Vehicle registration plates of Washington, D.C.

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The U.S. federal district of Washington, D.C. first required its residents to register their motor vehicles in 1903. Registrants had to provide their own license plates for display until 1907, when the district began to supply plates. [5]

Passenger baseplates

1907 to 1966

In 1956, the U.S. states and Canadian provinces came to an agreement with the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators, the Automobile Manufacturers Association and the National Safety Council that standardized the size for license plates for vehicles (except those for motorcycles) at 6 inches (15 cm) in height by 12 inches (30 cm) in width, with standardized mounting holes. The first Washington, D.C. license plate that complied with these standards was issued three years beforehand, in 1953 (dated March 31, 1954).

Image Dates issued Design Slogan Serial format Serials issued Notes
1907–17 White numbers on black porcelain plate; "DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA" at top none 12345 1 to approximately 65000, with gaps Some serial blocks believed to be reserved for motorcycles. [6]
1918 Embossed black numbers on yellow plate; "DC 18" at right none 12-345 1 to approximately 38-000
1919 Embossed white numbers on green plate with border line; "D.C. 1919" at right none 12-345 1 to approximately 46-000
1920 Embossed black numbers on white plate with border line; "D.C. 1920" at right none 12-345 1 to approximately 55-000
1921 Embossed blue numbers on white plate with border line; "D.C. 1921" at right none 12-345 1 to approximately 67-500
1922 Embossed white numbers on red plate with border line; "D.C. 1922" at right none 12-345 1 to approximately 80-000
1923 Embossed white numbers on brown plate with border line; "D.C. 1923" at right none 123-456 1 to approximately 112-000
1924 Embossed white numbers on black plate with border line; "DIST. COL. 1924" centered at top none 12-345 1 to approximately 91-000
1925 Embossed white numbers on dark gray plate with border line; "DIST. COL. 1925" centered at top none 123-456 1 to approximately 114-000
1926 Embossed black numbers on orange plate with border line; "DIST. COL. 1926" centered at top none 123-456 1 to approximately 112-000
1927 Embossed golden yellow numbers on black plate with border line; "DIST. COL. 1927" centered at top none A-1234 E-1 to approximately V-1000 Letters A, B, C, D, H and R used on non-passenger vehicles. This practice continued until 1935. [7]
1928 Embossed black numbers on golden yellow plate; "DIST. OF COLUMBIA - 1928" at bottom none A-1234 E-1 to approximately W-9000
1929 Embossed golden yellow numbers on black plate; "DIST. OF COLUMBIA - 1929" at bottom none A-1234 E-1 to approximately Z-8000
1930 As 1928 base, but with "DIST. OF COLUMBIA - 1930" at bottom none A-1234 E-1 to approximately Y-3000
1931 As 1929 base, but with "DIST. OF COLUMBIA - 1931" at bottom none A-1234 E-1 to approximately Z-3000
1932 As 1928 base, but with "DIST. OF COLUMBIA - 1932" at bottom none A-1234 E-1 to approximately W-1000
1933 As 1929 base, but with "DIST. OF COLUMBIA - 1933" at bottom none A-1234 E-1 to approximately X-4000
1934 As 1928 base, but with "DIST. OF COLUMBIA - 1934" at bottom none A-1234 E-1 to approximately X-3000
1935 Embossed green numbers on white plate with border line; "DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA - 1935" at bottom none 123-456 57-001 to approximately 191-000
1936 Embossed black numbers on golden yellow plate with border line; "DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA" and "1936" centered at top and bottom respectively none 123-456 54-001 to approximately 202-000
1937 Embossed golden yellow numbers on black plate with border line; "DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA" and "1937" centered at top and bottom respectively none 123-456 46-001 to approximately 193-000
1938 Embossed black numbers on golden yellow plate with border line; "1938" and "DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA" centered at top and bottom respectively none 123-456 46-001 to approximately 182-000
January 1, 1939 – February 29, 1940 Embossed golden yellow numbers on black plate with border line; "DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA" and "EX-2-29-40" centered at top and bottom respectively none 123-456 46-001 to approximately 174-000
March 1, 1940 – March 31, 1941 Embossed black numbers on golden yellow plate with border line; "DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA" and "EX-3-31-41" centered at top and bottom respectively none 123-456 52-000 to approximately 182-000
April 1, 1941 – March 31, 1942 Embossed golden yellow numbers on black plate with border line; "EX-3-31-42" and "DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA" centered at top and bottom respectively none 123-456 46-001 to approximately 183-000
April 1, 1942 – March 31, 1945 As 1940–41 base, but with "EX-3-31-43" at bottom none 123-456 52-001 to approximately 216-000 Revalidated until March 31, 1944 with black tabs, then until March 31, 1945 with white tabs, due to metal conservation for World War II.
April 1, 1945 – March 31, 1946 As 1941–42 base, but with "EX-3-31-46" at top none 123-456 45-001 to approximately 136-000 Only rear plates issued due to ongoing metal shortage.
April 1, 1946 – March 31, 1948 As 1940–41 base, but with "EX-3-31-47" at bottom none 123-456 50-001 to approximately 181-000 Revalidated until March 31, 1948 with white tabs.
April 1, 1948 – March 31, 1949 Embossed golden yellow numbers on black plate; "19 D.C. 48" at top none 1234 1 to 9999 Letters B, C, D, H, L, M, R and T used on non-passenger vehicles. This practice continued until 1955. [7]
1-2345 1-1000 to 9-9999
A-1234 A-1 to approximately N-1000
April 1, 1949 – March 31, 1950 Embossed black numbers on golden yellow plate; "19 D.C. 49" at bottom none 1234 1 to 9999
1-2345 1-1000 to 9-9999
A-1234 A-1 to approximately P-7000
April 1, 1950 – March 31, 1951 Embossed golden yellow numbers on black plate with border line; "19 D.C. 50" at bottom none 1234 1 to 9999
1-2345 1-1000 to 9-9999
A-1234 A-1 to approximately S-5000
April 1, 1951 – March 31, 1952 Embossed black numbers on golden yellow plate with border line; "19 D.C. 51" at top none 1234 1 to 9999
1-2345 1-1000 to 9-9999
A-1234 A-1 to approximately S-2000
April 1, 1952 – March 31, 1953 Embossed golden yellow numbers on black plate with border line; "19 D.C. 52" at bottom none 1234 1 to 9999
1-2345 1-1000 to 9-9999
A-1234 A-1 to approximately P-1000
April 1, 1953 – March 31, 1955 Embossed dark green numbers on white plate with border line; "DIST. OF COLUMBIA" centered at top; "3-31" in top left corner and "54" in top right corner "THE NATION'S CAPITAL" centered at bottom 1234 1 to 9999 Revalidated until March 31, 1955 with dark green tabs.
1-2345 1-1000 to 9-9999
A-1234 A-1 to Z-9999
AB-123 AA-1 to approximately AB-999
April 1, 1955 – March 31, 1956 Embossed white numbers on dark green plate with border line; "DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA" centered at bottom; "3-31" in top left corner and "56" in top right corner "NATION'S CAPITAL" centered at top AB♦12♦34 AA♦10♦00 to AY♦99♦99; EA♦10♦00 to approximately EA♦99♦99 Serials with B, C, D, H and L as the first letter used on non-passenger vehicles. This practice continued until 1964. [7]
April 1, 1956 – March 31, 1957 Embossed black numbers on golden yellow plate with border line; "DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA" centered at bottom; "3-31" in top left corner and "57" in top right corner "NATION'S CAPITAL" centered at top AB♦12♦34 AA♦10♦00 to AY♦99♦99; EA♦10♦00 to approximately EA♦99♦99
April 1, 1957 – March 31, 1958 Embossed golden yellow numbers on royal blue plate with border line; "DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA" centered at bottom; "3-31" in top left corner and "58" in top right corner "NATION'S CAPITAL" centered at top AB♦123 AA♦100 to approximately SZ♦999
April 1, 1958 – March 31, 1959 Embossed royal blue numbers on golden yellow plate with border line; "DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA" centered at bottom; "3-31" in top left corner and "59" in top right corner "NATION'S CAPITAL" centered at top AB♦123 AA♦100 to approximately WB♦999
April 1, 1959 – March 31, 1960 As 1957–58 base, but with "60" in top right corner "NATION'S CAPITAL" as on 1957–58 base AB♦123 AA♦100 to approximately WK♦999
April 1, 1960 – March 31, 1961 As 1958–59 base, but with "61" in top right corner "NATION'S CAPITAL" as on 1958–59 base AB♦123 AA♦100 to approximately WP♦999
April 1, 1961 – March 31, 1962 As 1957–58 base, but with "62" in top right corner "NATION'S CAPITAL" as on 1957–58 base AB♦123 AA♦100 to approximately WV♦999
April 1, 1962 – March 31, 1963 Embossed dark green numbers on reflective white plate with border line; "DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA" centered at bottom; "3-31" in top left corner and "63" in top right corner "NATION'S CAPITAL" centered at top AB♦123 AA♦100 to approximately WV♦999
April 1, 1963 – March 31, 1964 Embossed black numbers on reflective yellow plate with border line; "DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA" centered at bottom; "3-31" in top left corner and "64" in top right corner "NATION'S CAPITAL" centered at top AB♦123 AA♦100 to approximately XJ♦999
April 1, 1964 – March 31, 1965 Embossed red numbers on reflective white plate with border line; "DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA" centered at bottom; "3-31" in top left corner and "65" in top right corner "NATION'S CAPITAL" centered at top 1A234 1A101 to 9Z999
1A23 1A01 to approximately 2T99
April 1, 1965 – March 31, 1966 Embossed black numbers on reflective golden yellow plate with border line; "WASHINGTON, D.C." centered at bottom; "3-31" in top left corner and "66" in top right corner "NATION'S CAPITAL" centered at top 1AB23 1AA01 to approximately 2MH99

1966 to present

Since November 2000, the standard Washington, D.C. license plate design has featured the slogan " Taxation Without Representation," referring to the unique circumstance that the district's residents face, in which they must pay federal income tax but cannot elect a voting member of the United States Congress.

Image Dates issued Design Slogan Serial format Serials issued Notes
April 1, 1966 – March 31, 1967 Embossed black numbers on reflective white plate with border line; "WASHINGTON, D.C." embossed in black block letters centered at top; "3-31" embossed in bottom left corner and "67" in bottom right corner "NATION'S CAPITAL" embossed in black block letters centered at bottom 123-456 100-001 to 300-000 Validated from April 1, 1967 through March 31, 1968 with stickers.
April 1, 1967 – March 31, 1968 As above, but without embossed "67" 300-001 to approximately 368-000
April 1, 1968 – March 31, 1974 As 1966–68 plates, but with "WASHINGTON, D.C." at bottom rather than top, and no embossed date or year "NATION'S CAPITAL" as on 1966–68 plates, but at top 123-456 500-001 to 999-999
April 1, 1974 – March 31, 1978 Embossed blue numbers on reflective white plate; embossed blue U.S. Capitol dome graphic used as separator; screened red stripes above and below numbers; "WASHINGTON, D.C." embossed in blue block letters centered at bottom; "3-31" embossed in bottom left corner and sticker box debossed in bottom right corner "BICENTENNIAL" embossed in blue block letters centered at top, with "1776" to the left and "1976" to the right 123-456 100-001 to 500-000 Staggered registration introduced August 1, 1983. All plates replaced between 1984 and 1986.
April 1, 1978 – March 31, 1979 As above, but with "3-31" on sticker in bottom left corner (applied during production) "NATION'S CAPITAL" embossed in blue block letters centered at top 500-001 to 562-000
April 1, 1979 – September 1984 As above, but without "3-31" sticker 562-001 to 925-000
October 1984 – August 1991 Embossed blue numbers on reflective white plate; screened district flag used as separator; screened red stripes above and below numbers; "Washington, D.C." screened in blue cursive letters centered at bottom; debossed sticker boxes in bottom corners "A Capital City" screened in blue cursive letters centered at top 123-456 925-001 to 999-999; 010-001 to 501-750 Validated until April 2016.
August 1991 – April 1997 "Celebrate & Discover" screened in blue cursive letters centered at top 501-751 to approximately 853-000 Slogan changed in honor of the district's bicentennial.
April 1997 – November 2000 As above, but with "Washington, D.C." and sticker boxes at top rather than bottom "Celebrate & Discover" as above, but at bottom AB-1234 AA-0000 to AY-9999
November 2000 – October 2001 " TAXATION WITHOUT REPRESENTATION " screened in blue block letters at bottom AZ-0000 to BA-9999; BC-0000 to approximately BG-1999
January 2001 – January 2002 "WWW.Washingtondc.gov" screened in blue cursive letters centered at bottom BB-0000 to approximately BB-1999 Alternative issue.
October 2001 – October 2002 As above, but with numbers screened rather than embossed, and without debossed sticker boxes "TAXATION WITHOUT REPRESENTATION" as above BG-2000 to BH-9999; BK-0000 to approximately BP-1399
January 2002 – present "www.washingtondc.gov" screened in blue cursive letters centered at bottom BJ-0000 to BJ-9999; EA-0000 to present Alternative issue. EA series began in mid-2010.
October 2002 – July 2013 As above, but with "WASHINGTON, DC" in blue block letters at top "TAXATION WITHOUT REPRESENTATION" as above BP-1400 to DZ-9999; EB-0000 to EJ-9999
July 2013 – April 2017 As above, but with "DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA" in blue block letters at top EK-0000 to FN-3999 (as of September 27, 2017)
April 2017 – present As above, but with "WASHINGTON, DC" in blue block letters at top "END TAXATION WITHOUT REPRESENTATION" as above FN-4000 to present

Non-passenger types

Image Type Dates issued Design Serial format Notes
Annual Special Permit Annual plates; unique design each year. 1234- 65 TC -1234 TT -123 2009: black on blue 2010: white on green 2011: black on magenta 2012: white on black 2013: black on white 2014: black on orange 2015: black on yellow
Apportioned AP -1234
Bus B -12345
Commercial vehicle C 12345
Dealer Annual plates; unique design each year. DLR -1234 2005: white on red 2006: white on blue 2007: black on yellow 2008: black on pink 2009: black on teal 2010: white on light blue 2011: black on yellow 2012: white on dark green
DLR 12345 2013: black on blue 2014: black on maroon
D.C. Government Fleet GT -1234 - D C 1234 - D C 12345

7-digit plates began in August 2013.

District of Columbia Water and Sewer Authority W AS A 1234 D C W 1234 D.C. Water plates replaced WASA plates in October 2011.
Livery L -1234
Manufacturer Annual plates; unique design each year. MFR -1234
Motorcycle 1234 M MC 123 M T 1234 M R 1234 M C 1234 M T series began in 2002. M R series began in 2010 but was not issued to completion. M C series began in 2012.
Rental vehicle R -12345 Rental plates have generally been phased out in favor of regular passenger or commercial plates
Taxi H -12345 12345- H H suffix series began in 2011.
Temporary registration Orange-red on white cardboard. 12345 D A K 12345 N 12345 K series began in 2007. N series began in 2011.
Temporary registration — motorcycle Black on white cardboard. MM 1234
Trailer White with blue letter/number T 12345 Generally used for truck trailers
WMATA Transit police White with black lettering 12345 The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority issues these to itself replacing standard passenger plates on WMATA-owned transit police cars

Optional types

Image Type Dates issued Design Serial format Notes
Passenger—low number Annual plates; unique design each year 2001 to present. 1 12 123 1234 Serials issued: 1 to 1250
Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority A K A 1234
Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity A P A 1234
Anacostia River environmental protection E N V 1234
Bad Boys Club B B C 1234
Blue Knights unknown
The Children First Foundation October 23, 2013–present C F F 1234
D.C. Firefighters Local 36 F F A 1234
Delta Sigma Theta Sorority D S T 1234
Disabled American Veteran DAV 123 DAV 123 DAV -1234
Disabled American Veteran—Disabled DAV 123 DV ♿-1234 DV ♿-123
Florida A&M University F A M 1234
Fraternal Order of Police District of Columbia Lodge F O P 123 F O P 1234
George Washington University unknown
Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity K A P 1234
Morehouse College Alumni M C A 1234
National Association of Black Scuba Divers U A S 1234
North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University Alumni A T U 1234
Omega Psi Phi Fraternity Q U E 1234
Porsche Club of America P C A 1234
Prince Hall Family (Order of the Eastern Star) O E S 1234
Prince Hall Masonic Family P H A 1234
Purple Heart Veteran P H -1234
Spirit of Faith Christian Center S O F 1234
University of Michigan U M I 1234
St. John's College S J C 1234
Veterans of Foreign Wars V F W 1234
Washington Nationals June 2013–present N A T 123
White Stars unknown

Political types

Image Type Dates issued Design Serial format Notes
Richard Nixon First Inaugural
Jimmy Carter First Inaugural
Ronald Reagan First Inaugural
City Council

Notes

  1. The is used as a serial divider.
  2. The flag of Washington, D.C., is appended at the front of the license plate.
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