Virginia License Plates from 1906-




Virginia, like all Southeastern states, is a very difficult state to obtain early license plates. Virginia started relatively early, issuing its first official plates in 1906. This first issue was a simple white on black porcelain license plate with "VA" at the right side of the plate and no date. These were used until 1909. The plate pictured is probably an early 1907 issue based on the number.

The 1910 through 1913 issues were made of porcelain coated steel. 1914 saw the introduction of embossed steel plates, a process that continued through 1972, with a few exceptions.

During the period 1914-1923, the length of the license plates was in proportion to the number of digits on the plate. The size of the plates ranged from 10.5 inches long for low-numbered 1917 plates to 18.5 inches long for 6-digit 1921 plates.

In 1924, Virginia plates were made in New Jersey - if you compare the two states' plates for this year, they are identical in design and font. Virginia's prison suffered a large fire, which required plate manufacture to be outsourced for 1924.

Virginia plates exhibit slight die variations in some years. For example, if you look very closely at the state name and date on the two 1925 plates, you may be able to see that #229-401 has thinner dies, while #102-139 has the thicker dies. There is no real explanation for this variation except that perhaps two slightly different molds were used this year. There does not seem to be a cut-off where the dies switched either, as I have seen plates with numbers both higher and lower than #229-401 with the thicker font.

Like many states, Virginia had certain "bad paint years" due to inferior paint quality or other factors. Most notable is 1916 - it is extremely hard to find 1916 plates with the original blue paint on the numbers. 1926 was a particularly poor year as the black background paint faded to dark blue in most cases. In fact, many color charts refer to the 1926's background color as dark blue because of this. The blue paint on many 1914 plates faded as well, although not to the extent as in 1916.

1932 started what was to become a long tradition of using black and white plates, with a few exceptions. The 1936 plate featured the blue and orange colors of the University of Virginia, while the 1944 was black on yellow, and the 47 and 49 were black on natural aluminum.

The metal shortage caused by World War 2 forced many states to use alternative materials - Virginia used an embossed soybean-based plate during 1944. They also manufactured a few plates during 1942 as well, but these are very rare. My 1942 #499-192 and the 1944, pictured below, are both made of this soybean-based material. 1942 plates were revalidated in 1943 with metal tabs, again to conserve metal. In 1947 and 1949, aluminum was used for all license plates in Virginia.

As during World War 2, the Korean War caused another metal conservation effort. This resulted in metal tabs being used to revalidate the 1951 plates for the following year. 1951 plates also saw the introduction of the "A" prefix - once plate numbers reached 999-999, they started over again at A1, the "A" signifying 1 million. This was to continue through 1971.

In 1956, the United States standardized the size of all passenger car license plates at 6 x 12 inches. Virginia had already adopted this new, standard size beginning in 1950, however.

In 1953, Virginia once again returned to the colors of the University of Virginia. Unfortunately, this was short-lived, and plates returned to the black and white colors again in 1954.

1973 saw the introduction of the semi-permanent plates, which were to be renewed with stickers. Most 1973 plates were actually undated, as seen below. However, plates expiring during October, November, and December had month and year stickers. It is quite difficult to find stickered 1973 issues as most were covered up with later year stickers.

In 1976, Virginia, like many states, issued special commemorative plates for the American Bicentennial. Upon payment of an extra fee, you could register these plates - I have included pictures of Bicentennial plates for several years below.

In 1980, Virginia changed their regular plates by removing the embossed state name in favor of a silk-screened variety. Furthermore, the background was changed to a reflectorized white to aid in visibility at night. The old, non-reflective plates were phased out over time.

As can be seen in the photos, Bicentennial plates continued to be renewed well after the Bicentennial. As time wore on, however, the plates started to look more and more ragged, as you can see from the 1986 plate.

Virginia plates in the 1990s continued the same style as those of the 80s. After exhausting all combinations of the AAA-000 series, Virginia started issuing the ZZZ-1234 series. They started the series at ZZZ and worked their way backwards. Somewhere in the ZXX series, the state name changed from the mixed-case style of the 1980s to the all-capitals style of today.

In preparation for the 400th Anniversary of the founding of Jamestown, Virginia issued it's first-ever standard issue plate with a slogan, nearly 100 years after it first started issuing plates. There was a design change in the "K" series. This commemorative issue was only made from the JAA-KN_ series.



1906-09
1910 - rare, larger size
1911
1912 - very few pairs exist in collections today
1913
1914 - only known surviving 2-digit
1915
1916 - the worst paint year for VA
1917
1917 - note the series of holes instead of slots
1918
1919
1920
1921
1922
1923
1924
1924 - late issue, heavier gauge steel
1925 - type I font
1925 - type II font
1926
1927
1928
1929
1930
1931
1932
1933
1934
1935
1936
1937
1938
1939
1940
1941
1942 - regular steel issue
1942 - very rare late fiberboard issue
1943
1944
1945
1946 - regular steel issue
1946 - late aluminum issue
1947
1948
1949
1950 - regular steel issue
1950 - late aluminum issue
1951
1952
1953
1954
1955
1956
1957
1958
1959
1960
1961
1962
1963
1964
1965
1966
1967
1968
1969
1970
1971 - earlier series steel with no border
1971 - later series with border
1971 - limited run reflectorized
1971 - the only year for the "B" prefix meaning 2 million
1971 - rare, very late series AAA-000 format
1971 - very rare reverse color
1972 - aluminum
1972 - steel
1973
1973 - unstickered for Jan-Sep expirations
1973 - scarce stickered for Oct-Dec expirations
1974
1975
1976
1977
1978
1979
1980
1981
1982
1983
1984
1985
1986
1987
1988
1989
1990
1991
1992
1993
1994
1995
1996
1997
1998
1999
2000
2001
2002
2003
2004
2005
2006
2007
2008
2009
2010
2011
2012
2013
2014
2015
2016


Bicentennial plates

1976
1977
1978
1979
1980
1981
1982
1983
1984
1985
1986

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