71 72 73 74 75 - 77 78
Ontario Annual plates through 1973. 74 75 76 77 78 >
New Brunswick 63 - 65 - 67 68 - 70 71 - 73 74 - 76 77 -
Nova Scotia Cars/Trucks - 67 68 - 70 71 - 73 74 75 76 77 78
Motorcycles Annual plates through 1972. 74 76
Prince Edward Island 63 - 67 68 - 70 71 72 - 74 75 - 77 78
Newfoundland Cars/MCs Annual plates through 1970. 71 72 - 74 75 - 77 78
Trucks 71 72 74 >
Northwest Territories Annual plates through 1975. 76 - 78

a Used only on motorcycles.


United States
Alabama Cars Annual plates through 1977. 78 >
Trucks 78
Alaska Metal tabs 64 65 - 67 - 69 - 71 72 73 74 75 - 77 78 >
Arizona 60 - 62 63 - 65 - 67 68 - 70 71 72 - 74 75 76 77 78
Arkansas Annual plates through 1968. 68a 69 70 71 72 73 74 75 76 77 78
California 60 61 62 - 64 65 66 67 68 69 70 71 72 73 74 75 76 77 78
72b 73b 74b 75b
Colorado - 61 Annual plates through 1975. 76c - 78
Connecticut Metal tabs 63d 64 65 66 67 68 69 70 71 72 73 74 75 76 77 78 >
Delaware - 62d 63 64e 65e Colours vary e e f 71 72 Colours vary e
District of Columbia Annual plates through 1967. 65g 66g 67g 68 69g 70 71 72 73 74 75g 76 77 78
Florida Annual plates through 1975. 70h 71h 72h 73h 74h 75h 76i 77 78
Georgia Annual plates through 1971. 72 73 74 75 - 77 78
Hawaii Windshield stickers through 1968. - 70 71 72 73 74 75 - 77 78
IdahoCars Annual plates through 1968. 69 70 71 72 73 - 75 76j 77 78 >
Motorcycles 69 70 71 72 - 74 75 76 77 78
Iowa Annual plates through 1972. 73 74 - 76 77 78
KansasCars Annual plates through 1976. 72k 73k 74k 75k 76 77 78
Trucks/MCs Annual plates through 1975. 77 78
Kentucky Annual plates through 1975. 76 77 78
Louisiana Biannual plates through 1975. 77 78 >
Maine Cars/Trucks Metal tabs through 1967. - 69 70 71 72 73 - Colours vary l
Motorcycles - 76 77 78
Maryland Annual plates through 1971. 72 73 74 75 - 77 78
Massachusetts Biannual plates and windshield stickers through 1969. 70gm 71m 72 73 74 75 76 77 78
Michigan Annual plates through 1971. 72 - 74 75 - 77 78
MinnesotaCars Metal tabs - 66 67 - 69 70 - 72 73 - 75 76 77 78 >
Trucks - 67 69 - 71 - 73 76
Motorcycles - 67 69 71 73 76 77
Mississippi Annual plates through 1977. 78
Missouri 60 61 - 63 64 65 66 67 Annual plates through 1980.
Montana Cars Metal tabs through 1966. - 69 - 71 72 - 74 - 77 78
Trucks 69 71
Nebraska - 61 - 63 64 - 67 68 - 70 71 - 73 74 75 - 77 78 >
Nevada - 62 63 64 - 66 67 68 - 70 71 72 73 74 75 76 77 78
New Hampshire Cars/Trucks Annual plates through 1973. 74 - 76 77 78
Motorcycles Annual plates through 1977. 75 76 77 78
New Jersey (motorcycles) - 61 62 63 64 65 66 67 68 69 70 71 - 73 74 75 76 77 78
New MexicoCars 60n - 62 63 64 65 66 67 68 69 70 71 - 73 74 75 76 77 78
Trucks 60n 64 65 66 67 68 69 70 - 72 73 74 - >
Motorcycles Annual plates through 1968. 69 70 - 74
New York Metal tabs - 65 66 67 68 69 70 71 72 73f 74b 75b 76b 77b 78b
North Carolina Annual plates through 1975. 76 77 78
North Dakota - 63 64 65 - 67 68 69 - 71 72 73 - 75 76 77 78
Ohio Apr Annual plates through 1974. 68o 69o - 75 - 78
May 75p 78
Oklahoma Annual plates through 1973. 74q Annual plates >
OregonCars - 61 62 63 64 65 66 67 68 69 70 71 72 73 74 75 76 77 78
Motorcycles Annual plates through 1966. 67 - 69 70 71 73 74 76
Pennsylvania Cars/MCs 60 61 62 63 64 - 66 67 68 69 70 - 72 73 74 75 76 77r 78
Suburbans - 61 62 63 64
Trucks 60 61 62 63 - 65 66 67 - 69 70 71 - 73 74 75 76 77 -
Rhode Island - 61 62 63 64 65 66 67 68 69 70 71 72 73 74 75 76 77 78 >
South Carolina Annual plates through 1976. 77 78
South Dakota Annual plates through 1976. 77 78s
Tennessee Annual plates 63 64 65 - 67 68 69 70 - 72 73 74 75 76 - 78
Texas Annual plates through 1975. 76 77 78
Utah - 61t 62t - 69 70 71 72 - 74 75 76 77 78
Vermont Annual plates through 1967. 68 - 70 71 - 73 74 75 76 - 78 >
Virginia Annual plates through 1973. 73 74 75 76 77 78
WashingtonCars 60 61 62 - 64 65 66 67 68 69 70 71 72 73 74 75 76 77 78
Trucks 60 61 62 64 65 66 67 68 69 70 71 72 73 74 75 76
Motorcycles Annual plates through 1965. 65 66 67 68 69 70 71 72 73 74 75 76 u
West Virginia Annual plates through 1970. 71 72 73 74 75 76 76q 78
WisconsinCars - 62 - 64 - 66 67 - 69 70 71 72 - 74 75 76 77 78 >
Trucks/MCs Annual plates 64 66 - 68 69 - 71 72 73 - 75 - 77 78
Wyoming Annual plates through 1975. 76 77 -

a Issued to trucks only.

b Issued to motorcycles only.

c Stickers issued to trucks and motorcycles were black on white:

76

d Stickers issued to late registrants only; others received metal tabs.

e For many years, Delaware issued stickers in colours for expiration months that stayed similar from year to year. The following colours were used on expiration stickers from 1964 to 1970, although some yellow year-only stickers were also distributed in 1964 and 1965:

Mar Jun Sep Dec

A 12-month colour palette was introduced for 1973 expirations and modified twice in subsequent years:

73-74 Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
75 Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
76-78 Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec

f Or windshield/window sticker.

g Used on vanity plates only.

h Half-year registration stickers for non-residents.

i Three different colours of Florida '76 stickers were issued, depending on the expiration and use:

Most registrations (exp. Jun) 76
Staggered registrations (exp. Nov-Dec) 76
Half-year non-residents (exp. Dec) 76

j Later examples of Idaho '76 stickers issued to cars were white on blue:

76

k Stickers used on interim/overflow plates with "Z" serial code.

l For many years, Maine issued combined month-year stickers in unique colours for each expiration month. Due to the transition into a staggered registration system, 1975 expirations covered only the last three months of the year:

75 Oct Nov Dec
76 Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
77 Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
78 Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec

m Some examples of Massachusetts '70 and '71 stickers were reversed, with a white background:

70 71

n Sticker applied to metal tab.

o Local tax stickers on annual dated plates.

p Four different colours of Ohio '75 stickers were issued, depending on the expiration and use:

Passenger vehicles (exp. Apr 76) 75
Passenger vehicles (exp. May 76) 75
Motorcycles (exp. May 76) 75
Trucks & other types (exp. May 76) 75

q Oklahoma '74 stickers issued to trucks were black on yellow:

74

r Only used on handicapped plates.

s South Dakota '78 stickers issued to motorcycles and trailers were black on yellow:

78

t Used for durability tests on experimental reflective plates only.

u Washington plate stickers issued to motorcycles in 1977 varied in colour depending on the expiration quarter:

Jly-Sep Oct-Dec

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