Vehicle registration plates of California

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California
California license plate, August 2012.png
Current series
Slogandmv.ca.gov
Size12 in × 6 in
30 cm × 15 cm
MaterialAluminum
Serial format1ABC123
Introduced1994 (1994)
(current version, with website, introduced 2012)
Availability
Issued byCalifornia Department of Motor Vehicles
History
First issuedJanuary 1, 1914 (1914-01-01)
(pre-state plates and seals from 1905 to December 31, 1913)

The U.S. state of California first required its residents to register their motor vehicles in 1905. Registrants provided their own license plates for display until 1914, when the state began to issue plates.[1] Plates are currently issued by the California Department of Motor Vehicles.

Front and rear plates are required on most types of vehicle in California, including all passenger vehicles. On motorcycles and some other non-passenger types, only rear plates are required. On all vehicle types, registration validation stickers are also required, to be displayed on the rear plate.[2][3]

Since 1947, California license plates have been manufactured by inmates at Folsom State Prison.[4]

Passenger baseplates[edit]

Pre-state plates[edit]

Image Dates issued Design Serial format Serials issued Notes
1905-12 California License Plate.jpg 1905–13 Black on white; "CAL" at right 123456 1 to 122444 A one-time $2.00 fee is paid to register the vehicle, and the motorist must have a license plate made to hang from the rear of the vehicle (front plate also required starting in 1911). These plates were valid from the date of issuance until no longer needed for that car. The seal (disc) that the motorist received from the state with the registration number, along with the license plate(s), was supposed to remain with the vehicle upon transfer to a new owner, but that did not always happen. These early plates were valid through December 31, 1913.[5][6]

1914 to 1962[edit]

In 1956, the United States, Canada, and Mexico came to an agreement with the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators, the Automobile Manufacturers Association and the National Safety Council that standardized the size for license plates for vehicles (except those for motorcycles) at 6 inches (15 cm) in height by 12 inches (30 cm) in width, with standardized mounting holes.[7] The 1955 (dated 1956) issue was the first California license plate that complied with these standards.

Image Dates issued Design Serial format Serials issued Notes
1914 California passenger license plate - Number 57164.jpg 1914 white on red porcelain 123456 1 to 122375[8] Replaced all 1905–13 plates.
1915 California passenger license plate.jpg 1915 black on yellow porcelain 123456 1 to 163557[9] Brass Seal: Hexagon 1915 California Auto Registration (2).jpg
1916 California passenger license plate.jpg 1916 blue on white porcelain 123456 1 to 234317[10] Validation tab:
1916 Bear (Front) 1916 California License Tab-Rear.jpg
1916 Bear (Rear) 1916 California License Tab-Front.jpg
1917 234318[11] to 357299[12] Registered owners of plate numbers 1 to 234317 only received the Poppy tabs to place on their 1916 plates.
Validation tab: Poppy 1917 California License Tab.jpg
1918 357300[13] to 485000[14] Registered owners of plate numbers 1 to 357299 only received the Bell tabs to place on their 1916 plates.
Validation tab: Bell 1918 California License Tab.jpg
1919 485001[15] to 599705[16] Registered owners of plate numbers 1 to 485000 only received the Star tabs to place on their 1916 plates.
Validation tab: Star 1919 California License TabA.jpg
1920 California passenger license plate.jpg 1920 white on black 123-456 1 to 527-583
1921 California license plate 478-701.jpg 1921 black on yellow 123-456 1 to 651-640[17]
1922 California license plate2.jpg 1922 blue on white 123456 1 to 2000; 70001 to 881909[18] Serials 2001 through 70000 reserved for non-passenger vehicles.
1923 California license plate2.jpg 1923 white on black 123 456 1 to ?
1924 California passenger license plate.jpg 1924 white on green 123-456 1 to ?
1925 California license plate2.jpg 1925 black on yellow 123 456 1 to 30 00, 250 001 to 999 999 Serials 30 01 through 250 000 reserved for non-passenger vehicles.
A-12 345 A 1 to F-99 999
1926 California passenger license plate.jpg 1926 white on blue 123 456 1 to 40 00, 320 001 to 999 999 Serials 40 01 through 320 000 reserved for non-passenger vehicles.
A-12 345 A-1 to G-99 999
1927 California license plate 1-510-891.jpg 1927 white on maroon 1-234-567 1 to 50-00;
400-001 to approximately 1-860-000
First use of the full state name. Serials 50-01 through 400-000 reserved for non-passenger vehicles.
1928 California license plate 1-281-618 fade.jpg 1928 yellow on blue 1-234-567 1 to 3-000;
450-001 to approximately 2-080-000[19]
Serials 3-001 through 450-000 reserved for non-passenger vehicles.
1929 California license plate2.jpg 1929 orange on black 1A-12-34 Coded by branch office Letters A through M were used in Northern California, and N through Z in Southern California.[19]
1930 California license plate 6J-743.jpg 1930 black on orange 1A-12-34 Coded by branch office
1931 California licence plate.jpg 1931 orange on black 1A 12 34 Coded by branch office
1932 California license plate2.jpg 1932 black on orange 1A 12 34 Coded by branch office
1933 California passenger license plate.png 1933 orange on black 1A 12 34 Coded by branch office
1934 California passenger license plate.jpg 1934 black on orange 1A 12 34 Coded by branch office
1935 California passenger license plate.jpg 1935 orange on black 1A 12 34 Coded by branch office
1936 California passenger license plate.jpg 1936 black on orange 1A 12 34
10 A 123
Coded by branch office
California37licenseplate.jpg 1937 orange on black 1A 12 34
A/A 12 34
Coded by branch office
1938 California license plate 2T 53 20.jpg 1938 black on yellow 1A 12 34
10 A 123
Coded by branch office
California39licenseplate.jpg 1939 yellow on blue 1A 12 34
10 A 123
Coded by branch office
1940 California passenger license plate.jpg 1940 black on orange 1A 12 34
10 A 123
Coded by branch office
1941 California passenger license plate.jpg
California 1942 license plate tab on 1941 base plate.jpg
California 1943 license plate tab on 1941 base plate.jpg
California 1943 license plate tab on 1942 base plate.jpg
1941–44 embossed yellow serial on black plate, "19 CALIFORNIA 41" on top 1A 23 45
12 A 345
1A 1 to ? Citizens that got the 1941 base plate in 1941 got this tab for revalidation.
Validation tab for 1942: 1942 California license plate tab.jpg
Validation tab for 1943: 1943 California license plate tab.jpg

It was issued due to metal conservation for World War II.

Validation sticker for 1944: 1944 California license plate window decal.jpg

It was issued due to metal conservation for World War II.

1945 California passenger license plate.jpg 1945–46 white on black 1A 23 45
12 A 345
1A 1 to ? Only rear plates issued.
Validation tab for 1946: 1946 California license plate tab.jpg
1947 California passenger license plate.jpg 1947–50 black on yellow 1A 23 456
12A 3 456
1A 1 to ? Validation tab for 1948: 1948 California license plate tab.jpg
Validation tab for 1949: 1949 California license plate tab.jpg
Validation tab for 1950: 1950 California license plate tab.jpg
1951 California license plate 7B 82 644.jpg 1951–55 yellow on black 1A 23 456
12 A 3 456
1A 1 to ? Validation tab for 1952: 1952 California license plate tab.jpg
Validation tab for 1953: 1953 California license plate tab.jpg
Validation tab for 1954: 1954 California license plate tab.jpg
Validation tab for 1955: 1955 California license plate tab.jpg
1956 California license plate BBF 146.jpg 1956–62 black on yellow ABC 123 AAA 000 to approximately YRT 999 Validation sticker for 1957: 1957 California license plate decal.jpg
Validation sticker for 1958: 1958 California license plate decal.jpg
Validation sticker for 1959: 1959 California license plate decal.jpg
Validation sticker for 1960: 1960 California license plate decal.jpg
Validation sticker for 1961: 1961 California license plate decal.jpg
Validation sticker for 1962: 1962 California license plate decal.jpg

1963 to present[edit]

All plates from 1963 until present are still valid, provided they are displayed on the vehicle to which they were originally issued and the vehicle has been continuously registered. Along with the pre-1963 plates above, these plates can be used for the year-of-manufacture program, with appropriate year sticker.

The current 1ABC123 serial format was introduced in 1980. In this format, the ABC123 portion of the serial progresses from AAA000 to ZZZ999, before the leading digit advances by one and the progression begins again. All letters are used, although I, O and Q are only used as the second letter (third digit). Series 1SWD000 through 1TZZ999 and 1WAA000-1YZZ999 have not been issued, while others have been reserved for non-passenger and optional plates, such as 1ZZA through 1ZZZ and 3ZZA through 3ZZG for Livery plates, and 1UAA through 1VZZ for Lake Tahoe, Yosemite and Coastal Protection ("Whale Tail") plates.

It is expected that when 9ZZZ999 is reached, the next serial format will be 123ABC1, maintaining the DMV's practice since the 1960s of reversing serial formats at exhaustion.

Image Dates issued Design Slogan Serial format Serials issued Notes
1963 California license plate SAM-123.jpg 1963–69 embossed gold on black, embossed state name and debossed "63" on top right sticker box none ABC 123 AAA 000 to ZZZ 999
1981 California license plate 002 ZZZ.jpg 1969–80 embossed gold serial on blue, state name on top none 123 ABC 000 AAA to 999 ZZZ Monthly staggered registration introduced 1976. I, O and Q not used as first letters in the 123 ABC serial format. Narrower serial dies introduced at the beginning of the WLA series in late 1977, in preparation for the 1ABC123 format.[19]
California 1SAM123 1980 Sample License Plate.jpg 1980–86 1ABC123 1AAA000 to 1SWC999
California Golden State license plate 1982-1987 2GAT123.png late 1982 – late 1987 blue on reflective white with graphic Art Deco state name The Golden State 2ABC123 2AAA000 to 2GPZ999 Extra-cost optional plate until 1987, when it briefly became the standard passenger base after the 1969 blue base was discontinued. Awarded "Plate of the Year" for best new license plate of 1983 by the Automobile License Plate Collectors Association, the first and, to date, only time California has been so honored.
California license plate, 1990.png late 1987 – early 1994 blue on reflective white with embossed red state name none 1ABC123 2GQA000 to 3FMG999 No serials (3FMH000 to 3FZZ999) issued
California license plate (1994–1998).png early 1994 – early 1998 blue on reflective white with graphic red state name none 3ABC123 3GAA000 to 3XZZ999 (Serials 3YAA000-3ZYZ999 unissued and 3ZZA-3ZZG livery only) The state name was modified twice to increase its size (the third and largest version is shown).
1998 California license plate 4SAM123.jpg early 1998 – late 2000 Sesquicentennial - 150 Years 4ABC123 4AAA000 to 4NOZ999
California license plate 5 series.jpg late 2000 – mid 2012 none 1ABC123 4NPA000 to 6TPV999
California license plate, August 2012.png early 2012 – present dmv.ca.gov 6TPW000 to approximately 9DVZ999 (unverified as of November, 2022)[20]

Non-passenger plates[edit]

Image Type First issued Serial format Serials issued Notes
California license plate Amateur Radio Call Letters 1994.gif Amateur Radio FCC call sign Issued to holders of FCC amateur radio station licenses, upon request.
California Antique Motorcycle license plate.gif Antique Motorcycle ANTIQUE M/C 123 Available upon request for any motorcycle manufactured in 1942 or before.
Blank License Plate Shape.svg Apportioned 1982 AP12345 AP00001 to approximately BP10000
California apportioned license plate 2016.jpgBlank License Plate Shape.svg 1987 BP30001 to CP99999; SP00001 to approximately VP70000
California apportioned license plate.jpg 2011 VP70001 to YP66071 (as of July 28, 2022)
California license plate Citizens Band 1994.gif Citizens Band ABC1234 Were issued upon request for holders of FCC citizens band radio licenses until 1983. Plate numbers and letters represent the call letters assigned by the FCC.
California license plate H 90 224 commercial.gif Commercial 1963 A 12 345 A 10 000 to V 99 999
California 2017 commercial license plate late 1963 base.jpg 1967 12 345 A 10 000 A to 99 999 J
California commercial license plate early 70s.png 1969 00 000 K to 99 999 Z
California license plate 1J79500 commercial.gif 1976 1A12345 1A00000 to 2Y05999 (serials 2Y06000-2Z99999 unissued)
3F24323.png late 1982 to late 1986 (optional); early 1987 to late 1987 (standard) 3A00000 to 3P59999
California license plate 4V80988 commercial.gif late 1987 3P60000 to 5A99999
California license plate 5M37250 commercial.gif 1994 5B00000 to 5S99999
California truck sesquicentennial license plate.jpg 1998 5T00000 to 6J99999 With "Sesquicentennial - 150 Years" slogan.
California truck plate 2010 series.jpg 2001 6K00000 to 8Z99999 Serials 9A00000 through 9Z99999 reserved for tractor units.
2010 12345A1 00000A1 to 99999E1
Californian truck license plate, 12345A0.png 2012 00000F1 to approximately 02027P3 (unverified as of Aug 9, 2022)[20] With "dmv.ca.gov" slogan.
California Disabled Person license plate 1994.gif Disabled Person 1995 12345D/P 00001D/P to 99999D/P Before 1995, California issued only placards which were displayed on the dashboard when parking.
Blank License Plate Shape.svg late 1990s D/P12345 D/P00001 to D/P99999
California license plate disabled DP E3210.jpg early 2000s D/PA1234 D/PA0001 to D/PZ9999
California disabled person plate 2010 5633Wdp.jpg 2006 1234AD/P 0001AD/P to 9999ZD/P
2016 California license plate DP 822BR disabled person.jpg 2011 D/P123AB D/P001AA to D/P999ZZ
California 2021 Disabled Person license plate AB123.jpg 2019 AB123D/P AA001D/P to JD131D/P (as of June 15, 2022)
Blank License Plate Shape.svg Disabled Person – Motorcycle 1234D/P
12D/P34
California Golden State Disabled Veteran plate.png Disabled Veteran early 1987 DV12345 DV00000-DV99999
California Disabled Veteran license plate 1994.gif 1994 12345D/V 00001D/V to 85775D/V (as of August 4, 2022)
Blank License Plate Shape.svg Exempt – Local 1963 E123456 E100000-E999999 Black plate with yellow numbering consisting of letter E in octagon and 6-digit number for district-, city- and county-owned vehicles
California Exempt (Local) Plate (blue and yellow).png 1969 E123456 E100000-E999999 Blue plate with yellow numbering consisting of letter E in octagon and 6-digit number for district-, city- and county-owned vehicles
California Exempt (Local) Plate (Golden State).png early 1987 E123456 E100000-E999999 White plate with Golden State design and blue numbering consisting of letter E in octagon and 6-digit number for district-, city- and county-owned vehicles
California Exempt Octagon.gif late 1987 E123456 E100000-E999999 White plate with blue numbering consisting of letter E in octagon and 6-digit number for district-, city- and county-owned vehicles. "California" was either in red block or red script font. For "E0....." plate, see below
Blank License Plate Shape.svg Exempt – State 1963 E12345 E00000-E99999 Black plate with yellow numbering consisting of letter E in diamond and 5-digit number for state-owned vehicles
Blank License Plate Shape.svg 1969 E12345 E00000-E99999 Blue plate with yellow numbering consisting of letter E in diamond and 5-digit number for state-owned vehicles
California Exempt (State) Plate (Golden State).png early 1987 E123456 E000000-E999999 White plate with Golden State design and blue numbering consisting of letter E in diamond and 6-digit number for state-owned vehicles.
California Exempt (State) Plate (white block letter).png late 1987 E123456 E000000-E999999 White plate with blue numbering consisting of letter E in diamond and 6-digit number for state-owned vehicles. "California" was either in red block or red script font.
CA Exempt Plate.gif Exempt 1998 1234567 1000001 to 1635226 (as of May 10, 2022) Issued to all exempt vehicles, regardless of ownership. "CA EXEMPT" screened at top.

Some plates were issued as "E0....." due to a surplus of prestamped octagon "E" plates. On these plates the "E" was to be considered "1". They still had "California" in script font.

California Exempt Motorcycle License Plate.png Exempt - Motorcycle 1998 3123456 3000001 to 3013128 (as of June 1, 2022)
California Foreign Organization License Plate.gif Foreign Organization FOREIGN ORGANIZATION 123
California license plate Historic Vehicle.gif Historical Vehicle 1959 HISTORICAL VEHICLE 123A ? to 9999
001A to 999Z
A001 to A034 (as of February 12, 2022)
Available upon request for any vehicle manufactured after 1922 that is at least 25 years old.
California Hon Consul Corps license plate 1982.gif Honorary Consul 1982 HON CONSUL CORPS 1234 Issued to Honorary Consuls upon request.
Blank License Plate Shape.svg 1988
California license plate Horseless Carriage.gif Horseless Carriage 1984 HORSELESS CARRIAGE 1234 Available upon request for any vehicle manufactured in 1922 or before, or for motor vehicles with 16 or more cylinders manufactured prior to 1965.
California license plate Livery.gifCalifornia license plate Livery MUSIC 5.gif Livery 1ABC123 1ZZA000 to 1ZZZ999; 3ZZA000 to 3ZZG999[20] "LIVERY" screened at bottom. Issued to limos and fleet vehicles until program eliminated by Senate Bill 611 on September 30, 2014. Plates remain valid but cannot be replaced or reassigned.
California Moped license plate 1994.gif Moped C123456 C000001 to C079456 (as of Jul 26, 2021)
1969 California Motorcycle License Plate.jpg Motorcycle 1969 1A1234 1A0000 to 9Z9999 Letter progresses before prefix number (11A–11Z, 12A–12Z, etc.). I, O and Q not used.[21]
California Motorcycle Plate.gif 1983 12A1234 11A0000 to 25W2120 (as of October 9, 2022)
California license plate 4AX6888 trailer.gif Permanent Trailer 2001 4AB1234 4AA1000 to 4VE4591 (as of November 21, 2022) "California Perm Trailer" across top.
California Press Photographer license plate.gif Press Photographer 1987 P/P 1234
California Press Photographer license plate.jpg 2012
Prorate license plate used by interstate fleets.gif Prorate Plate N/A No longer in circulation. Used by interstate fleets to display apportioned stickers. California's stickers are placed in the third well from the top on the left side.

California 1975 Special Equipment license plate.png

Special Equipment 1969 S/E123456 ? to S/E740451 (as of February 22, 2022) Motorcycle-sized. Registration lasts for five years.
California Special Equipment license plate.gif 1985

California public service license plate.jpg

Public Service (state representative) P/S12345
CaliTempTagRotated.png Temporary 2019[22][23][24] AB12C12[25] AA00A00 to CH31C21 (as of Sep 6, 2022)[20]
Blank License Plate Shape.svg Tournament of Roses[26] 1998 TOFR123 TOFR1 to TOFR112 (as of December 1, 2022) Used on parade vehicles during the Tournament of Roses parade.
California license plate Trailer 1960s.jpg Trailer 1963 AB 1234 AA 1000 to HV 9999 No serials (HW 0000 to HW 9999) issued
California 1971 series trailer license plate with 1998 sticker.png 1971 HX 1000 to TZ 9999 The UA-YX series was reserved for commercial weight fee trailers. It was issued on the gold-on-blue base from 1971 to 1983.
1980s California Golden State Trailer license plate.png 1983 1AB1234 1AA1000 to approximately 1BJ9999
California license plate 1CJ8725 trailer.gif 1987 1BP1000 to approximately 1EU9999
California license plate 1GJ8201 trailer.gif 1994 1FC1000 to 1NW1866 (as of Jul 24, 2022)[20] The 1UA-1YX series is reserved for commercial weight fee trailers. Its issue began on the Golden State base in 1983 and continued onto the red-on-white "lipstick" base in use today. The highest spotted serial in this series is 1XA2820 (as of February 28, 2022). The series is expected to reach 1YX8000. The 1ZA-1ZW series is assigned to certain specialty trailers (Yosemite, Lake Tahoe, Protect our Ocean and our Coast, etc.) 1YY-1YZ and 1ZX-1ZZ will be of unknown use.
VINplt.gif Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) Plate Assigned by the DMV or CHP when a number is removed, destroyed, or obliterated.

Occupational plates[edit]

On each occupational plate type, the full-size number is constant for each distributing entity, while the small suffix (or prefix on the Special Equipment Dealer/Manufacturer plate) varies. Only rear plates are required for each type.

Image Type First issued Serial format Notes
California Dealer blue license plate.png Dealer 1969 DEALER 1234 1/2/A
California Golden State Dealer license plate.png early 1987 D/L/R 12345 1/2/A
California white block letter dealer plate.png late 1987 D/L/R 12345 1/2/A
California Dealer license plate 1994.gif 1994 D/L/R 12345 1/2/A
California Dismantler license plate 1994.gif Dismantler D/S/M 1234 1/2/A
California Manufacturer License Plate.gif Manufacturer M/F/G 1234 1/2/A
California Distributor License Plate.gif New Vehicle Distributor D/S/T 1234 1/2/A
California Remanufacturer license plate 1994.gif Remanufacturer R/M/F 1234 1/2/A
California Special Equipment Dealer Plate.png Special Equipment Dealer DLR 1A 12345 Motorcycle-sized.
Specequipdlfmfr.gif Special Equipment Manufacturer 1A MFG 1234 Motorcycle-sized.
California Transporter license plate 1994.gif Transporter T/R/N 1234 1/2/A

Legislative plates[edit]

Image Type First issued Serial format Notes
Stassemblyscript.gif Assembly Member A 12 Issued to current and retired members of the California State Assembly. The number in the serial corresponds to the district represented by the Assembly member. A small 'A' by the number indicates a second vehicle owned by the Assembly member. A small 'R' indicates a retired Assembly member, and a small '1' after the small 'R' indicates a second vehicle owned by the retired Assembly member.
California US congress license plate 1994.gif Representative U.S. CONGRESS 1 Issued to current U.S. representatives. A small 'A' by the number indicates a second vehicle owned by the representative, a small 'B' indicates a third vehicle, and so on.
Stsenatescript.gif State Senator S 12 Issued to current and retired members of the California State Senate. The number in the serial corresponds to the district represented by the senator. A small 'S' by the number indicates a second vehicle owned by the senator. A small 'R' indicates a retired senator, and a small '1' after the small 'R' indicates a second vehicle owned by the retired senator.
California US Senate license plate 1994.gif U.S. Senator UNITED STATES SENATE 1 Issued to current U.S. senators. A small 'A' by the number indicates a second vehicle owned by the U.S. Senator, a small 'B' indicates a third vehicle, and so on.

Stickers[edit]

Image Type First issued Notes
Ohv1.gif Emissions controlled OHV Assigned to motor vehicles that are used on roads not publicly maintained (e.g. in State Parks and National Forests). The green sticker program existed as a means of generating revenue for the maintenance of state OHV areas.
Ohv2.gif Uncontrolled OHV 1999 Emissions controlled OHVs are granted Green Stickers while uncontrolled OHVs such as motocross and closed-course off-road racebikes are granted Red Stickers for seasonal use on public lands.
California Registration Sticker 1956 to present (Currently showing 2022 registration sticker) Usage: E 0000001 to E 9999999, F 0000001 to F 9999999, G 0000001 to G 1863543 (as of January 8, 2022), H 0000001 to H 7880953 (as of January 18, 2022)

California sends these out every year as a record for whether you have registered your vehicle or not. With the current sticker, E and G are sent out by different branches and the serials are randomized, but F and H are from a different branch and the serial number is in an increasing order.

Optional types (specialty plates)[edit]

Image Type First issued Design Serial format Serials issued Notes
1984 Olympics—Motorcycle 1984 L/A12345
U/S12345
L/A00000 to present Issued until December 31, 1984. Duplicates were available until December 31, 1989. No longer issued, but still revalidated.
1984 Olympics—Passenger 1984 L/A12345
U/S12345
L/A00000 to present Issued until December 31, 1984. Duplicates were available until December 31, 1989. No longer issued, but still revalidated.
California Agriculture Specialty Plate.jpg Agriculture 2013 123ABC
A123B0
? to A536R0 (as of Oct 1, 2021)[20] White plate with artwork of the sun screened at left and "Agriculture" screened at bottom.
California Arts Council license plate.jpg Arts Council 1994 ABC123
123ABC
A123B0
? to A681M0 (as of Jan 11, 2022)[20]

Using previously unused letter blocks.

"Coastline" design by Wayne Thiebaud.[27][28]
California Bill of rights license plate 1991.gif Bill of Rights 1990 Blue on white with red Liberty Bell graphic 1234 US 0001 US to 0947 US (as of Jul 8, 2013)[20] Commemorated the 200th anniversary of the Bill's ratification.
Blank License Plate Shape.svg Breast Cancer Awareness 2017 B123A1 Pink plate with pink ribbon screened at left and "Early Detection Saves Lives" screened at bottom.
California 2017 Museums Are For Everyone license plate Snoopy.jpg California Museums (Snoopy) 2016 S123A0 White plate with Peanuts character Snoopy screened at left and "museums are for everyone" screened at bottom.
California license plate Kids sample.jpg Children's Trust Fund ABC123
A123B0
Using previously unused letter blocks. An embossed heart, hand, star, or plus sign appears to the left of the serial, or can be incorporated into "vanity" numbers.
California Congressional Medal of Honor Recipient license plate.gif Congressional Medal of Honor 84 —Passenger 1984 12 Given to Medal of Honor recipients.
Blank License Plate Shape.svg Congressional Medal of Honor 93 —Passenger 1993 12 Given to Medal of Honor recipients.
California license plate Firefighter motorcycle.gif Firefighter—Motorcycle 00A12 00A01 to present.
California license plate Firefighter.jpg Firefighter—Passenger 1995 ABC123
A123B0
? to A201H0 (as of May 22, 2022)[20]

Using previously unused letter blocks.

Only active or retired firefighter can apply for this type of plate. Logo of a firefighter on a blazing background.

California 2017 Gold Star Family license plate.jpg

Gold Star Family —Passenger 2011 123ABC ? to 782HUY (as of Dec 20, 2014)[20]

Using previously unused letter blocks.

Given to family of fallen soldiers while in the line of duty.
Blank License Plate Shape.svg Lake Tahoe Version 1 - Commercial 1996 2Z12345 2Z35000 to 2Z37999 No longer issued but still revalidated.
Lake Tahoe Version 1 - Passenger 1996 1UAB123 1UEA000 to 1UE???? No longer issued but still revalidated.
California Lake Tahoe commercial license plate.jpg Lake Tahoe Version 2 - Commercial 2011 2Z12345 2Z38000 to 2Z40409 (as of November 29, 2021) Using previously unused letter blocks.
TahoeT 150.jpg Lake Tahoe Version 2 - Passenger 2011 1UAB123 1UE???? to 1UEZ578 (as of December 12, 2021) Using previously unused letter blocks.

California license plate legacy.jpg

Legacy 2015 Gold on reflective black A123B4 B001A0 to E976C1 (as of September 6, 2022)[20] In the style of the 1963–69 passenger plate. 'S123A0' series of plates are reserved for California Museums (Snoopy) plate, shown above. C001A1 came after X999Z0, meaning the 'Y123A0' and 'Z123A0' series of plates were skipped. 'B123A1' series of plates are reserved for Breast Cancer Awareness plate, shown above. The same series (A123B4) is used on both passenger and motorcycle plates. C123A0 is reserved for motorcycles.[20] A123A0 is reserved for Agriculture and Arts Council.[20] The cycle went B001A0, B002A0, B003A0, ..., B998A0, B999A0, B001B0, B002B0, …, D001A0, D002A0, …, C001A1, and on and on and on.[20] Last will probably be X999Z9.
California license plate Legion of Valor.gif Legion of Valor—Passenger Blue on white LEGION OF VALOR 123 ? to LEGION OF VALOR 274 (as of Sep 5, 2022)[20] Sticker placed at right denoting the decoration held by the registrant: Medal of Honor (Army, Navy or Air Force), Distinguished Service Cross, Navy Cross, or Air Force Cross.
Blank License Plate Shape.svg Olympic Training Center Version 1 1990 C/A12345
U/S12345
No longer issued, but still revalidated.
Blank License Plate Shape.svg Olympic Training Center Version 2 1999 C/A12345
U/S12345
No longer issued, but still revalidated.
California Olympics license plate 2000 edition.png Olympic Training Center Version 3 2000 C/A12345
U/S12345
California Pearl Harbor survivor license plate 1994.gif Pearl Harbor Survivor —Passenger Blue on white; "PEARL HARBOR SURVIVOR" in blue at left 1234 ? to 3637 (as of Sep 5, 2022)[20] Only issued to survivors of the Attack on Pearl Harbor. May be retained on a vehicle owned by a surviving spouse.[29]
California spay & neuter license plate.jpg Pet Lover 2012 123ABC ? to 175END (as of Nov 11, 2021)[20] White plate with artwork from international actor, artist, and pet lover Pierce Brosnan screened at left and "Spay & Neuter Saves Lives" screened at bottom.
California Protect Our Coast Commercial Plate.jpg Protect Our Coast & Ocean Version 1 - Commercial 1997 2Z12345 2Z50000 to 2Z5???? No longer issued, but still revalidated.
California Whale Tail 1VD-series license plate.jpg Protect Our Coast & Ocean Version 1 - Passenger 1997 1VAB123 1VAA000 to 1VAZ999; 1VDA000 to 1VDY999 No longer issued, but still revalidated.
California whale tail truck plate.jpg Protect Our Coast & Ocean Version 2 – Commercial 2011 2Z12345 2Z5???? to 2Z58130 (as of Sep 5, 2022)[20]
California 2011 whale tail license plate.png Protect Our Coast & Ocean Version 2 – Passenger 2011 1VAB123 1VDZ000 to 1VZZ999 (as of June 12, 2022)
California license plate Purple Heart.gif Purple Heart 1234PH 0001PH to 9999PH
California Purple Heart plate PH1234.png PH1234 PH0001 to PH9999
California Purple Heart plate 12PH34.png 12PH34 00PH01 to 38PH43 (as of Jun 23, 2022)[20]
California Purple Heart recipient motorcycle license plate 1994.gif Purple HeartMotorcycle 1234PH
PH1234
12PH34
California Ex-POW motorcycle license plate 1994.gif POW Ex-Prisoner of War —Motorcycle POW1234
California Ex-POW license plate 1994.gif POW Ex-Prisoner of War 93 —Passenger 1993 POW1234
California Ex-POW license plate 2000.gif POW Ex-Prisoner of War 00 —Passenger 2000 POW1234 ? to POW7428 (as of Sep 5, 2022)[20]
California 1994 Veteran license plate.jpg Veteran Version 1 1994 ABC123
123ABC
? to F105IP (unverified, as of Nov 3, 2014)[20] No longer being issued.
California Honoring Veterans license plate 123ABC.jpg Veteran Version 2 2012 123ABC
A123B0
? to A653E0 (as of Jun 4, 2022)[20]

Using previously unused letter blocks.

California 9-11 memorial license plate.jpg We Will Never Forget 2002 1234MA 0001MA to 2829MB (as of July 30, 2022)
California license plate UCLA Bruins.jpg University of California, Los Angeles 1994 ABC123 ? to APA881 (as of Jul 18, 2022)[20]

Using previously unused letter blocks.

Yosemite National Park 1993 1UAB123 1UAA000 to 1UEV399 (as of June 26, 2019)

See the Passenger Baseplates section above for the 1982–87 "Golden State" plate, which was briefly issued as the standard passenger base.

Year-of-manufacture plates[edit]

A California car license plate saying ANRCHST (a vanity plate–speak form of anarchist) from 2006

The use of year-of-manufacture (YOM) plates is authorized by Section 5004.1 of the California Motor Vehicle Code. It is a law that allows vintage cars to be registered to use vintage license plates. Any officially manufactured California license plates which were produced prior to 1963 can be used on a currently registered vehicle or trailer of a corresponding model year. If used on the original plate, a sticker or metal tab that corresponds to the year of the vehicle is required.

In July 2009, California extended its YOM program to include passenger vehicles from 1963 to 1969, and commercial vehicles (pick-ups, etc.) through 1972. Any black-and-gold plate from this era may be used on these vehicles, as long as they are "clear" with the DMV (i.e., not used, reported stolen, or any records found, for the last 10 years). A valid sticker must be attached to the plate corresponding to the year of the vehicle that is to be registered.

As of January 2014, in very rare cases, California has extended custom license plates to allow more than seven digits, but not to exceed nine characters. However, most plates are limited to seven-and-a-half characters (the half-character is a half-space).[citation needed]

In August 2016, California extended the year-of-manufacture license plate program to include vehicles through the 1980 model year.[30]

California Legacy License Plate program[edit]

The California Legacy License Plate program offers vehicle owners the opportunity to purchase replicas of California license plates similar to those issued in the 1960s. California proposed issuing plates similar to those of the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. The original plan was to restrict the plate colors to what would have been issued to the vehicle when purchased new. After a few months, the program was opened to all model years. Only the 1960s (gold on black) plate reached the required 7,500 minimum orders before January 1, 2015. The 1950s (black on gold) and 1970s (gold on blue) plates did not achieve the required 7,500 minimum orders.[31] The plates were issued from late spring through summer 2015 and, as of 2021, are still available for order from the DMV website. Additional time is required for personalized plates.[32][33]

Temporary license plates[edit]

2021 California temporary license plate for a Ferrari Roma.

Prior to 2019, California was the last U.S. state to not require the display of any form of temporary license plate on new vehicles. New motor vehicle dealers were still required to electronically report sales of new vehicles to the DMV,[34] [35]but they were only required to print out a DMV report-of-sale form on regular paper at the time of sale.[22] The dealer was then only required to attach the DMV report-of-sale form to the inside of the car windshield in the lower right corner (from the driver's perspective).[36] Before 2019, it was common for a newly purchased vehicle to be driven around for a month (or more) with nothing but a dealer's advertisement or logo on paper plate inserts in the mounting brackets where the owner was supposed to promptly install front and rear license plates when they arrived in the mail from the DMV.

California's lack of a temporary license plate requirement was mocked as the "Steve Jobs loophole," due to the Apple founder's habit of continuously signing a series of six-month leases of Mercedes-Benz SL55 AMGs on a rolling basis for the specific purpose of avoiding the state requirement of having to install permanent license plates on his cars.[37] The DMV report-of-sale forms were printed in regular type not intended to be read at a distance, meaning that it was legible only to persons leaning closely over the windshield when the car was standing still. This made the new vehicle untraceable through casual visual observation by passerby (especially for the common car models and colors), as well as automated means such as license-plate reading systems, red light cameras, and automatic number plate recognition. Thus, drivers of newly purchased vehicles who deliberately failed to carry a FasTrak electronic toll collection transponder could evade toll collection (on tolled Express Lanes, toll bridges, and toll roads where a transponder system was used instead of toll booths), causing the state to lose $15–19 million per year. Vehicle owners who failed to immediately attach permanent metal license plates upon receipt might eventually get cited one way or another for that infraction, but there was no way at that point to retroactively link such vehicle owners to unpaid tolls.[22] This loophole was also deliberately exploited by criminals, who knew that a car with dealer paper inserts was untraceable and in and of itself would not raise suspicion.[38]

The hit-and-run death of a pedestrian who was struck by an unidentifiable car with dealer paper inserts sparked the enactment of new legislation in 2016 to require temporary license plates in California beginning in 2019.[22][23][24] The DMV's reporting system was modified to enable dealers to print out temporary license plates on special paper,[35] and dealers are now required to attach such temporary paper plates to a vehicle that does not already have license plates. The series that the temporary license plates use is AB12C34, and it will apply to all newly purchased vehicles in the state of California starting in 2019.[25]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Taylor, Eric Robert. "California Archive - Part 1". PorcelainPlates.net. Retrieved December 6, 2015.
  2. ^ "Law section".
  3. ^ "Law section".
  4. ^ California Prison Industrial Authority. "License Plates".{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  5. ^ Minard, Jeff (February 2000). "California, License Plates of the Golden State". The ALPCA Register. Vol. 52, no. 3. Automobile License Plate Collectors Association. p. 7.
  6. ^ Minard, Jeff (June 2006). "We're All Ears! California's Automobile Club Pre-States". Plates. Vol. 62, no. 5. Automobile License Plate Collectors Association. pp. 24–30.
  7. ^ Garrish, Christopher (October 2016). "Reconsidering the Standard Plate Size". Plates. Vol. 62, no. 5. Automobile License Plate Collectors Association.
  8. ^ Registered Automobiles (November 1914 ed.). Sacramento, California: State of California. 1914.
  9. ^ "Automobile License Plate Collectors Association". ALPCA. Retrieved August 3, 2017.[permanent dead link]
  10. ^ Registered Automobiles 1916 (December 1916 ed.). Sacramento, California: State of California. 1916. p. 60.
  11. ^ California Automobile Registration 1917 (Volume 1 ed.). Sacramento, California: State of California. 1917.
  12. ^ Registered Automobiles (December 1917 ed.). Sacramento, California: State of California. 1917.
  13. ^ Registered Automobiles (January–February 1918 ed.). Sacramento, California: State of California. 1918.
  14. ^ Registered Automobiles (December 1918 ed.). Sacramento, California: State of California. 1918.
  15. ^ Registered Automobiles (January, February and March 1919 ed.). Sacramento, California: State of California. 1919.
  16. ^ "Automobile License Plate Collectors Association". ALPCA. Retrieved August 4, 2017.[permanent dead link]
  17. ^ California Automobile Registration 1921 (Volume XVI ed.). Sacramento, California: State of California. 1922.
  18. ^ "Automobile License Plate Collectors Association". ALPCA. Retrieved August 4, 2017.[permanent dead link]
  19. ^ a b c Tanner, Eric N. "California Passenger License Plates". allaboutlicenseplates.com. Retrieved November 20, 2020.
  20. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w "California License Plates". www.licenseplates.cc. Retrieved 2022-06-07.
  21. ^ Tanner, Eric N. "California Motorcycle License Plates". allaboutlicenseplates.com. Retrieved November 20, 2020.
  22. ^ a b c d "Assembly Bill No. 516". California. State of California Legislature. July 7, 2016. Retrieved February 22, 2018.
  23. ^ a b Romero, Dennis (July 27, 2016). "Say Goodbye to New Car Paper Plates". www.laweekly.com. LA Weekly. Retrieved June 21, 2017.
  24. ^ a b "New law will require temporary license plates in California". Los Angeles Times. Associated Press. July 25, 2016. Retrieved June 21, 2017.
  25. ^ a b California Vehicle Code Section 4456(a)(9).
  26. ^ "IMG_0073+copy.jpg4 (Image)".
  27. ^ Knight, Christopher (June 29, 2010). "Wayne Thiebaud's Pop art license plate design". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved September 4, 2015.
  28. ^ "Arts Plate". California Arts Council. Retrieved September 4, 2015.
  29. ^ "Vehicle Industry Registration Procedures Manual, §21.175". California Department of Motor Vehicles. Retrieved July 22, 2020.
  30. ^ "Today's Law as Amended".
  31. ^ "Special Interest License Plates".
  32. ^ "Legacy License Plates FAQs (English)". Archived from the original on 2015-04-02. Retrieved 2015-03-04.
  33. ^ "California's black license plates are back in production". Los Angeles Times. 23 June 2015.
  34. ^ California Vehicle Code Section 4456(a)(2).
  35. ^ a b "Temporary Paper License Plates". www.dmv.ca.gov. Retrieved 2019-07-16.
  36. ^ California Vehicle Code Section 4456(a)(1).
  37. ^ Gitlin, Jonathan (July 26, 2016). "California closes the Steve Jobs license plate loophole". www.arstechnica.com. ars technica. Retrieved June 21, 2017.
  38. ^ "TV reporter becomes the story when she's robbed at Costco while shopping". Los Angeles Times. Associated Press. November 5, 2017. Retrieved November 6, 2017.

Sources[edit]

External links[edit]