Oval White Abbreviated Signs on Cars

Does anyone know the origin of the oval white abbreviated signs you see on some cars? Some examples I’ve seen are OBX (OuterBanks), RHB (Rehobeth), IRL (Ireland), etc.
I notice a lot of England and Ireland signs on BMWs for some reason.

When I was stationed in Europe some twenty years ago, they were used to ID the country of origin of the vehicle. I believe-but not 100% sure-that they were required on your car when you crossed an international border.

In the US, their used by pretentious Euro-wannabees who for some reason get off on showing that they have some connection to a European country.

They were originally (and currently) used in Europe to designate the car’s country of origin: F for France, D for Germany, GB for Great Britain, IRL for Ireland, etc.

License plates in Europe are all pretty much the same – white letters/numbers on a black background – so the sticker was used to differentiate.

Later, Americans thought they were cool and started using other abbreviations (the first around here was for a local radio station).

That’s certainly not true. Black letters/numbers on white is commonest, although there are variations. In the UK, for instance, they are black on white at the front and black on yellow at the back. Belgium and Denmark have red on white, and the Netherlands has black on yellow.

Most European countries now incorporate the country identifiers into a panel at the left of the plate, which for EU countries is blue, with the EU yellow stars and the country code.

Full list here:


This thread was posted in May: What are the oval stickers on the back of cars?

Not all the posts to it were very informative.

As well as the colour of lettering on number plates varying from one European country to another, the format of the numbers themselves varies quite a bit.

As I understand it in Europe when you register a car you are assigned a number, but it is then your responsibility to provide a number plate which can be obtained at various stores. There are no “official” license plates like we see in the states. Am I wrong about this?

Depends on the country. In Germany, you’re assigned your number (pretty strict regulations here, btw - depending on the size of the county issuing the plate, it may consist of one or two letters followed by up to four digits, with certain letter combinations being banned for obvious reasons, like NS or SS. Basically, if you register your car, they give you a list of numbers available, and you pick one), then you can go to a licensed store that will make the plate for you. Those stores are regulated, and the plates they make are all the same in design throughout the country.

  • Mmm Yes, and no.
    It varies from country to country, as Schnitte says. In most countries, when you pick up your car at the dealer, it will have its plates assigned and affixed. Some countries (like mine) allow vanity plates and those are personal (they are mine, not the car’s).

Back when I was a kid, you could indeed make your own plates. This is no longer an option, since too many found this a good way to get away with varying criminal activities.
When driving in Europe, the uniform way plates are in all countries lead me to think that this is the case everywhere.

I’ve seen a lot more here in the states that use college initials or local place name initials. Don’t assume every one you see relates to a country.

I don’t have a clue about the European stickers, but I do believe that in the states they are used to show local residency, especially regarding touristy island communities. Drivers with sticker-designated cars get “resident” parking and ferry privledges.

(Or so I was led to believe.)

Re: Munch, I’ve seen several with “D’OH”. These are apprently from Springfield, NT.

I made one a few years back with a pawprint icon for a dog-play group we used to belong to. Sadly, I didn’t use good bumpersticker material and they fell off in the first rain.

Forgot to mention that I’ve also seen several band name initials: DMB (Dave Matthews Band) and BNL (Bare Naked Ladies) are the most noticeable. I imagine there’s some GD (Grateful Dead) ones out there, as well.

Anyone know where I could pick up a Czech one? I can’t find them anywhere.

Not quite. Danish plates for private cars use black on white, with a red border. The plate bears two letters followed by five numbers - exactly the same letter/number pattern used in Norway, so that red border on the Danish plate is the only difference you can see between them if the cars aren’t carrying N or DK markings.

Shoot, I thought OBX was for obnoxous.

Italian plates have the tiniest writing you ever saw. I reckon its so you can’t get the number of the guy in the Fiat 500, doing 250mph… :slight_smile:

Also know by some as “souvenirs”.

From that thread:

Déjà vu anyone?