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1968 Baseplate

General-Issue Passenger Car Plates Used April 1968 Through March 1974

 

1968 general-issue passenger car plate no. 686-746
1969 general-issue passenger car plate no. 714-862
1970 general-issue passenger car plate no. 816-809
1968 (exp. 3-31-1969)
1969 (exp. 3-31-1970)
1970 (exp. 3-31-1971)
     
1971 general-issue passenger car plate no. 871-994
1972 general-issue passenger car plate no. 904-674
1973 general-issue passenger car plate no. 970-126
1971 (exp. 3-31-1972)
1972 (exp. 3-31- 1973)
1973 (exp. 3-31-1974)

 

Just the Facts...

Construction

6" x 12", aluminum or steel covered with reflective white sheeting. Issued in pairs.

Design

Plain, all-embossed black on white. No graphics.

Period of issuance

Six years: April 1, 1968, through March 31, 1974.

Period of use

Only during the period specified above.

Other facts
An April 1 through March 31 registration year was used during the life of this base.

Plates of this base were assigned sequentially from number 500-000 (or possibly 500-001) through 999-999, at which time (probably during February and March of 1974) a small number of plates in the 400-000 series were issued until the 1974 base was introduced. For their first registration year, these plain, undated plates were used with no visible indication of the registration year or validation. Reflective stickers were issued to validate 1968 baseplates, and with respect to plates distributed in conjunction with the issuance of a new registration (as opposed to a renewal transaction), the final three digits in the sticker serial number should match the final three digits on the plate. This concept is described in general at the Validation Stickers page, and specifically relative to the 1968 baseplate below.

Although most plates of this base are aluminum, those with the highest numbers are steel. The highest documented aluminum plate is number 957-853, and the lowest observed steel plate is 970-126. Both are natural 1974 issues. Whether 400-000 series plates are steel or aluminum is unknown.

Production and Distribution of 1968 Baseplates

It was in mid-February 1968, when the new baseplate was unveiled, that Washingtonians were introduced to the concept of aluminum license plates intended to be used for more than one or two years. DMV director William Heath announced on Feb. 15 that the new plates cost his agency $1.11 per pair and that they were expected to be used for "four or five years," revalidated annually with validation stickers that cost "only 10 or 15 cents." The increased cost over traditional steel plates, which were then only $.53 per set, was offset by the savings realized by not having to purchase and distribute new plates every year or two.

New plates assigned to motorists that by early February had already applied for their 1968 registrations were mailed beginning on Fri., Feb. 16. Beginning March 1, those who had not applied by mail could renew their registrations and get their new plates by appearing at the DMV's downtown office at 469 C St. NW, or at either of two temporary offices set up just to address the renewal work. One was at the vehicle inspection station at 1827 West Virginia Ave. NE, and the other was operated from a trailer parked at 30th St. and Alabama Ave. SE. The temporary offices only issued passenger car plates and accepted only checks or money orders in payment but they were open until 7:30 p.m. on weeknights and from 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Saturdays whereas the permanent DMV office was not. They therefore presumably did a brisk business, especially as the Sun., March 31 renewal deadline approached. By the end of March, 182,606 pairs of 1968 plates had been sold compared to 175,904 renewal transactions processed the year before.

Later in 1968 DMV officials apparently proposed to the city council that new plates continue to be issued annually instead of renewing the 1968 baseplates for multiple years as had been the original plan. A Feb. 1969 Washington Post article about the issuance of dated "EXP. 3-31-70" stickers for the 1969 registration year indicates, however, that the DMV had been rebuffed when it tried to convince councilors that continuing to change the color of license plates every year made sense because it would, among other benefits, make them "more readily identifiable to law enforcement officers." They unsuccessfully suggested that switching back to steel plates and issuing them singly, not in pairs, would be a cost-effective solution for the future. Although dated annual plates made of steel were in fact reintroduced in 1969 for several non-passenger plate types, general-issue auto plates were revalidated with stickers for the 1969 registration year as well as four additional years thereafter. Black-on-yellow 1969 stickers went on sale at the Municipal Center at 300 Indiana Ave. NW on Feb. 24, and a week later at the same locations at which plates were sold a year earlier plus an additional temporary office at 16th and Kennedy Streets NW.

 

Click on image for detail and caption. Courtesy DC Public Library, Star Collection, copyright Washington Post

 

1968-73 Registration Numbers

As discussed below and with minor exceptions as indicated, certain blocks of registration numbers were used only for new general-issue passenger registrations during the six registration years during which this base was issued. It appears that about 60,000 new registrations were issued annually during this period. The lowest numbers on the 1968 base, 500-000 (or 500-001) through about 655-000, are thought to have been available exclusively to replace valid 1966 baseplates during March 1968. Higher-numbered 1968 general-issue auto plates were issued during registration years specified in this table:

Reg.
Year
Twelve-Month
Period of Use
Sticker
Marked
General-Issue
Registration Numbers
Quantity of Available
New Numbers
1968
4/1/68-3/31/69
(n/a)
c.655-000 to 710-999
56,000
1969
4/1/69-3/31/70
"70"
711-000 to 769-999
59,000
1970
4/1/70-3/31/71
"71"
770-000 to 819-299
49,300
1971
4/1/71-3/31/72
"72"
819-300 to 877-999
58,700
1972
4/1/72-3/31/73
"73"
878-000 to c.939-999
62,000
1973
4/1/73-3/31/74
"74"
945-000 to 999-999, then
55,000
     
c.940-000 to 944-999, then
5,000
     
low 400-000 series nos.
 


The Unusual Sticker Placement Pattern of the 1968 Base

Stickers applied to 1968 baseplates for the 1969 through 1973 registration years are as follows:

Reg.
Year
Twelve-Month
Period of Use
Sticker
Marked

Colors

Proper Location

1969
4/1/69-3/31/70
EXP. 3-31-70
black on yellow
upper right corner
1970
4/1/70-3/31/71
EXP. 3-31-71
white on red
center, below dash
1971
4/1/71-3/31/72
EXP. 3-31-72
white on blue
center, above or
below dash*
1972
4/1/72-3/31/73
EXP. 3-31-73
white on black
upper left corner
1973
4/1/73-3/31/74
EXP. 3-31-74
white on green
lower left corner
         
* As discussed below, the 1971 ("72") sticker should be placed above the dash on plates renewed during the previous registration year, and below the dash on natural 1971 plates.

 

1968 baseplate no. 612-288, which was revalidated throughout the entire six-year period during which this base was in use.The unusual pattern in which validation stickers were properly placed on this base warrants separate consideration. Sticker location sites are illustrated here with plate no. 612-288, and listed in the table above. One of the more interesting topics relative to the 1968 baseplate, and D.C. multi-year baseplates in general, is the proper location of 1970 (red, dated 71) and 1971 (blue, dated 72) stickers. They belong in the middle of the plate, not in any of the corners. The default location for stickers of both years is below the dash, although on plates with both stickers the red sticker goes below and the blue one above, which is to say that the later sticker should not cover the earlier one.

1968 (exp. 3-31-69) Passenger plate no. 816-809 validated for 1970 (exp. 3-31-71)The first of the two, the red 1970 (71) sticker, should properly appear below the dash, and our experience has been that this is practically always the case. If the plate is a natural (such as no. 816-809), one issued for a new registration during the April 1970-March 1971 registration year, there should be no 1969 (yellow, dated 70) sticker in the upper right corner, and the final three digits in the serial number of the red sticker should match the final three digits on the plate. (More about this last point here.) If the plate is not a natural, but rather an older (1968 or 1969) registration that was renewed for the 1970 registration year, the red sticker should still be below the dash but the last three digits of the sticker serial and plate number will not match.

1968 (exp. 3-31-69) Passenger plate no. 871-994 validated for 1971 (exp. 3-31-72)The blue 1971 (72) sticker may be found above or below the dash depending on whether the plate is a renewal (no. 612-288 shown above is an example) or natural (such as no. 871-994). Many collectors have incorrectly assumed that all blue stickers should be placed above the dash because that's where it is seen on renewed plates (which includes most plates owned by collectors today). To corroborate this, shown below are sticker placement instructions provided to motorists to whom stickers were provided (by mail or at a DMV office) as they renewed their registrations in early 1971. In these cases it is clear that above the dash is the proper site for the blue sticker on plates being renewed, which is to say those upon which the sticker was not affixed by the DMV.

On natural plates, however, those first issued during the 1971-72 registration year, in most cases the sticker was placed (presumably by the DMV before issuance) below the dash. The final three digits of the sticker serial should match the final three numbers on the plate. This sticker location is also used on sample plates, corroborating our assertion that it is the correct display site for natural plates even though the blue sticker will be correctly placed above the dash if there is already a red sticker below it.


Sticker placement instruction slips

Information about the proper location of plate validation stickers issued in conjunction with registration renewals was provided to motorists with little slips of paper included in envelopes in which the stickers themselves were mailed. From left Sticker placement instruction slips for 1969 (marked "EXP. 3-31-70"), 1971 ("EXP. 3-31-72") and 1973 ("EXP. 3-31-74) stickers.




Correlation of 1968-73 General-Issue Registration Numbers to Sticker Serial Numbers

With respect to plates distributed in conjunction with the issuance of a new registration (as opposed to a renewal transaction), the final three digits in the sticker serial number should match the final three digits on the plate. In order to understand the discussion that follows, an understanding of the concept of a "natural" registration (and license plate) is required. Those unfamiliar with this term should consult the glossary as well as our page about validation stickers, upon the latter of which the subject is addressed in detail.

For the 1969 through 1973 registration years, the years for which validation stickers were used on 1968 baseplates, it appears that sticker serial numbers began at 100000 each year and that stickers with the lowest serials were, at least initially, applied to the lowest-numbered passenger plates issued for new registrations. However, not for any of these years was a single batch of sequentially-numbered stickers used to validate all 60,000 or so general-issue passenger plates used for new registrations.

1968 plate no. 940-023 with 1973 and 1974 stickers.

Some natural 1972 plates (first validated with a 3-31-73 sticker with a proper matching serial number) are known that have a 3-31-74 sticker that also has a matching serial number. This was caused by the preparation of too many natural 1972 plates. Because the supply outlasted the 1972 registration year, these leftover plates were stickered again (at Lorton or the DMV) for the 1973 registration year, and matching stickers were again properly used. Therefore, as discussed in detail below, these are properly considered natural 1973 plates even though they have two stickers!

1968 Registration Year (April 1968-March 1969) It is difficult to identify which registration numbers were assigned for new registrations (i.e. on natural 1968 plates) during the first year of issuance of this base because stickers were not issued to validate them. We assume that the highest-numbered plates before the lowest natural 1969 number, which we believe to be 711-000, were issued for new registrations during the 1968 registration year. Because about 60,000 plates are known to have been set aside for new registrations in 1969 through 1973, we believe that any plate numbered 655-000 through 710-999 to which a "70" validation sticker was never affixed could reasonably be considered a natural 1968 plate.

1969 Registration Year (April 1969-March 1970) Natural license plates for this registration year are identifiable by the presence of a 1969 (marked "70") validation sticker with a serial number that corresponds to the registration number. Three plate-number-to-sticker-serial intervals have been identified for this year. Here are some examples:

License
Plate
Number
1969 ("70")
Sticker
Serial No.
Interval
714-862
103862
611,000
726-216
119216
607,000
733-972
296972
437,000
739-238
302238
437,000
745-063
308063
437,000

The lowest and highest plate numbers in the table above are the lowest and highest natural registration numbers observed for 1969. We believe that dated "70" stickers were applied to plates beginning at serial number 100000, which leads us to conclude that the first natural 1969 plate was number 711-000. Further information about 1969 stickers is provided here.

1970 Registration Year (April 1970-March 1971) Natural license plates for this registration year are identifiable by the presence of a 1970 (marked "71") validation sticker with a serial number that corresponds to the registration number. Three plate-number-to-sticker-serial intervals have been identified for this year. Here are some examples:

License
Plate
Number
1970 ("71")
Sticker
Serial No.
Interval
779-105
109105
670,000
781-202
111202
670,000
787-764
120764
667,000
816-809
324309
492,500

The lowest and highest plate numbers in the table above are the lowest and highest natural registration numbers observed for 1970. We believe that dated "71" stickers were applied to plates beginning at serial number 100000, which leads us to conclude that the first natural 1970 plate was number 770-000. Further information about 1970 stickers is provided here.

1971 Registration Year (April 1971-March 1972) Natural license plates for this registration year are identifiable by the presence of a 1971 (marked "72") validation sticker with a serial number that corresponds to the registration number. Three plate-number-to-sticker-serial intervals have been identified for this year. Here are some examples:

License
Plate
Number
1971 ("72")
Sticker
Serial No.
Interval
819-546
100246
719,300
830-571
111271
719,300
847-626
300526
547,100
865-577
320577
545,000
871-994
326994
545,000

The lowest and highest plate numbers in the table above are the lowest and highest natural registration numbers observed for 1971. We believe that dated "72" stickers were applied to plates beginning at serial number 100000, which leads us to conclude that the first natural 1971 plate was number 819-300. Further information about 1971 stickers is provided here.

1972 Registration Year (April 1972-March 1973) Natural license plates for this registration year are identifiable by the presence of a 1972 (marked "73") validation sticker with a serial number that corresponds to the registration number. Two plate-number-to-sticker-serial intervals have been identified for this year. Here are some examples:

License
Plate
Number
1972 ("73")
Sticker
Serial No.
Interval
882-759
104759
778,000
895-369
117369
778,000
904-674
126674
778,000
925-202
321202
604,000
940-537
336537
604,000

The lowest and highest plate numbers in the table above are the lowest and highest natural registration numbers observed for 1972. We believe that dated "73" stickers were applied to plates beginning at serial number 100000, which leads us to conclude that the first natural 1972 plate was number 878-000. Further information about 1972 stickers is provided here.

Although in conjunction with the manufacturing process a "73" sticker was applied to the plate with the highest number listed in the table above, this plate and others numbered above 940-000 (and perhaps a few slightly below) were not needed during the 1972 registration year. Therefore, when number 999-999 was reached during the 1973 registration year these leftover 1972 plates were updated with a "74" sticker, also with a matching serial number (as indicated in the 1973 section immediately below), and were issued for new 1973 registrations.

1973 Registration Year (April 1973-March 1974) Natural license plates for this registration year are identifiable by the presence of a 1973 (marked "74") validation sticker with a serial number that corresponds to the registration number.

First Batch of Natural 1973 Numbers One plate-number-to-sticker-serial interval has been identified for the original allotment of numbers for this year, 945-000 through 999-999. Here are some examples:

License
Plate
Number
1973 ("74")
Sticker
Serial No.
Interval
951-640
106640
845,000
965-111
120111
845,000
990-633
145633
845,000

The lowest and highest plate numbers in the table above are the lowest and highest natural registration numbers from the first batch of 1973 plates, although we believe that numbers were assigned through 999-999. We believe that dated "74" stickers were applied to plates beginning at serial number 100000, which leads us to conclude that the first natural 1973 plate was number 945-000.

Second Batch of Natural 1973 Numbers Upon the issuance of registration number 999-999 sometime during the 1973 registration year (presumably late in the year, i.e. in early calendar year 1974), leftover 1972 registration year numbers were issued. We have numbers 940-023 (pictured above) and 940-537 in our collection, and both have stickers of both 1972 ("73") and 1973 ("74") with matching serial numbers. It's possible that numbers below 940-000 were also leftover from 1972 and reissued in 1973. Both of our 940,000 series plates have "74" stickers with a serial number that is 770,000 lower than the plate number.

Third Batch of Natural 1973 Numbers When the supply of leftover 1972 plates was depleted and additional registration numbers were needed to get through the 1973 registration year and until the new 1974 baseplates could be used, a relatively small quantity of plates in the 400-000 series, presumably beginning at the number, were made and issued. The 400-000 series was used for these overflow registration numbers because it was the only 100,000 block of six-digit numbers not already used on the 1966 or 1968 bases.

Further information about 1973 stickers is provided here.



Click on image for enlarged view.  
Click on image for enlarged view.
Due to a registration fee increase approved by Congress during 1969 this DMV mailer was provided to motorists in advance of the early 1970 renewal season. Click on the image for an enlarged view.
 
D.C. motorists received a warning with their annual registration renewal notice to submit their application early. This example is from early 1972, and is 3-1/4" x 7-3/8". Click on the image for an enlarged view.







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