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A History of Indiana License Plates
Start Date: 11/16/2015Start Time: 12:00 AM
End Date: 11/16/2015
Entry Description

A History of Indiana License Plates

On March 6, 1905 Indiana started its very first statewide registration of motor vehicles. Since then, license plates have evolved in how they look, how they are issued and how they are used. Automobile License Plate Collectors Association, Inc. is creating a display of Indiana license plates over the last 110 years to celebrate the Bicentennial. The exhibit will reflect a significant part of Indiana’s motoring history, the expansion and ease of transportation and the growth from the Lincoln Highway to modern interstates as we know them. 

The first statewide registration of motor vehicles, in 1905, was a permanent license tax, with a one-time fee of $1.00.  Name, address, make of vehicle and registration number were recorded by state officials, and a two-inch diameter disc bearing the registration number was issued to each motorist.  That disc was required to be mounted on the vehicle.  Common practice was to attach the disc onto the wooden dashboards of vintage motor cars.  As a result, they have become known as dashboard discs.
Actual license plates were also required by the State, but were not provided by the State.  These are referred to as “owner provided plates” or “pre-state plates,” and have been found in all manner of materials and formats.  Some pioneer motorists simply painted the registration number onto their vehicles, but it was more common to have plates fabricated by commercial providers.  Very popular among Indiana auto owners was a single piece brass plate, which was stencil-cut to allow air to flow to the radiator.  This design is virtually unique among the states to brass era Indiana motorists, and are highly sought after.
In 1913, Indiana began issuing annual state-provided license plates. These plates were flat, cold-rolled steel covered with porcelain enamel.  This is the only year that Indiana issued a porcelain plate.  
Thereafter, Indiana plates were made of painted, embossed steel with different color combinations each year.  A favorite of members of the Automobile License Plate Collectors Association (, which is the oldest and largest license plate collectors club in the world, is the vibrant green-on-pink 1915 issue.  

With the outbreak of World War II, Indiana mirrored the efforts of other states by contributing to metal conservation. The state issued only a small attachment in 1943, which revalidated the 1942 plate. This is the only year that Indiana did not issue a new plate until 1984, making The Hoosier State a favorite among collectors.
County coding of license plates began in 1950, with Allen County being designated with letter prefixes from DD to DH.  Beginning in 1963, county coding was changed with the first one or two numerals in the serial number indicating the county of issuance.  Allen County was assigned number 2, and the coding was refined to reflect issuing offices, which are identified by a letter in the serial number.  Fort Wayne motorists received A through H, P and T through Z.  Grabill was identified by the letters J and S, while New Haven issued K through N and R.
Indiana License Plate
Entry Type:
Press Release
Entry Category:
  • Blogs
  • Hoosier History
  • Category:
  • Visiting and Playing
  • Agency Name
    Bicentennial Commission, Indiana

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