Front and rear plates are required for most classes of vehicles, while only rear plates are required for motorcycles and trailers. The color scheme from 1923 was inverted in 1924, with white numbers on a dark blue background. Formats for license plate numbers may be consistent within the state. 1943 Washington State Special Use Plate During the "WAR" years the State issued Victory Vehicle plates to those businesses who had vehicles directly involved with the war effort. The original plan for ’54 plates was to issue them as singles, for cost-saving reasons, made of steel and in the same format as the 1950 plates, with a reversed color scheme. Both these plates issued only to new registrants. Embossed white serial on green plate with border line; "WASHINGTON" centered at bottom, Embossed green serial on non-reflective white plate with border line; "WASH. 63" centered at bottom, As above, but with "WASHINGTON" centered at bottom, As above, but reflective, and with "WASHINGTON" at top, offset to left, As above, but with "WASHINGTON" screened rather than embossed, Embossed dark blue serial on reflective white plate with light blue, "Centennial Celebration" screened in red centered at bottom, As above, but without dark blue border line, and with "WASHINGTON" screened in red at top, offset to left, "EVERGREEN STATE" screened in red centered at bottom, Debossed white on green with border line; "WASHINGTON" at top, offset to left, Embossed green on white with border line; "WASHINGTON" at top, offset to left, Similar to 1987–98 passenger plates, but with "Washington" offset to left and no slogan, Similar to current passenger plates, but without slogan, This page was last edited on 13 January 2021, at 03:38. 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. This cost-savings effort was doomed to failure from the start, and the plates had already proved unpopular before the end of the 1919 licensing year, with a Seattle Times editorial deriding the 1919 plates as a “cheap yellow form of construction that has aroused the resentment of every automobile owner who displays it.”. Have any that need a new home? The state created a design contest for the new plate. After the plate mill was destroyed late in 1953, any additional plates needed before the end of the calendar year had to be sourced from the alternate supplier in Oregon. The format was largely unchanged for 1918, although a more legible white on black color scheme was used. Over 40,000 automobiles were eventually licensed by Washington … This is probably the most sought after Washington State plate by collectors. Registration for License Plates in Washington If you purchased your vehicle from a dealership in Washington, they are likely to handle the registration of your vehicle. In the instances where the original prison-made plates had been issued, this also resulted in completely mismatched sets of plates, where one car would have had a steel, Washington-made plate on the rear and an aluminum, Oregon-made plate on the front. Registrants provided their own license plates for display until 1911, when the state began to issue plates. Special plates Personalized plates. Revalidated through February 29, 1920 with white porcelain tabs. “At night headlights reflecting on the plate practically obliterate the numerals, the unpainted aluminum having the same characteristics as a mirror held to catch the sun’s rays,” complained the Spokane Safety Commissioner after the plates had been on the road only two weeks. For ten years, this was the extent of vehicle licensing in the state of Washington. Narrower dies were adopted in 1985, also introducing a hyphen in the registration number, starting with number LLL-000. These narrower dies also allowed the use of seven-character personalized plates for the first time. 1916 With the addition of the full state name, plates became larger, while still maintaining the letter-coding system to denote vehicle class, and a hyphen was added to registration numbers to enhance legibility. 1928 also saw the date and vehicle class designator moved to the same line as the state name. 1954 motorcycle plates were slightly larger and used different dies. On April 10, Charles E. Post & Company of Los Angeles beat out four other bidders and was awarded the contract to manufacture the 1916 license plates for a sum of $11,802. Find out how. In 1967, the legislature passed a law stating that “All vehicle license number plates issued after January 1, 1968 […] shall be treated with reflectorized materials designed to increase the visibility and legibility of such plates at night.” This resulted in another new baseplate in 1968, which again did not replace any plates currently on the road. These would be the last non-graphic plates issued in Washington. The county coding system was finally abandoned during this era. The decision to issue only a single plate for the rear of the vehicle had been controversial from the start, but trouble identifying a bank robber’s getaway car in Seattle was the tipping point for public outrage and law enforcement pushback, so at the end of 1954 the Department of Licensing acquiesced to demands for a front plate. Currently it has taken the state five to six years to run through a complete letter series (e.g. Please contact me! Below is an overview of Washington’s license plate history that I’ve compiled and illustrated with examples from my collection. Bjorn Larsen P.O. Exempt license plates. Embossed green serial on white plate with border line; "WASHINGTON 1940" at bottom, Embossed white serial on green plate with border line; "WASHINGTON 1941" at top, Embossed green serial on white plate; "WASHINGTON 1942" at bottom, Revalidated for 1943 and 1944 with windshield stickers, due to metal conservation for, As 1942 base, but with "WASHINGTON 1944" at bottom, Embossed green serial on white plate; "WASHINGTON 1945" at top. Support your favorite cause by getting a license plate with a special background design. Not sure if I want to clean them. With the idea of multi-year plates abandoned, 1921 saw a new design that was smaller than previous years. 1950's - 1960's The 1919 plates were manufactured with six slots surrounding the state name, date, and vehicle class, with the intention of using a tab to renew the plates in future years. The State of Washington began registering motor vehicles in 1906 but only started to issue metal license plates in 1916. Embossed green serial on unpainted aluminum plate; "WASHINGTON 1947" at bottom. Manufacturing was awarded to the Western Display Company of Minneapolis. Personalize your license plate or get a plate with a special background design. Plates were slow to arrive from the factory: only the first 400 licenses had been issued by June 15, and by July 15, only a total of 15,753 had been issued, with an estimated 20-25,000 still pending. Plates are currently issued by the Washington State Department of Licensing. For 1919, the state began an experiment with multi-year plates, modeled after the practice used by California. Washington was still using the 1954 base with renewal tabs, so while existing registrations kept their original plates, all newly-issued plates were in the new dimensions, with a design that mimicked the originals. For 1958 through 1962, all regular motorcycle license plates carried the "MO" prefix followed by one to four digits (no leading … 1941 would be the last year an embossed, painted border was used on passenger plates. In 1997 the size of the hyphen was enlarged, starting with 000-HYB. I wanted people to know our state, and I do not remember in the East of any one knowing what “Wn.” stood for. A license … wrote to the Seattle Times: “I am good and peeved because on a trip taken by my husband and me this last summer, back through the South to Kentucky, Ohio, Michigan and back—I am peeved because no one the other side of the Idaho line knew what ‘Wn.” stood for on our car license plate. About special design plates Learn the history of Washington license plates and how to request a new background design. Revalidated for 1952 and 1953 in the same manner as for 1950 plates. Registrants provided their own license plates for display until 1907, when the district began to issue plates. Commemorated Washington's 50 years of statehood. The “Centennial Celebration” slogan was in place two years before and after the 1989 centennial: in 1991, it was removed, but the design was otherwise unchanged. After underbidding the Charles E Post company by a mere $19.75 (on a total bid of $9,352), the Seattle-based Pacific Coast Stamp Works was awarded the contract to produce the 1917 licenses, and would retain the state’s business for three years. The State of Washington first required automobile licensing statewide in 1905, and continued the pre-state system of registration through the end of 1915. 1919 Washington State license plate 21969 in very good condition for its age. The state of Washington officially got into the business of issuing license plates when the new auto law was passed in January 1915, effective June 10. Transfer plates to another vehicle. King County registrations had become so large that the system could no longer be adapted to accommodate the necessary amount of letter combinations. Please visit Washington State License Plate History. Size: 7" x 3.5" 1958 - The Washington State Penitentiary plate factory in Walla Walla reopened in 1957 (following its destruction in an October 1953 fire), and is the location where 1958 and later plates were produced. With in-state production impossible until the mill was rebuilt, the state launched a frantic search for an alternate supplier. Back in 1922, a Mrs. W.B. The plate size was reduced and a letter code was introduced to designate the vehicle class, with “X” being issued to private passenger vehicles, “T” denoting trucks, etc. Vehicle registration plates of North America, American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators, Automobile License Plate Collectors Association, Vehicle registration plates of the United States, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Vehicle_registration_plates_of_Washington_(state)&oldid=1000020592, Vehicle registration plates of the United States by state, Washington (state) transportation-related lists, Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License, Embossed white serial on dark blue plate with border line; vertical "WN" and "1916" at left and right respectively, 1 to approximately 45000, with gaps (see right). Single series of all-numeric serials used for all classes of vehicles, including trucks, vehicles for hire and dealer vehicles. AAA0000 to AZZ9999), so any variety on Washington bumpers will have to come from the growing number of optional graphics. The Division of Motor Vehicles was created by the Legislature and placed under the direction of the Secretary of State. The U.S. state of Washington first required its residents to register their motor vehicles in 1905. All types of vehicles, regardless of class (car, motorcycle, truck, government-owned, for hire, etc.) The tab system died after only one year in use. The DMV issued the first metal plates, with blue background and white letters. Once again, Washington state vehicle license plate lookup will show you all the records associated with car title, so you have the chance to spot anything wrong. In 1987, to commemorate Washington’s centennial in 1989, a new, fully-graphic design was introduced, which is still being issued, with minor design changes, more than 30 years later. Plates from 1916 through 1920 were issued on a March-to-March basis. One common quirk of this situation is the inconsistencies in number layout, hyphenation, and spacing between the first batches of Oregon-made plates and the second batches of front plates. Special design plates. 1919 licenses had expired the day before, on February 28, so with the late change in the law, a one-month grace period was granted for 1919 licenses, making them valid through March 31 without a 1920 renewal. After 83 years of state-issued license plates, Washington for the first time displayed the state motto, Evergreen State, on its plates. It is extremely common for pairs to have mismatched formatting as a result. Under the terms of the auto law, the licensing period aligned to the state’s fiscal year (beginning of March to the end of February). The 1923 plates were the first to be produced at the prison, which continues to make Washington’s license plates today. Proposals to use the state prison system to manufacture license plates, a practice used in many other states, had been floated at various times since the license law was passed in 1915. In March 1922, the license plate shop was established at the Washington State Penitentiary in Walla Walla. The plate mill at the Walla Walla Penitentiary caught fire and was burned to the ground, destroying all of the plates that were on hand. Embossed green serial on unpainted aluminum plate; "WASHINGTON 1949" at top, Embossed green serial on white plate; "WASHINGTON 50" at bottom. Remove or invalidate the month and year tabs, bend the plates so they can't be used on a vehicle, and recycle them so they can't be confused with a valid Washington license plate. Aside from 1928, which had one of the boldest color years, colors alternated between green and white. “X” marks the plate: introduction of vehicle class codes. These plates were only issued to new registrations; the 1963 plates were not replaced and continued to be revalidated by year stickers. The simple “WN” designation had been unpopular for a long time. The tabs were issued with the vehicle class code and serial numbers matching the base plate. The state’s Golden Jubilee was commemorated by the dates of statehood and the one-time designation of the “State of Washington”. Washington, D.C. See District of Columbia, above. Additionally, the tools indicates the possibility of car theft and repossession. In fact, the 1963 plates, and all others issued thereafter, remained in use through 2000. Check out our viewer for Washington State Plates. For unknown reasons, the county code, which had always been a prefix, was changed to a suffix. In 1925, the colors reverted back to the 1923 format. New, narrower number dies also debuted in order to facilitate six-digit registration numbers. Naturally, car dealers want you to believe that the mileage is less than it really is. The 'X' indicated the passenger class of vehicles; other letters were used for other classes. Starting in 1956, all license plates in the United States and Canada were standardized to a common size (6″ x 12,” the dimensions still in use today), based on a agreement reached between motor vehicle administrators. Non-passenger vehicles had their class type spelled out, and were not county-coded. The 1916 issue was quite large (6 1/4″ tall and 16 1/2″ wide), and non-passenger types such as trucks or for hire vehicles had an additional 1 ¼” of height added, as the vehicle class was spelled out in large letters at the top. As a cost-savings measure, the original plan was for these to display the state name in full, followed by an embossed “63” to denote the first year of expiration, with adhesive year stickers used to renew for future years. Front and rear plates are required on all vehicles except for motorcycles. Bought a new car or motorcycle and want to keep your current license plates? All of the renewal tabs had to be made prior to the start of the licensing year, which meant producing matching sets of tabs for every single number issued in 1919, since there was no way to identify which licenses wouldn’t be renewed due to sale of the vehicle, moving out of state, etc. All of Washington’s license plates until 1925 were embossed with WN and the year of issue. Henceforth, none of our replica license plates may be used in lieu of county issued, state issued, country issued or officially (government) issued license plates. Washington State License Plates Barbara Jo Birt offers a brief history and photos of old plates from the Evergreen State. Only the number was furnished; the owner was responsible for displaying it. These plates looked quite different from the regular issues: they were smaller (made from leftover blanks of 1952 Hawaii plates) and used the same blocky dies as Oregon plates. As supply constraints prevented adequate stocks to be issued to each county, a non-county coded plate was produced that could be shipped to counties as needed. Click Here for our Washington State Plate Gallery. 1921 finally saw the end of the state’s odd validity period. 1930's - 1940's (A) New registrations only. Revalidated for 1948 with windshield stickers. Plate History 1900's - 1920's (A) Black on white tab expired 2/29/20 and new registrations received black on yellow and white 1920 plates. For over a decade, the Old license Farm has a developed a well-established reputation with collector/vintage car enthusiasts throughout the State of Washington. Replace your license plates. You will receive the actual plate pictured. House Bill 70 passed on January 27, 1921, and, as summarized in the Tacoma Daily Ledger, provided “that auto license numbers issued in December shall be good for the following year. In 1946, however, the state reverted back to a windshield sticker in lieu of plates, so no passenger plates were issued this year. The year on the plate indicated the year it expired. Even when new, the state director of licenses deemed them “shoddy, badly painted, and are not strong enough.”. In King County, lack of space resulted in the exclusion of the letter code after number A-99999 was reached, with the next in sequence being 100-000, sans county designator. Please do not use for any other purposes without permission, Vintage Washington State vehicle registration cards, Vintage Washington State drivers licenses, county-issued paper or cardboard temporary licenses pending their plates’ arrival from Olympia. The winner was Eric Booth, a high school senior in Bellingham, beating out more than 2,000 other designs. The county coding system in place since 1935 was adapted to fit the new alphanumeric format, with King County (previously “A”) assigned AAA through AZZ, Pierce County (previously “B”) assigned BAA through BZZ, etc. A nice pair of matching plates. A limited number of non-passenger plates, for example trailers, were made as well. Common methods used metal house numbers mounted to leather or cardboard, but some licenses were custom-made out of metal, or sometimes merely painted directly on the vehicle. The 1968 base was issued until 1982, but had several minor design evolutions, the most notable being a change to smaller, crisper dies on the state name in 1978. Things were primitive at the start. These could be seen on buses that transported troops and other similarly used vehicles. I kinda like the patina. Standard plate issuance resumed for 1945, with the 1942 plates finally coming off bumpers after three years in use. In spite of these complaints, the plates stayed on the road for two years, as windshield stickers were again used in 1948 to revalidate plates. Please do not reproduce without permission. On September 14, just five days after the fire, a contract was signed with the Screw Machine company of Portland, OR, which at the time was also making plates for Oregon, Alaska, Hawaii, and other jurisdictions. For example, Delaware and Rhode Island were formerly able to use six-digit all-numeric serials due to their low respective populations; both now use five-digit serials, with Delaware using a letter and four digits, and Rhode Island using two letters and three digits. This base was undated, providing enough room for validation stickers. Outcry over the “Wash” abbreviation was widespread enough that in 1965 the state legislature passed a law stating: “Vehicle license number plates issued by the state of Washington commencing with the next general issuance of such plates shall be so designed as to designate the name of the state of Washington in full without abbreviation.”. With windshield stickers used for renewing 1942 plates, metal plates for 1944 are scarce. Washington has 39 counties, so after Z was assigned to the 26th smallest county (Klickitat), the remaining 13 received two-letter abbreviations derived from their names (e.g. T = Truck E = Publicly Owned Vehicle 1936 was the only year a split date was used with a centered state name. By the time this system ended in mid 1915, numbers were being assigned in the low 40000s. The state name briefly reverted back to the old design in 1980. Tweaking odometer readings. This continued the same county-coded numbering system introduced with the 1963 plates. No plates were issued to passenger vehicles, only certain nonpassenger types such as trailers, dealers, and motorcycles. The plates were designed with slots over the date, which would be used to apply metal tabs, a practice common in other states. The current format theoretically can last decades before changes are needed. If so, you can drive off the lot using temporary plates or tags and wait a about a week for your license plates to arrive in the mail. That’s not very good advertising, as everyone writing to this state abbreviates the state as “Wash.” Why two abbreviations?”. The Secretary of State signed all licenses personally. The Old License Farm . They are actually blue on white background. license plate type: … A brand-new numbering system came with the new design, starting at 000-AAA. However, most of the original run of 1954 plates was destroyed in the fire, so the vast majority of 1954 plates issued to vehicles were sourced from Screw Machine. Representative Hubbell explained that this is one of several bills to make auto laws confirm with laws of adjacent states.”. In 2010, the numbering system that had begun at 000-AAA with the Centennial plates had finally run out, with plate 999-ZZZ being issued at the beginning of that year. This page is still under construction at times. received a simple number. Other nonpassenger vehicle classes such as trailers and trucks did receive dated plates. Washington License Plates. Please visit our SERVICES page to see what we have to offer, pricing and a listing of some of the plates we have available for restoration. Visit An Office, Bring Your Application, Plates, Title and Payment. Washington (state) License Plates of Washington Ian Slade has details and nice photos of passenger and motorcycle plates from the state of Washington. Validated for 1956 and 1957 in the same manner as for 1954–55 plates. Shown below are photographs of Washington passenger-car license plates representing each year of issue, beginning with the first official state issue (from 1915, expiring February 29, 1916), and continuing through 2008. As registration volumes continued to increase, the process of issuing plates centrally from Olympia became too costly and inefficient, and in 1935 Washington adopted the practice used in many other states and implemented a county code system. The legislature passed a new auto license law with an updated fee structure on March 1, 1919. Official state license plates were issued for the first time in 1916. The prison plate shop would not reopen until the production of the 1958 plates began. Existing registrations had a ’51 tab issued to renew the 1950 plates, but as supplies ran out, dated 1951 plates were issued. Single plate issued only to new registrants. With age, the blue paint tends to fade to black. State law drove another change in Washington’s plates. Passenger vehicles were designated by a small "X," trucks by a "T," and publicly-owned vehicles by a small "E." License plates were issued to a person not a vehicle. With age, these look sort of yellow and black. The Big Three counties (King, Pierce, Spokane) received letters A, B, and C, respectively, with the alphabet progressing through the remaining counties. Revalidated for 1951 with silver tabs, for 1952 with windshield stickers, and for 1953 with green tabs.  The first Washington license plate that complied with these standards was a modification of the 1954 plate, introduced in January 1956. With the law implementing a more commonsense calendar year period of validity, a second plate was needed for the last ten months of 1921, as the original green plates had expired on February 28, 1921. The most notable aspect of the 1942 plates was that they were used far longer than intended: three years. No more annual issues or metal renewal tabs. Eventually it will be an illustrated presentation of the many interesting aspects of the history of Washington state license plates. These plates were plagued by weak paint on the numbers. All images are items from my collection or scanned images of historic photos I own, unless noted otherwise. The B prefix indicates a state owned vehicle and the D prefix is a city owned vehicle. There was a flat fee of $2 charged on a yearly basis. 1938 was the only year where the date preceded the state name, until the 1954 base was introduced. I’d love hear from anyone who may have questions, comments, needs more information, or has some old plates that need a new home! Plate 999-JNZ was the last to be issued in the old format, with 000-JOA marking the transition point to the new design. There was enough metal supply to manufacture plates (in singles, not pairs) for new registrations. The plates were annually stickered through 1975, when the sticker shown on this plate was added as a permanent one. For military personnel Prior to this, registrations all expired on December 31 of each year. An additional complication arose late in 1954. Washington’s first laws regulating automobiles were effective June 7, 1905, and required that all motor vehicles be registered with the Secretary of State’s office, at which time the motorist would be assigned a registration number to be displayed on the rear of the vehicle, preceded by the abbreviation “WN.”. Embossed white serial on green plate; "54 WASHINGTON" at bottom, Revalidated for 1955 with silver tabs, for 1956 with white tabs, and for, As above, but to 6" x 12" size, and with narrower dies and border line. A second 1921-dated plate was issued for the remainder of the year, expiring December 31, 1921. 1962 Vintage Washington Dealer License Plate 0494 A “Pre-owned used condition. In response, in 1965 the design was altered to spell WASHINGTON in full. Registrants provided their own license plates for display until 1915, when the state began to issue plates.. Three varieties of license plates were used for the 1920 licensing year. The first full calendar year licenses were white on brown, and once again made by the Irwin Hodson company in the same format as the gray 1921s. This system would remain in use through 1935. Toward the end of the licensing year, as stock of the porcelain plates ran out, full metal plates were produced, again with matching color formats. License Plate Info: 2004 Washington license plate - 562-GMU 1987 Rainier base (Evergreen State) (Pair, Gold Rush, 1987 base, Auction, Unusual Sticker, 2004 pass.) Altered documents and fake titles. The date displayed on the license plate indicated the expiration year (so the 1916 license plates expired February 29, 1916, and the 1917 issue was valid from March 1, 1916 to February 28, 1917). 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