Thursday, August 02, 2007
California License Plates Enter the 6's
One of my favorite California-centric sites, CALPL8S.com, reveals that we've hit another big license plate milestone. The most thorough California-centric license plate resource on the web, CALPL8S notes that regular automobile plates starting with the number "6" have hit the roads.
Yup, not only does the first number on your plate tell the world how new your car is, but so do the letters that follow it. Naturally, "6MNP" is newer than "6LMO."
Until 1980, California plates went by a three letter/three number designation (ABC123). But with those combinations fast running out, the state decided to put a number in front of it, introducing our current one number/three letters/three numbers schematic (1ABC123).
Here's some more geekily interesting info from the CALPL8S site, where I also borrowed the graphics:
The first plates to sport the 1ABC123 license were California's "blue base" plates, which were issued between 1969 and 1987.
The famed "Golden State" plates were introduced in 1982 (at an extra cost) simultaneous with the blue plates; they became the exclusive California plates for just nine months in 1987.
In a cost-cutting move, the state went to this "Embossed Plate" in late 1987, and continued issuing them until late 1993.
The current "Script" (or "Lipstick") plates were introduced in 1993 (with the 3GAA123 series) and continue up to now. (Although there was a brief variation in the late 1990s, the "Sesquicentennial" plates, as seen below.
With the plates now entering the "6ABC123" schematic, it's a good reminder of how many cars are on California roads now. Since the "1ABC123" style was introduced in 1980, it's interesting to note that by 1996 -- a full 16 years later -- the plates had only made it up to "3." (I know, because my first car, purchased in 1996, started with 3SKE"). Yet just seven years later, in 2003, we were already up to "5." (My plate for the car I bought in 2003 starts with "5D..."). Now, just four years after that, we're already at 6.
At this rate, it won't be too long until we're toward the end of "9". Then what will the state do? Change the plate formula so it's Four numbers/three letters? Or go with four letters/three numbers?
Not sure if that question keeps many people up at night, but I know it does a few. Joe just asked me the other day, for example, what will happen.