Fun With License Plates

In General
Interesting Facts About Maryland Plates
Standard Issue Plates by Year
The War of 1812 Plates
Chesapeake Bay Plates
Maryland Agriculture Plates
1910 Vintage Plates of 2015
Now the Fun Stuff
Three of a Kind
Four of a Kind
Five and Six of a Kind
Two Pairs
Full House
Doubles, Doubles n Doubles
Word Plates
Same in the Beginning as it was in the End
They Match - Business Plates
Cool Vanity Plates
51 or 69
Special Groups
Handicapped Tags
Fire Department
SUV Plates
Truck Plates
Dealer Tags
Tow Truck Plates
Towns and Cities
Other Special Groups
Temporary Tags


In General

License Plates are around us all over the place, so much so, that most of us probably don't even give them a second thought unless something "makes us" aware of them... like an accident, or a sporty car with a custom exhaust and a plate that says "vroooom".   I proved this point the other day by talking to two people.  One was a woman who had an SUV with the "NJ" Maryland tags, and she was oblivious to them, so I explained to her why they looked different (she had never ever noticed in the 6 years she had them).  The other was a guy with California plates on his truck, and I asked him what the numbers in the front have gotten "up to".  He had no idea what I was taking about until, again, I explained to him the numbering system California uses, and he lived there!

This page will concentrate on plates from Maryland, but I will use other ones to illustrate a point or compliment a series until I find one from Maryland.

According to Wikipedia, Maryland first required license plates on cars in 1910.

Maryland probably has more varieties than most states except for maybe Virginia, as anyone in a group with at least 50 members who promise to get the plate, can have a special series made just for them.  I've also seen a lot of special plates in Georgia, Michigan; and California seems to have a LOT of vanity tags.

If you take a trip, and have a car full of kids, you can get them to play games with license plates, by getting them to look for certain types of plates, specific numbers or series of numbers, special categories like ham radio, etc... the possibilities are almost endless.

FYI - I got a lot of these from Ebay listings, so the pictures may not be the best, but as we say in the train world, a poor picture is better than none (well, sometimes :-)

A Little Background.....

According to the ALCPA website, 32 states and 5 Canadian Provinces issue both front and rear plates, the rest only issue plates for the rear.


The great majority of standard license plates come in what they call the 3x3 variety, in other words, you have 3 numbers and 3 letters separated by a space, such as ABC 123.  It doesn't matter which group comes first, although from observation, most states started with the letters first as can be seen from this plate from Mississippi.

Some states had or still use county codes on their plates in lieu of the standard 3x3's.  Tennessee used to, I believe Wyoming still does.  In lieu of a number for the county, many states, like the Mississippi plate above, put the county name somewhere on the plate (Florida and Georgia also does this).

OK, so what happens when you run out of standard 3x3 assignments?  There is no consistency, as states have done a number of things:

1) In order to keep the 3x3 arrangement, they can reverse the order, so instead of ABC 123, they now do 123 ABC.

2) They can add a number in front of the ABC 123, as California did, to give you 1ABC123:

3) They can make the plate a 4x3 or 3x4, such as Pennsylvania which did with 4 numbers, or as Ontario did with 4 letters:


4) A couple of states, Maryland included, has now dis-joined the 3x3, and shifted things to the right, still separated by a space, so it now becomes 1AB C23:

5) Massachusetts took a different approach, 12A B34:

If you get hung up on collecting license plates, the challenge becomes to collect "the complete series", for instance, under three of a kind, collect xxx000, xxx111, xxx222..... xxx999, or AAAxxx, BBBxxx, CCCxxx, etc.  This becomes much more difficult, and may be near impossible with the letters since there are only a thousand of each.

Other interesting sites for license plates:
For the "official" license plate collectors group of the U.S.A., go to: http://www.alpca.org/
An excellent site for MD plates by Rick: http://www.ricksplates.com/maryland/mdwhatzit.htm and http://www.ricksplates.com/
http://www.pl8s.com/  A motherlode of license plate information by Drew
Also check out his terms page at http://www.pl8s.com/terms.htm
http://www.licensepl8s.com/ by Andrew Pang
http://www.collectinghistory.com/ by Alan Virta
For some interesting LP trivia, visit: http://www.alpca.org/faq/trivia/
Interesting notes on Canadian plates can be found here: http://www.canplates.com/guide.html
Into MA plates?: http://www.w-a.com/maplate.htm
More interesting notes at: http://www.dmv.org/fun-stuff/interesting-license-plates.php

Interesting Facts About Maryland License Plates

The current license plate, with black lettering on a white reflective surface and a state medallion in the middle came into being around 1984.

If you got a vanity plate or a special series plate, they did not put the state medallion on them.

Between 1939 and 1986, all Maryland license plates expired on March 31st.  After that, the expiration dates were staggered, meaning, they could expire at the end of any month, related to when the plates were acquired.

Back in the late 70's, Maryland decided on black letters on a white plate because they were the cheapest color inks they could buy.  I remember seeing a newspaper article on the topic.

Historic tags can be placed on your car or truck if the vehicle is older than 25 years.  If you happen to have a pair of plates laying around that the year agrees with the year of your antique car, you can use them on the car.  Supposedly, if you have historic tags on your vehicle, your insurance company will cut you a break on your insurance for that car, but you're only supposed to drive it once in a while, like weekends, not everyday for the purpose of going to work.  (But, how is one supposed to get a pair of old plates if you are required to turn them in when you get rid if a car?????)

Maryland started two year renewal cycles in 1992.

Custom series plates originally started out with an abbreviation for your organization with 3 letters , and then 4 numbers (ABC1234), looking like the standard issue Maryland tag.  The "neat" series, which included a symbol for your group, was started maybe 6 or 7 years ago.  The two styles are illustrated below.


The latest plate for Maryland to issue is the War if 1812 plate, which was first issued on June 10th, 2010.  It is being used as the new issued tags for passenger cars, SUV's, trucks, and motorcycles (and their handicapped versions), and will be issued until 2015.  The first series of this plate was issued as M over a D for Maryland, then, when they ran out of these assignments, they started with A over A, then went to A over B, and so on.
More info at: http://www.mva.maryland.gov/Vehicle-Services/REG/newmdplate.htm


My License Plate Collection

With all of the other crap I collect, electronics, radios, slides, trains, junk, etc, I don't really have a lot of room for a massive license plate collection, so here are the few I happen to own......

Standard Issue Plates, or
Maryland License Plate History









  from Al Virta
1969 - White painted letters on light blue painted plate, AA_0000 format

  from Al Virta
1970 - Light blue painted letters on white painted plate, AA_0000 format

    right one from Al Virta

1971 - 1975 - White painted letters on light blue painted plate, AA_0000 format, first multi-year plate issued

  from Al Virta

1976 - 1980 Red painted letters on white painted plate, AAA_000 thru HMN_xxx


  from Al Virta 




1980 - 1986 - Blank painted letters on white painted plate, AAA_000 thru KHN_999

 from Al Virta
1983 - FEB 1984 - 350th Anniversary plates, first reflective plates, 000_AAA thru 999_AKE, and first plates to use the MD emblem
This is the only license plate Maryland produced that won an award from the American License Plate Collectors Association for best new plate.
Only issued during 1983 and 1984, but usable thru September 1987.



  2000 truck

FEB 1986 - SEP 2004 - Black letters on white reflective plate, NAA_001 thru ZZZ_999 (86-92), then AAA_001 thru MZZ_999

SEP2004 - FEB2005 - Black letters on white reflective plate, new order, 1AA_A01 thru 9AK_Z99

FEB2005 - LATE2005 - Black letters on white reflective plate, 1AL_A01 thru 9CM_Z99, added www.maryland.gov to the plate

LATE2005 - 2006 - Same as above, BUT, made in New Jersey due to riots in the prison, you can tell by the look of the letters on the plate, 1CN_A01 thru 9CN_Z99

2006 - JUN2005 - Back to the same plate before the riots, will resume with 4GD J48 in June of 2015

For a whole lot more detailed information on the various plates Maryland used, visit:
    http://www.ricksplates.com/maryland/ huge site!

The War of 1812 Plates

This is a big section.....

These plates were issued between 2010 and the summer of 2016 as the standard Maryland license plate.  Maryland suspended issuing plates that were 1AB C23 when they started handing out the War of 1812 plates.  The highest series I have seen so far is CG.  The series actually started with the MD series before starting at the beginning of the alphabet with AA.  Each letter series, like BB, contains 100,000 plates.  So to get thru the whole A series, means 2.6 million cars were licensed.  One of my favorites caught early on, is 4AA4444, but I don't have a good picture of it - I actually saw it twice around in Timonium, so the one I caught on a jeep will have to do with 4488......  Notice that I try to catch plates with a cool series of numbers on it, like 4488, or 8080, or 6x6333 :-)















The Chesapeake Bay Plates

The extra money collected from the sale of these plates supposedly goes to helping with the Chesapeake Bay restoration.



The Maryland Agriculture Plates



The 1910 Vintage Plates

These plates were only issued for a short time in 2015.  By the time I found out about them, which was on December the 31st, the DMV was already closed early for the holiday.  They were not open on Friday the 1st or the following Monday.  So I trundled down to the main DMV office in Glen Burnie to see if they were doing anything to make up for the fact that they closed early on the 31st.  The first person I spoke with at the information counter DIDN'T EVEN KNOW THEY WERE AVAILABLE!!!  So I asked another person at one of the counters, and they said you had to go upstairs to the special plate counter.  Well, I was there around 1pm, and even tho the fellow at the counter said you could still get them, when he went in the back to process the paperwork, he came back out and said they had cut off the processing of them AT NOON!   I have some real choice words for the DMV on this one!  These plates were so quietly announced, I'm surprised anyone knew about them....


Now Comes The Fun Stuff!


This is the easiest category to find examples for, and they proliferate in almost every series of plates issued.


Three of a Kind

For some reason, three zeros seem to be the easiest ones to find :-)


        Where did all the GGG's come from?

Four of a kind



  Four in a row.....

Five or six of a kind

  Or five of a kind.....

  If you think of the "B" as a "2", then it becomes 6 of a kind :-)


Two Pairs


Full House


Doubles, Doubles n Doubles

  Look familiar?  :-)  two 2's, two 6's, and two sets of doubles!

  Is it two sets of 37, or two sets of 73?

  My new trailer plate, just got it in June 2015, double 2's, double 4's, and 44 is twice that of 22!  Before I put the stickers on....

Word Plates

License plates that spell out a word, without being a vanity plate (which are sometimes words), are call WORD PLATES.



The Same in The End As It Was In The Beginning

Plates which have the same number or letter at both ends.  With the way Maryland now does their plates, these is easy to find.


The 3 above were all taken within a minute of each other on the parking lot at work!


They Match!

Plates that match the business.


Cool Vanity Plates



  I hope not all at one time!  :-)

  I wonder if he heard a Who?

  Initial plates like this were among the first vanity tags to show up in Maryland many, many years ago.


51 or 69

I was born in 1951, and graduated high school in 1969, so I'm always on the lookout for plates with those two numbers in them, especially if they are all by themselves!

For a whole bunch of plates from 1951, check out Chris Woodcock's page at: http://www.w-a.com/plates51.htm



Special Groups


Maryland does a fairly nice job with Veteran plates.  You can also get one from your specific branch, with an MIL TLA on the plate.



In Maryland, all of the different police jurisdictions have their own special license plates. 

As a police officer, you can get Fraternal Order of the Police plates for oneself.  In the beginning, Maryland offered a plain plate as FOPxxxx.  When they ran out of this series, they changed it to FPOxxxx.  They now issue the "standard" custom series plates for FOP plates, with the FOP emblem on the left side.

In addition, there are a number of special plates for other police related groups.





Handicap Tags

Maryland handicap tags come in quite a number of varieties and series.  Almost every series, such as the Bay Plates, Agriculture, standard plates, ham tags, etc, all have their versions, even the new "War of 1812 plates".




Again, in Maryland, most of the fire stations and volunteer companies have their own plates. 
In addition, if you belong to a paid or volunteer fire company, you can get a plate for your local or VFC.


    Hereford, Volunteer company 440.



Some colleges and universities in Maryland have their own license plates, but most will have "LG" or "SG" plates, since they are part of either the state or local governments.  Alumni can get plates with their school on them, or for the sorority or frat you belong to.




You can get a special plate if you work at THE Shock Trauma center at the University of MD hospital in downtown Baltimore. 
This facility handles adult cases, Johns Hopkins Hospital handles the under 21 age group.


Cars and trucks that belong to the state or a local jurisdiction will have a license plate with an "LG" or "SG" on them.  And of course, if you happen to be in either the senate or congress, you can get a plate for that too.





Sports enthusiasts can also get plates for their favorite teams.


SUV plates

Maryland separates the SUV and light truck categories with an "M" plate.  When they started this class, they first placed the M to the left side(M123456).  I believe the next place they moved the M was to the middle (123M456), and now, the M shows up in the 6 position (12345M7).


Truck Plates

Heavy trucks, tractor trailers, dump trucks, tow trucks, and trailers all have their own special plates.

Farm Truck

Medium Size Trucks
I'm not sure of the exact weight of this class, but it seems to take in everything larger than pickups up to but not including semi tractors.  For some reason they seem to have started off this series with a "P", as in 12P 345.  You can now find letters all over the place.

Dealer Tags

These are license plates used by car and truck dealers while you take a car out for a test drive, or they are loaning the vehicle to someone for a few days.  I've seen them with 1's and 2's, but none so far with 3's.

Tow Truck Tags

  Pretty cool plate if I do say so myself! :-)  Caught in Cockeysville, belongs to Linhard's Towing.

Towns and Cities

Some localities have their own special issue plates.


Other Special Groups

This covers other groups that don't have a special category all to themselves.



  Before they started using logos, this is what special group plates looked like....

  An original plate can be used as a historic tag if it matches the year of the car.


Historic Plates

Historic tags, or plates that agree with the year of your car, can be put onto vehicles that are older than 25 years old.



I'm a train nut, but Maryland only has a few train oriented plates such as the B&O Train Museum and the Baltimore Streetcar Museum.

  Think he likes trains?  I have a railfan guide to Sykesville here.

Temporary Tags

Don't forget these, as these are "real" license plates too!

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