Vehicle registration plates of Massachusetts

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Current Massachusetts license plate

Massachusetts was the first U.S. state to issue license plates, on September 1, 1903.[1]

Passenger plates 1903 to 1966[edit]

In 1956, the U.S. states and Canadian provinces came to an agreement with the Automobile Manufacturers Association that fixed the size for license plates for vehicles, except those for motorcycles, at six inches in height by twelve inches in width, with standardized mounting holes. The 1955 (dated 1956) issue was the first Massachusetts license plate that complied with these standards.

Image Dates issued Design Serial format Serials issued Notes
Blank License Plate Shape.jpg 1903 white on blue; "MASS AUTOMOBILE REGISTER" On top 1234
Blank License Plate Shape.jpg 1904 white on blue; "MASS AUTOMOBILE REGISTER" On top 1234
Blank License Plate Shape.jpg 1905 white on blue; "MASS AUTOMOBILE REGISTER" On top 12345
Blank License Plate Shape.jpg 1906 white on blue; "MASS AUTOMOBILE REGISTER" On top 12345
Blank License Plate Shape.jpg 1907 white on blue; "MASS AUTOMOBILE REGISTER" On top 12345
Blank License Plate Shape.jpg 1908 blue on white 12345
Blank License Plate Shape.jpg 1909 white on blue 12345
Blank License Plate Shape.jpg 1910 blue on white 12345
Blank License Plate Shape.jpg 1911 white on blue 12345
Blank License Plate Shape.jpg 1912 blue on white 12345
Blank License Plate Shape.jpg 1913 white on blue 12345
Blank License Plate Shape.jpg 1914 blue on white 12345
Blank License Plate Shape.jpg 1915 white on blue 12345
Blank License Plate Shape.jpg 1916 blue on white 12345
Blank License Plate Shape.jpg 1917 white on blue; MASS-1917 at bottom 123,456
Blank License Plate Shape.jpg 1918 blue on white; MASS-1918 at bottom 123,456
Blank License Plate Shape.jpg 1919 white on black; MASS-1919 at bottom 123,456
Blank License Plate Shape.jpg 1920 blue on white; MASS-1920 at bottom 123,456
Blank License Plate Shape.jpg 1921 white on blue; MASS-1921 at bottom 123,456
Blank License Plate Shape.jpg 1922 blue on white; MASS-1922 at bottom 123,456
Blank License Plate Shape.jpg 1923 white on blue; MASS-1923 at bottom 123,456
Blank License Plate Shape.jpg 1924 white on maroon; MASS-1924 at bottom 123,456
Blank License Plate Shape.jpg 1925 white on black; MASS-1925 at bottom 123,456
Blank License Plate Shape.jpg 1926 white on blue; 1926-MASS at bottom 123,456
Blank License Plate Shape.jpg 1927 white on maroon; MASS-1927 at bottom 123,456
Blank License Plate Shape.jpg 1928 white on green; 1928-MASS at bottom 123,456
Blank License Plate Shape.jpg 1929 white on blue; MASS-1929 at bottom 123,456
Blank License Plate Shape.jpg 1930 white on maroon; 1930-MASS at bottom 123,456
Blank License Plate Shape.jpg 1931 white on green; MASS-1931 at bottom 123,456
Blank License Plate Shape.jpg 1932 white on maroon; 1932-MASS at bottom 123,456
Blank License Plate Shape.jpg 1933 white on green; MASS-1933 at bottom 123,456
Blank License Plate Shape.jpg 1934 white on maroon; MASS-1934 at bottom 123,456
Massachusetts 1935 48460.jpg 1935 white on green; 1935-MASS at bottom 123,456
Blank License Plate Shape.jpg 1936 white on maroon; MASS-36 at top 123,456
Blank License Plate Shape.jpg 1937 white on green; 37-MASS at top 123,456
Blank License Plate Shape.jpg 1938 white lettering on maroon base ; "MASS 38" at bottom 123·456
Blank License Plate Shape.jpg 1939 white lettering on green base; "39 MASS" at bottom 123·456
Blank License Plate Shape.jpg 1940 white lettering on maroon base ; "MASS 40" at top 123·456
1941 Massachusetts license plate.JPG 1941 white lettering on green base; "41 MASS" at bottom 123·456
Blank License Plate Shape.jpg Blank License Plate Shape.jpg 1942 white lettering on green and maroon bases; "MASS 42" at bottom 123·456 Revalidated for 1943 and 1944 with windshield stickers
Blank License Plate Shape.jpg 1945 white lettering on dark blue base; "45 MASS" at top 123·456
Blank License Plate Shape.jpg 1946 white lettering on black base; "46 MASS" at bottom 123·456
Blank License Plate Shape.jpg 1947 white lettering on dark green base; "MASS 47" in embossed white box at top 123·456
1948 Massachusetts license plate.JPG 1948 white lettering on maroon base; "48 MASS" in embossed white box at bottom 123·456
Blank License Plate Shape.jpg 1949–50 white lettering on black base; "49 MASS" in embossed white box at top 123·456
A12·345
Revalidated for 1950 with windshield stickers.
Blank License Plate Shape.jpg 1951–52 white lettering on maroon base; "MASS 51" in embossed white box at bottom 123·456
A12·345
Revalidated for 1952 with windshield stickers.
1953 Massachusetts license plate.JPG 1953–54 white lettering on black base; "MASS 53" in embossed white box at top 123·456
A12·345
Revalidated for 1954 with windshield stickers.
Blank License Plate Shape.jpg 1955–56 white lettering on maroon base; "55 MASS" in embossed white box at bottom 123·456
A12·345
Revalidated for 1956 with windshield stickers.
1957 Massachusetts license plate.JPG 1957–58 white lettering on black base; "MASS 57" in embossed white box at top 123·456
A12·345
Revalidated for 1958 with windshield stickers.
1959 Massachusetts license plate.JPG 1959–60 white lettering on maroon base; "59 MASS" in embossed white box at top 123·456
A12·345
Revalidated for 1960 with windshield stickers.
Blank License Plate Shape.jpg 1961–62 white lettering on dark green base; "MASS 61" in embossed white box at top 123·456
A12·345
Revalidated for 1962 with windshield stickers.
Blank License Plate Shape.jpg 1963 white lettering on black base; "63 MASS" in embossed white box at top 123·456
A12·345
Blank License Plate Shape.jpg 1964–65 white lettering on maroon base; "MASS 64" in embossed white box at top 123·456
A12·345
Revalidated for 1965 with windshield stickers.
1966 Massachusetts license plate.JPG 1966 white lettering and border on dark green base; "66 MASS" in embossed white box at top 123·456
A12·345

Passenger plates 1967 to present[edit]

For twenty years, starting in 1967, Massachusetts used three series of license plates that were nearly identical (Blue on White, Red on White, and Green on White). All had the identical semi-rounded letters and numbers and the word MASSACHUSETTS embossed in the same style, with an embossed quarter-inch border a quarter inch from the edge of the plate. The plates changed color twice, in 1972 and 1977; the red plates moved "MASSACHUSETTS" to the bottom of the plate, but the blue 1967 and green 1977 plates had it on the top.

Examples of vanity plates: those naming alcoholic beverages (left) are no longer permitted, and 'reserve' or 'legacy' plates (right) are usually inherited.

The current "Spirit of America" plates were introduced in 1987. The red number typeface remains virtually the same (though since 2005 the 1s have been serifed and 2010 the "D's" have changed shape to be discernible from a distance), but the border was dropped, and the state name is no longer embossed; it is italicized and blue, and no longer all capital letters. Additionally, the slogan "The Spirit of America" (from an advertising jingle from the early 1980s) was added in the same italicized blue typeface at the bottom. General registration plate, such as Dealer and Repair plates inverse the colors, Mass and Spirit in Red, number in blue.

Since 1969, serials on Massachusetts plates are coded with the month of expiration of the registration as the last numeric character, using 1 for January through 0 for October. X and Y were used from 1969 to 1977 for November and December. Registrants are issued plates expiring the last day of the previous month (i.e., a motorist registering a vehicle in June will be issued May plates). If a vehicle is registered in December or January (so that November and December plates would be called for), leftover plates are issued from other months with manufacturing overruns.

In addition to the standard numbering formats, Massachusetts also issues "reserve" plates. Reserve plates permit the plate holder to receive the same plate number when new plate styles are issued, or to transfer the plate number to family members. These plates are either all-numeric (1 through 99999) or consist of a single letter followed or preceded by a number (A 1 through Z 9999 and 1 A through 9999 Z). Reserve numbers may also be in the form of A#A, A##A, #A#, and #AA#, where # represents any number, and A represents any letter. Low number reserve plates (now called "Lottery Plates" by the RMV), are of the form #, ##, ###, ####, A#, A##, #A, and ##A only. When a registrant cancels a low number reserve registration, the number is placed in an annual lottery ( [2]). Registration for the lottery generally begins each June, and the drawing must be held by September 15. Prior to the institution of this annual lottery[when?], low digit reserve plates were issued only to well-connected individuals, and it is widely believed that drivers with low registration numbers were given preferential treatment by law enforcement. The annual lottery was instituted in response to complaints about the politics behind the issuance of low-number registrations.[citation needed] As with standard registration plates, the final digit on low number reserve plates also indicates the month of expiration.

Two year registrations are mandatory, with the exception of vehicles initially registered during December or January. Vanity plates and motorcycle plates must be renewed annually. All vanity plate registrations expire on November 30, and all motorcycle and commercial registrations expire on December 31.

Starting with the 1987 "Spirit of Massachusetts" base, the three-letter abbreviation for the month of expiration is either embossed or screened in the upper left corner of the plate, with the exception of vanity plates which do not have the expiration month (NOV) screened or embossed. 'Red' Commercial were initially stamped without the month on the upper left corner, however that has since been added.

Currently, the only common license plate issued in the Commonwealth that is allowed to have more than 6 digits is Livery plates. All livery plate numbers start LV, even if not stamped.

Because the Registry of Motor Vehicles utilizes "Plate Type" to describe the type of registration, it is theoretically possible to have two plates issued with seemingly the same number. The follow describes some, but not all of the types, and the code used on vehicle registration:

  • PAN - Passenger: Normal
  • PAR - Passenger: Reserved
  • PAS - Passenger: Specialty (Antique, Veteran, Environmental, Sports, Spay & Neuter, Breast Cancer, United We Stand, etc.)
  • PAV - Passenger: Vanity
  • PAY - Passenger: Year of Manufacture (Antique plate with year stamped; AN gets added to the beginning of plate number on registration)
  • CON - Commercial: Normal (plates starting SR are for snow removal; HR for Hearse)
  • COR - Commercial: Reserved
  • COV - Commercial: Vanity
  • MCN - Motorcycle: Normal
  • MCR - Motorcycle: Reserved
  • MCS - Motorcycle: Specialty
  • MCV - Motorcycle: Vanity
  • AHN - Camper: Normal
  • AHR - Camper: Reserved
  • AHV - Camper: Vanity
  • AMN - Ambulance: Normal (includes Animal Ambulance)
  • AMR - Ambulance: Reserved
  • LVN - Livery: Normal
  • LVR - Livery: Reserved
  • LVV - Livery: Vanity
  • SPN - School Pupil: Normal
  • TAN - Taxi: Normal
  • TAR - Taxi: Reserved
  • TRN - Trailer: Normal (not used on Camper trailers)
  • TRR - Trailer: Reserved
  • VPN - Van Pool: Normal
  • SBN - School Bus: Normal
  • SBR - School Bus: Reserved
  • BUN - Bus: Normal
  • BUR - Bus: Reserved
  • BUV - Bus: Vanity
Image Dates issued Design Serial format Serials issued Notes
1968 Massachusetts License Plate.jpg 1967–68 blue on reflective white with border line; "MASSACHUSETTS" at top 123·456
A12·345
Revalidated with windshield stickers through the end of 1969, then with plate stickers until 1972–73.
1969–71 123·45A Coded by month of expiration (see right) Staggered registration and plate stickers introduced with this serial format; the last digit corresponded to the month of expiration from January (1) through October (0), while X and Y suffixes corresponded to November and December respectively. Replaced 1972–73.
Mass Plate Red on White V329.jpg 1972–78 red on reflective white with border line; "MASSACHUSETTS" at bottom 1A·2345
12A·340
123·456
A12·345
123·45A
Coded by month of expiration (see right) Same month code system as on 1969–71 plates. 12A·340 format used only on plates expiring in October.[3] Issued in alternating weeks from 1977, following the introduction of the green-on-white base (below), until supplies were exhausted. Replaced 1982–83.
MassPlateGreen1.jpg 1977–93 green on reflective white with border line; "MASSACHUSETTS" at top 123·ABC 100·AAA to 999·VZZ (see right) Only rear plates issued (except for reserved and non-passenger plates). On all plates, the last digit corresponded to the month of expiration, with November and December expirations discontinued except on non-passenger plates and on red-and-white plates until 1980–81. All-numeric plates were generally issued to holders of the same serials on the red-on-white base. Still currently revalidated.
1983–93 123·456 100·000 to 999·999 (see right)
1987 Massachusetts Sample License Plate.jpg 1987–present (vanity plates, low number reserve, and certain non-passenger types only)
1993–present (all plates)
red on reflective white; "Massachusetts" and "The Spirit of America" screened in blue at top and bottom respectively Coded by month of expiration:
120·ABC
999·ZZZ to 100·WAA (reverse issue, final digit varied by month)
123·0AB 100·9AA to ??? (final digit varied by month)
1230 AB ??? to 9999 ZZ (final digit varied by month. January issued only through approx. 9991 TZ[4])
12A B30 10A A00 to 99Z Z00, then 10A A10 through 99Z Z10 and so on through 99Z Z90. Final digit varies by month.
123 AB0 100 AA0 to 999 ZZ9. Final digit varies by month. October expirations discontinued after NZ0 series due to confusion with previous 123·ABC format.
1AB 230 (all serials exhausted for October)

1ABC 20 (current format for October)

1AA 000 to present. Final digit varies by month.

Current passenger base plates[edit]

Currently, the 1977 green-on-white base as well as the 1987 "Spirit" base is valid for registration. The 1977 base only issued a single (rear) plate (Except Reserved, Commercial, and Taxi. Two plates were issued, thus both must be displayed, even today) whereas for the current "Spirit" base, two plates are issued. Registrants have the option of replacing the 1977 base with the "Spirit" base at no charge (though a different number will be used), however, most choose to keep their 1977 base plate as a point of pride. In many cases, the 1977 base plates are worn and illegible; legally per M.G.L. Ch. 90, a car with an illegible plate (regardless of age or color) must fail the state's annually required vehicle safety inspection. This is a safety fail, which under Mass law prohibits operation of the vehicle until the issue is corrected.

Image First year of issue Description Current serial format Serials previously issued Notes
MA-Base-Plate.jpg 1987 Red on reflective white base with screened state name and slogan in blue Coded with "n" by month of expiration:
  • 1AB 23n (1 through 9 for January through September, 0 for October)
  • 1ABC 20 (always expires in October)
Coded with "n" by month of expiration:
  • 123 ABn (1 through 9 for January through September, 0 for October)
  • 123 45n (1 through 9 for January through September, 0 for October)
  • 12n ABC (1 through 9 for January through September, 0 for October)
  • 123n AB (1 through 9 for January through September, 0 for October)
  • 12A B3n (1 through 9 for January through September, 0 for October)
V92 LowDigit Mass Plate,jpg.jpg 1987 Low number reserve: Red on reflective white base with screened state name and slogan in blue Coded with "n" by month of expiration:
  • n (1 through 9 for January through September. 0 is never used.)
  • 1n (1 through 9 for January through September, 0 for October.)
  • 12n (1 through 9 for January through September, 0 for October.)
  • 123n (1 through 9 for January through September, 0 for October.)
  • 1234n (1 through 9 for January through September, 0 for October.)
  • A n (1 through 9 for January through September. 0 is never used.)
  • A 1n (1 through 9 for January through September, 0 for October.)
  • A 12n (1 through 9 for January through September, 0 for October.)
  • A 123n (1 through 9 for January through September, 0 for October.)
  • n A (1 through 9 for January through September. 0 is never used.)
  • 1n A (1 through 9 for January through September, 0 for October.)
  • 12n A (1 through 9 for January through September, 0 for October.)
  • 123n A (1 through 9 for January through September, 0 for October.)

References[edit]

  1. ^ Mass RMV : History of the Plate
  2. ^ 2011 Low Plate Lottery Announcement
  3. ^ "Massachusetts License Plates". allaboutlicenseplates.com. Retrieved December 5, 2015. 
  4. ^ Sage, Kit; Tanner, Eric. "licenseplates.cc Massachusetts highs page". Retrieved June 24, 2009. 

External links[edit]