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California Licence plates


Yellowriv
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Hi everyone,

I have a 53 Buick which was built in California and lived there for the first part of its life. Among the documents I received with the car are Registration cards from 1961 on.

The earliest shows TRV 603. I understand this is not the original plate, my guess is its a yellow plate from 1956? Did Californians have to hand in their old plates when the yellow plates came in?

In 1963 the plate changes again to LQK 105 which the car retained until it went to Seattle in 1982. My guess is that these were black plates? Again did Californians have to hand in their yellow plates in 63?

Thanks for you help.

John

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'63 was the last year that California swapped out all the license plates. And the '63 color scheme was yellow letters on black background.

In the 30s they alternated each year: Odd years like '31, '33, '35 had yellow or orange letters and black background. Even years like '32 and '34 had black letters on a yellow background. At some point, I think in the 1940s, yearly changes were dropped as too expensive and they issued bolt on metal tabs for the year. They did still swap out all plates occasionally but I am not sure which years.

Since '63 tags were black with yellow lettering, I'm fairly sure that the tags in use in '62 were yellow with black lettering. The only question would be when they started those...

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Hello John,

Congrats on your acquisition of the 1953 Buick!

When your car was new, in California it would have received a 1951 long-format plate with a 1954 (year of expiry) metal tab. There was also a 1955 tab issued for expiry in that year.

Calif began using semi-permanent plates with annual expiry stickers in 1956. These plates were in the now-USDOT standard size. The plates used 1956-62 were yellow with black letters/numbers and on passenger cars were three letters followed by three numbers, as in your TRV 603. I believe that your TRV 603 plates were a circa 1961-1962 new plate for that vehicle, as the series began with AAA in 1956. By 1962 those plates were nearing the end of the alphabet.

For 1963, another series of plates, this time with a black background and yellow figures, was instituted as a complete reissue. In both cases (1956 and 1963), obsolete plates were NOT required to be turned in, and many found their way to garage walls. These black plates are truly permanent and are still valid today (several of my cars still wear them, but with current expiry stickers). The 1963 plates (issued till approximately August 1970, when they reached the end of the alphabet again) used the same format of three letters followed by three numbers.

Hope this info helps. I'll try to answer any followup questions you may have.

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I had a 63 Riviera which was first sold in late '62 and it was issued yellow plates starting with the letter Y. It appears that the black plates I bought the car with were issued about a year later in 63. I still have the set of black plates from the car and they start with JSF and I cleaned off all the renewal tags except the first ones in each tag well and they are 1964 and 1965.

My 1970 Ford Maverick was first sold on 8-20-69 and it had black plates with ZVG, near the very end of the series. I believe the blue pates that replaced the black ones may have been issued as early as late 1969.

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Re Bleach's comment: The late letter sequence depends on whether the car was reissued--or was initially issued--a California plate during the plate series lifetime. I based my comments on when the alphabet was used up for the black plates on the black Calif plate I acquired from DMV for my 1964 Cad Fleetwood 60S bought in Wash DC in June 1970--that plate was ZJH 943. I was active Army and thus entitled to use my domicile state's driver's license and auto registration; did so thru AAA but it wasn't easy... :-)

Just perhaps.... cars sold new in Calif in late '69 and early '70 were issued the dull-looking yellow-on-blue plates while I got the now-preferred yellow-on-black ones. I preferred the black plates even then....

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Our '67 Chevy Impala sold new in '67 had plates with UTJ and 68 VW sold new in 68 had VHS. It's very hard to figure out exactly which letter series were issued at a particular time. I'm sure as you say Grimy, Maybe it all depends if they were issued new or reissued or even picked up directly from the DMV.

I've noticed that here in WA, that plates picked up at the licensing office and those mailed to you can have a few month difference for the same letter series.

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Thanks Guys.

So if I understand correctly, the plates up to 56 had to be returned/retired annually and the yellow 56 - 62 plates had to be retired and black plates substituted as registration came due in 1963?

I am aware that the black plates are permanent, as my 65 Riv came with them, with that car I even got the original temporary red on white paper number plate that presumably was issued prior to receipt of the permanent black plates.

Anyone seen one of these? I can scan it if there's any interest.

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Thanks Guys.

So if I understand correctly, the plates up to 56 had to be returned/retired annually and the yellow 56 - 62 plates had to be retired and black plates substituted as registration came due in 1963?

I am aware that the black plates are permanent, as my 65 Riv came with them, with that car I even got the original temporary red on white paper number plate that presumably was issued prior to receipt of the permanent black plates.

Anyone seen one of these? I can scan it if there's any interest.

I don't think the old plates needed to be returned when new ones were issued. If that had been true there would be a lot fewer old plates out there for collectors.

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California has never required old plates be turned in. I remember, very clearly, when the yellow and black plates were replaced and the DMV did not ask for the old plates. You have to ask yourself, "Why?". What would they do with all of those millions of old plates? Recycling was for pop bottles, only, back then. What would be the problem with people keeping the old plates? None. People have been tacking them up in their garages and barn forever.

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