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 baseplates[edit]

1903 to 1966[edit]

In 1956, the U.S. states and Canadian provinces 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.[2] 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
Massachusetts license plate 911.jpg 1903–07 White numbers on blue porcelain plate; "MASS. AUTOMOBILE REGISTER" at top 12345 1 to 26207[1]
Massachusetts license plate 1908.jpg 1908 Blue numbers on white porcelain plate; vertical "MASS" and "1908" at left and right respectively 12345 1 to approximately 17500 First dated plate.
Massachusetts license plate 1909.jpg 1909 White numbers on blue porcelain plate; vertical "MASS" and "1909" at left and right respectively 12345 1 to approximately 23500
Blank License Plate Shape.svg 1910 Blue numbers on white porcelain plate; vertical "MASS" and "1910" at left and right respectively 12345 1 to approximately 29000
Blank License Plate Shape.svg 1911 White numbers on blue porcelain plate; vertical "MASS" and "1911" at left and right respectively 12345 1 to approximately 33000
1912 Massachusetts License Plate.jpg 1912 Blue numbers on white porcelain plate; vertical "MASS" and "1912" at left and right respectively 12345 1 to approximately 41000
Massachusetts Licence Plate 1913.jpg 1913 White numbers on blue porcelain plate; vertical "MASS" and "1913" at left and right respectively 12345 1 to approximately 54500
Blank License Plate Shape.svg 1914 Blue numbers on white porcelain plate; vertical "MASS" and "1914" at left and right respectively 12345 1 to approximately 62000
Blank License Plate Shape.svg 1915 White numbers on blue porcelain plate; vertical "MASS" and "1915" at left and right respectively 12345 1 to approximately 79500
Blank License Plate Shape.svg 1916 Dark blue numbers on cream flat metal plate; vertical "MASS" and "1916" at left and right respectively 123456 1 to approximately 102000
Blank License Plate Shape.svg 1917 Cream numbers on dark blue flat metal plate; "MASS. 1917" centered at bottom 123,456 1 to approximately 127,000
Blank License Plate Shape.svg 1918 Dark blue numbers on cream flat metal plate; "MASS. 1918" centered at bottom 123,456 1 to approximately 142,000
Blank License Plate Shape.svg 1919 Cream numbers on dark blue flat metal plate; "MASS. 1919" centered at bottom 123,456 1 to approximately 177,000
Massachusetts license plate 1920, number 198603.jpg 1920 Embossed dark blue numbers on white plate; "MASS. 1920" centered at bottom 123,456 1 to approximately 219,000 First embossed plate.
1921 Massachusetts license plate.jpg 1921 Embossed white numbers on dark blue plate; "MASS. 1921" centered at bottom 123,456 1 to approximately 260,000
Blank License Plate Shape.svg 1922 As 1920 base, but with "MASS. 1922" at bottom 123,456 1 to approximately 321,000
Blank License Plate Shape.svg 1923 As 1921 base, but with "MASS. 1923" at bottom 123,456 1 to approximately 402,000
Blank License Plate Shape.svg 1924 Embossed white numbers on maroon plate; "MASS. 1924" centered at bottom 123,456 1 to approximately 473,000
Blank License Plate Shape.svg 1925 Embossed white numbers on black plate; "MASS. — 1925" at bottom 123,456 1 to approximately 546,000
Blank License Plate Shape.svg 1926 Embossed white numbers on blue plate; "1926 — MASS" at bottom 123,456 1 to approximately 598,000
1927 Massachusetts license plate.jpg 1927 Embossed white numbers on maroon plate; "MASS — 1927" at bottom 123,456 1 to approximately 624,000
Massachusetts license plate 1928.jpg 1928 Embossed white numbers on green plate; embossed cod fish graphic centered at bottom, with "1928" to left and "MASS" to right 123,456 1 to approximately 644,000
Blank License Plate Shape.svg 1929 Embossed white numbers on blue plate; "MASS — 1929" at bottom 123,456 1 to approximately 712,000
1930 Massachusetts license plate.jpg 1930 Embossed white numbers on maroon plate; "1930 — MASS" at bottom 123,456 1 to approximately 749,000
Blank License Plate Shape.svg 1931 Embossed white numbers on green plate; "MASS — 1931" at bottom 123,456 1 to approximately 792,000
Blank License Plate Shape.svg 1932 As 1930 base, but with "1932 — MASS" at bottom 123,456 1 to approximately 740,000
Blank License Plate Shape.svg 1933 As 1931 base, but with "MASS — 1933" at bottom 123,456 1 to approximately 759,000
Blank License Plate Shape.svg 1934 As 1930 base, but with "MASS — 1934" at bottom 123,456 1 to approximately 749,000
Massachusetts 1935 48460.jpg 1935 As 1931 base, but with "1935 — MASS" at bottom 123,456 1 to approximately 734,000
Blank License Plate Shape.svg 1936 Embossed white numbers on maroon plate; "MASS 36" centered at top 123,456 1 to approximately 729,000
Blank License Plate Shape.svg 1937 Embossed white numbers on green plate; "37 MASS" centered at top 123,456 1 to approximately 755,000
1938 Massachusetts license plate.jpg 1938 Embossed white numbers on maroon plate; "MASS 38" centered at bottom 123·456 1 to approximately 751·000
Blank License Plate Shape.svg 1939 Embossed white numbers on green plate; "39 MASS" centered at bottom 123·456 1 to approximately 771·000
Blank License Plate Shape.svg 1940 Embossed white numbers on maroon plate; "MASS 40" centered at top 123·456 1 to approximately 779·000
1941 Massachusetts license plate.JPG 1941 Embossed white numbers on green plate; "41 MASS" centered at bottom 123·456 1 to approximately 852·000
1942 Massachusetts license plate.jpg 1942–44 Embossed white numbers on maroon plate; "MASS 42" centered at bottom 123·456 1 to approximately 828·000 Revalidated for 1943
and 1944 with wind-
shield stickers, due to metal conservation
for World War II.
Blank License Plate Shape.svg As above, but green rather than maroon 828·001 to approximately 855·000
Blank License Plate Shape.svg 1945 Embossed white numbers on dark blue plate; "45 MASS" at top 123·456 1 to approximately 799·000
Blank License Plate Shape.svg 1946 Embossed white numbers on black plate; "46 MASS" at bottom 123·456 1 to approximately 843·000
Blank License Plate Shape.svg 1947 Embossed white numbers on dark green plate; "MASS 47" within embossed white bar centered at top 123·456 1 to approximately 897·000
1948 Massachusetts license plate.JPG 1948 Embossed white numbers on maroon plate; "48 MASS" within embossed white bar centered at bottom 123·456 1 to approximately 948·000
Blank License Plate Shape.svg 1949–50 Embossed white numbers on black plate; "49 MASS" within embossed white bar centered at top 123·456
A12·345
Revalidated for 1950
with windshield sticker.
Blank License Plate Shape.svg 1951–52 Embossed white numbers on maroon plate; "MASS 51" within embossed white bar centered at bottom 123·456
A12·345
Revalidated for 1952
with windshield sticker.
1953 Massachusetts license plate.JPG 1953–54 Embossed white numbers on black plate; "MASS 53" within embossed white bar centered at top 123·456
A12·345
Revalidated for 1954
with windshield sticker.
1954 Massachusetts sticker.jpg
Blank License Plate Shape.svg 1955–56 Embossed white numbers on maroon plate; "55 MASS" within embossed white bar centered at bottom 123·456
A12·345
Revalidated for 1956
with windshield sticker.
1957 Massachusetts license plate.JPG 1957–58 Embossed white numbers on black plate with border line; "MASS 57" within embossed white bar centered at top 123·456
A12·345
First 6" x 12" plate. Revalidated for 1958
with windshield sticker.
1959 Massachusetts license plate.JPG 1959–60 Embossed white numbers on maroon plate with border line; "59 MASS" within embossed white bar centered at top 123·456
A12·345
Revalidated for 1960
with windshield sticker.
Blank License Plate Shape.svg 1961–62 Embossed white numbers on dark green plate with border line; "MASS 61" within embossed white bar centered at top 123·456
A12·345
Revalidated for 1962
with windshield sticker.
1963 Massachusetts license plate.jpg 1963 Embossed white numbers on black plate with border line; "63 MASS" within embossed white bar centered at top 123·456
A12·345
Blank License Plate Shape.svg 1964–65 Embossed white numbers on maroon plate with border line; "MASS 64" within embossed white bar centered at top 123·456
A12·345
Revalidated for 1965
with windshield sticker.
1966 Massachusetts license plate.JPG 1966 Embossed white numbers on dark green plate with border line; "66 MASS" within embossed white bar centered at top 123·456
A12·345

1967 to present[edit]

vanity plates naming alcoholic beverages are no longer permitted
'reserve' or 'legacy' plates are usually inherited

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.[3] 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 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.

Currently, the Livery plate is the only common license plate in the Commonwealth that is allowed to have more than six characters in its serials. All Livery plate serials start with the letters "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 Embossed blue numbers on reflective white plate with border line; "MASSACHUSETTS" centered 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 Embossed red numbers on reflective white plate with border line; "MASSACHUSETTS" centered 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.[4] 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 Embossed green numbers on reflective white plate with border line; "MASSACHUSETTS" centered 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 1993–present Embossed red numbers on reflective white plate; "Massachusetts" and "The Spirit of America" screened in blue serifed letters centered at top and bottom respectively 123·ABC 999·ZZZ to 100·WAA (reverse issue) This base was first issued in 1987 for vanity plates and some non-passenger types, before becoming the standard passenger base in 1993. On all standard passenger plates, the last digit corresponds to the month of expiration. Letters I, O, Q and U not used.
123·4AB 100·9AA to 999·9CZ; 100·0AA to 999·0AM
1234 AB ??? to 9999 ZZ (January issued only through approx. 9991 TZ[5])
12A B34 10A A00 to 99Z Z00, then 10A A10 through 99Z Z10 and so on through 99Z Z90
123 AB4 100 AA0 to 999 ZZ9 (October expirations discontinued after NZ0 series due to confusion with previous 123·ABC format)
1AB 234 1AA 100 to present
1ABC 23 1AAA 10 to present

Current passenger baseplates[edit]

Currently, both the 1977 green-on-white base and the 1987 "Spirit" base are valid for registration. On the 1977 base, only rear plates were issued for most types (except for Reserved, Commercial and Taxi, for which front plates were also issued and must also be displayed today), whereas on the current "Spirit" base, both front and rear plates are issued. Registrants with 1977 plates have the option of replacing these with "Spirit" plates at no charge (though a different number will be used); however, most choose to keep their 1977 plates as a point of pride. In many cases, the 1977 plates are worn and illegible; legally per M.G.L. Chapter 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 Massachusetts 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 2n (1 through 9 for January through September, 0 for 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.)

Non-passenger plates[edit]

Image Type Dates issued Design Serial format Serials issued Notes
Blank License Plate Shape.svg Commercial 1987–91 As "Spirit of America" base, but with embossed "COMMERCIAL" in place of slogan 123·456 1 to 999·999 All Commercial plates expire on December 31.
1991–93 A 1234
A12·345
A 1000 to C99·999
Blank License Plate Shape.svg 1993–2007 As above, but with embossed "DEC" at top left D 1000 to approximately M63·800
Blank License Plate Shape.svg 2007–present As above, but with "DEC" screened rather than embossed M63·801 to present
Blank License Plate Shape.svg Trailer 1987–2004 As "Spirit of America" base, but with embossed "TRAILER" in place of slogan 123·456 1 to 999·999 All Trailer plates expire on November 30.
2004–08 A 1234 A 1000 to Z 9999
2008–present A12·345 A10·000 to present

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "History of the Plate". Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles. Retrieved August 18, 2017. 
  2. ^ Garrish, Christopher (October 2016). "Reconsidering the Standard Plate Size". Plates. Vol. 62 no. 5. Automobile License Plate Collectors Association. 
  3. ^ 2011 Low Plate Lottery Announcement
  4. ^ "Massachusetts License Plates". allaboutlicenseplates.com. Retrieved December 5, 2015. 
  5. ^ Sage, Kit; Tanner, Eric. "licenseplates.cc Massachusetts highs page". Retrieved June 24, 2009. 

External links[edit]