There are few things more personal on your car than your license plate, and in New York state, we have a special tie to our car's most classic identification system.

License Plate History in America

The American license plate actually originated in New York (France was the first country to invent a standard vehicle identification system in 1893). First implemented in 1901, original registration plates looked absolutely nothing like the license plates of today.

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eBay/Jasonfang via Canva
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New York License Plate Design

It was a free-for-all in the early 1900s. In the first few years, owners were allowed to make registration plates themselves, using identifying letters (like their initials) to mark their vehicles. By 1903, however, a more thorough and standardized system was implemented which assigned each registered car a unique identification plate.

eBay/Jasonfang via Canva
eBay/Jasonfang via Canva
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Why So Many License Plates?

While it's always big news when New York plates get a redesign, it happens far less than in previous decades. In fact, between 1903 and 1965, there were over 40 license plate iterations, but between 1965 and 2023, there were only seven. That's because before registration stickers were invented, it was the license plate that let authorities know if the car was on the road legally.

eBay/Jasonfang via Canva
eBay/Jasonfang via Canva
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New York License Plates by Year

The first license plate I remember was on my parents' ancient Subaru Legacy: UHL 649. It was in the nineties, which meant the plate was white with the Statue of Liberty standing proudly in the center. There have since been three new New York designs.

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There have been material changes, too. Plates that were once stamped are now smooth, and some states are even considering digital license plates. Check out the list below to match your birth year with New York's license plate design (hey, it's more interesting than astrology).

New York License Plates by Birth Year

What was the New York State license plate design on the year you were born? Check out 1950-present day below

Wow! 13 Small Upstate New York Towns That Put Their Claim to Fame on Their Welcome Signs!

For road warriors who like nothing better than to drive around the backroads and byways of Upstate New York exploring the region, there is nothing we like better than to come upon a small village or town that puts their claim to fame right up there on their "welcome sign." All of these 13 places do that. They are curious, historical, whimsical, and fascinating to those of us interested in Upstate history.

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