In 1901, New York became the first state to require every motorcycle or automobile to display the owner’s initials at least 3 inches in height, in a conspicuous place on a vehicle. Owners had to supply their own lettering and materials.1
Eventually, all U.S. states began issuing standardized license plates. In 1976, several states offered special license plates to honor America’s bicentennial – the first specialized license plates.2 Today, there are more than 250 million cars in America6, with thousands of different specialty license plates.
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For a fee collected by the state, drivers can also create a custom, one-of-a-kind license plate with a personalized set of letters, numbers or both. Vanity plates go a step further than specialty plates, allowing the owner to create a personal message that reflects their views, beliefs or boasts, for example “GR8DAD,” “IMAJEDI” or “NVERLA8.”
Vanity plates provide welcome additional revenue to states, which carefully scrutinize and reject offensive messages. Vanity plates are growing in popularity and according to the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators, in 2007 there were 9.7 million vehicles with personalized vanity plates in North America.4
Motorists can now choose to pay an additional one-time fee – typically between $10 and $100 – for a specialty license plate to express their individuality while raising funds for, and awareness of, their favorite college, environmental cause, branch of the military, or thousands of other causes.3
The money raised by these fees supports their cause, and drivers can proudly let the world know of their special interests.
Although specialty and customized license plates are fun and unique, don’t think they’re inferior. These plates offer the same durable, long-lasting all-weather retroreflectivity that standard license plates provide, so safety isn’t compromised.
High definition reflective license plate sheeting on license plates enhances nighttime visibility and the legibility of the vehicle identification system. Optional secure, tamper-resistant retroreflective security marks can also be used to provide an extra layer of security protection by ensuring authenticity, protecting against counterfeiting and provide production traceability.5
1 Time. History. This Is Why Cars Have License Plates, retrieved Nov 7, 2017.
2, 3 Slate. Design. The Way Things Look. Montana Quilters Have Their Own License Plate. The curious rise of specialty tags, retrieved Nov 7, 2017.
4 Wikipedia. Vanity Plate, retrieved Nov 7, 2017.
5 3M.com. 3M™ High Definition Reflective License Plate Sheeting Series 6700 (PDF, 182.56 KB), retrieved Nov 17, 2017.
6 Statista. The Statistics Portal. Number of vehicles registered in the United States from 1990 to 2015. Retrieved December 28, 2017.