Thursday, August 02, 2007

California License Plates Enter the 6's

One of my favorite California-centric sites,, 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.


Anonymous said...

Too bad the CALPL8S site is gone. I enjoyed it.

Anonymous said...

The most recent change to the plate design is that they have added the DMV's web address ( to the bottom of the plate. This was first spotted in November 2011, and occurred around the 6TRA series. Why in 2011 the state felt they needed to add the DMV website is inexplicable to me. I think anyone with a half a brain and a computer can find the DMV website these days if they need it. At least it's not as lame looking as "MYFLORIDA.COM" that Florida did a few years back.

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Paul1953H said...

I believe the website was added to California passenger plates starting around 6TPA, and on commercial plates around 00000F1. =PSH

Anonymous said...

California license plates might soon enter the 7's by the end of 2012 or in early 2013 because we are in the late 6X series as of 9/2012 and almost approaching 6Z and 7A.

Anonymous said...

California license plates might soon enter the 7's by the end of 2012 or in early 2013 because we are in the late 6X series as of 9/2012 and almost approaching 6Z and 7A.

Fawad Tariq said...

If you are still uncertain about this process then its probably a better idea to go down to your local mechanic or car body shop and offer one of the lads 20 pounds to fit the Number platesfor you. It should only take him half an hour and you will probably find that he will supply any new plastic caps or screws that may be required..

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