How Are License Plate Numbers generated?

Are they just random combinations of numbers and letters? Or do they have some significance?
A fundamentalist Christian tract I read years ago claimed that they are a code, so that Sataniss could recognize eachother (in parking lots?).
Anyway, here in taxachusetts, there seems to be a peculiar fascination with LOW (1-3 digit) license plate numbers. The really low ones are reserved for the Governor (“1”); other recipients include political hacks, friends of politicians, etc. You can get a low number by paying extra, the numbers are awardedin a lottery.
I’m happy with my one…does 381-ACY have any numerological significance? :rolleyes:

Well, it depends on the state. Every state has a different system. Most are serialized in some way, however.

And in most states, two- and three-digit plates are for governments officials. (Governor, state legislators, etc.) I doubt there’ s a whole lot of shady dealings to get “favored” license plates. That’s just lame.

Odd… 381-ACY is the serial number of the 1920s Style Death Ray that was stolen from the Fort Devens arsenal in 1976. Be careful…

Well, they are definitely not “random” – at least not in Kansas – because my wife and I have sequential plate numbers. When it was time for new plates for the two vehicles, they just pulled two plates off the stack and handed them to me, and they were consecutively numbered.

In Georgia, the plates are 3-letter & 3-number and are issued sequentially. Other than having to remove three letter combinations deeded offensive (DIK, FUK, etc), they are split up amonst the counties to issue.

I did witness someone refuse to take a plate with “666” on it. The next guy in line took it without a problem.

As you say, every state has a different system. Here in N.Y., when new vanity plates are issued, it’s first come, first serve., unless you have an ‘in’ with motor vehicles. Two digit and three digit can be had for the asking if you request early enough. I, personally have a three letter plate (my initials) and a two number plate (former badge number).

and, yes, I have an ‘in’.

There is a sequence to each state’s series, otherwise there would be no way to prevent duplication. The next tag that was issued after yours, ending in ACY, ended in ACZ.

In olden days the numbering started with 1 and ended with 999,999 until a state had to issue a million and more. Then, they had to either go to more thn 6 digits, which Mass. apparently has not, or they started using alphanumerics (letters) to take the place of numbers.
Some states put the letters at the fron, some at the rear, and some intersperse them among the numbers. I suspect that some of the interspersed letter system may include an internal code to determine the region of issue.
When I lived in Mass. my auntwas in insurance and only needed to request a low number and got it. X3694. She said I could get one, too (X3416), which I had for several years before I got a turly personalized one (TOPICS). (It was an acronym for a federal program that funded the type of work I did.) But back to the

:smack: Oops, I fat-fingered the wrong key and posted before I proofed and finished the earlier post. As MV registrations rose, the need for more usable digits arose. Some states went to 8 digits by squeezing the font size. The use of 26 letters allows millions of combinations and permutations unable with 10 numerals, obviously. Now special interest, (Save the Turtles, Lighthouses, ad nauseum) can buy one with their own low number and a picture or logo, as well as personalized or vanity wordings and/or symbols. (See separate thread “Vanity Plates”.)

Formerly, states replaced the plates after each year of use, by changing their color, then they switched to multi-year plates, with the ubiquitous year and month of expiration stickers on an annual or, now, multi-year basis.

Many states make their plates in their prison systems using, now, highly sophisticated machines to emboss the digits, which helps prevent counterfeiting and to apply whatever type of pattern and reflectorization they adopt. With multi-year use of plats, some states are lax on enforcing their legibility, with faded or rusty ones abounding. An the stickers printed with red ink fad much faster than other colors, especially if parkig facing south every day, such as at work.

So when the prison sends a batch of plates to the DMV office, they are in consecutive order, with 111-AAB following 111-AAA, etc., in your case. As one batch goes to one regional distro office, that’s why you will see the same prefix on a lot of cars in your region/county.
There are books on the subject, and probably net sources. One book is GR8 PL8S by Sam G. Riley, New Chapter Press, 1991.

Too far back for my free Chicago Tribune account search, there was a scandal about Illinois plates that were of low numbers and been passed down in families being “taken back” somehow by the state gov and redistributed to government officials (for their personal cars, official cars have special plates, but I can’t think of what they are at the moment) and their friends. The article detailed some pretty shady things going on.

Massachusetts (first in the nation in corrupt officials) has its own little scandal with licence seems that the RMV has set aside a block of numbers that DO NOT REGISTER on the State Police computer system! This is (presumably) so that undercover police officers, investigative agents, etc., cannot be tracked on the state police system! I think it was set up so that the people (like judges) cannot be caught when their cars are spotted outside whorehouses, dives, gambling joints, etc. There was an incident a few years ago, when an off-duty state trooper (with a car bearing an untraceable plate) rammed a vehicle that was parked in a highway breakdown lane. The drive of that car was killed, and the state trooper was aquiteed of allwrongdoing.

Great, now I’m going to have the B52’s “Devil In My Car” in my head all day.

666 was withdrawn from new plates in the UK some years back. There are still plenty of them on the roads though. FUK is issued with no problem, though. Incidentally, the other day I was parked next to a riced-up car with a number plate ending in FKU. The owner had Letrasetted, in small type, the letters U and C between the first two letters, and Y and O between the second two. :dubious:

:rolleyes: Is there anything that isn’t based on some Satanic code? Anyway, surely it would be easier just to get one of these.

Chairman Pow, that was all part of the George Ryan SoS scandal - I did a paper on it for one of my classes. I don’t remember a lot, but could always read back up on it if you’re interested. Also, I have a good family friend with those fishy how they were obtained low plates. And I ain’t gonna say where he got 'em. :smiley:

When I had long commutes I made a hobby of looking for every letter and number combination. (No, I never got into an accident.) NJ and California have boring sequential number/letter combinations, with an additional number in front when they runout. I think they’re on 6 now, I don’t know what happens when the run out of that.

New Jersey first did NNNLLL and then LLLNNN (I think.) Louisiana had a letter in the middle of the numbers and letters corresponding to the state police barracks, with A Baton Rouge and B New Orleans.

When I lived in Illinois 30 years ago I got a license plate with my initials and the street address of my apartment without asking for it. I’ve never understood why, but even back then the Secretary of State always made sure to put his name prominently on all mail about licenses.

New York plates ‘1’ thru ‘9’ are all issued to political muckity mucks. The two I’ve seen are ‘1’ on the Governors car, and ‘2’ is on the Lt. Governors car. I guess ‘3’ thru ‘9’ are probably judges and such. The single letters ‘A’ thru ‘Z’ are more interesting. I have no idea when they were issued, but I know that they are all spoken for, and that they are handed down to the next generation in the family that has them. They show up as ‘reserved’ if you request one. I am a personal friend of ‘O’. He got it from his father, and he will give it to his daughter when he steps down from running a media company. He doesn’t remember when the plate was obtained but, it’s always been on the family car. I would assume you won’t see a single letter plate on a ‘79 Mazda.

I once saw a very clever plate whilst driving on Our Nation’s Highways: QQQQ (sadly, I forgot the state, though New York would have been appropriate).

I just thought I’d share that with you all here. Thanks for your time.

This is not unique to Mass. and is not necessarily corruption. My state government has a motor pool in the state capital whence vehicles are assigned to several regions all around the state for daily use by administrative/professional-level/law enforcement personnel. They are called “confidential” plates here and their users’ i.d. data do not show up on the computer database. I don’t know all the reasons, but it is mostly for logistical and accounting reasons.

I’ve seen lists of forbidden personalized license plates on The Smoking Gun, and I’ve tried to track down whether there’s a similar system for ordinary plates. There are all sorts of three-letter combinations that are dirty or otherwise contentious (such as LSD or GUN or GAY). I know some places have special plates for certain individuals (politicians, first responders, veterans, Medal of Honor winners, former prisoners of war, etc.), though that isn’t done everywhere. Most places probably issue them in sequence, and I suspect that there is a list of three-letter combinations that aren’t issued. Of course, some creative ones like FKU will still get through – I just mean the obvious ones.

Are they just random combinations of numbers and letters? Or do they have some significance?

Also see an older thread/post-The most difficult liscense plate to remember. There’s a complete listing of Calif. system and a whole bunch of other stuff.

(slight hijack)
Some time ago I passed a car that read “D20 something something something” and boy did I ever feel geeky for noticing that.
(/slight hijack)