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1974 Bicentennial Baseplate

Issued April 1974 Through March 1978; Used Until c.Sept. 1986

 

1974 general-issue passenger car plate no. 310-523
1975 general-issue passenger car plate no. 344-561
1974 (exp. 3-31-1975)
1975 (exp. 3-31-1976)
   
1976 general-issue passenger car plate no. 402-529
1977 general-issue passenger car plate no. 463-028
1976 (exp. 3-31-1977)
1977 (exp. 3-31-1978)

 

Just the Facts...

Construction

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

Design

Two red graphic horizontal stripes and an embossed image of the U.S. Capitol dome.

Period of issuance

Four years: April 1, 1974, through March 31, 1978.

Period of use

Twelve years and six months: April 1, 1974, through September 30, 1986.

Non-passenger plates
Examples of a number of types issued on the 1974 baseplate are pictured below.
Other facts
A registration year of April 1 through March 31 was used during the period that this base was issued. Plates that continued to be revalidated after the 1978 base was introduced were switched to the staggered system in early 1984.

Plates of this base were assigned sequentially from number 100-001 through 499-999. After the first registration year, during which no validation sticker was used, reflective stickers were issued for subsequent years. 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 1974 baseplate below.

There are two varieties of this base, both of which have "3-31" embossed in the lower left corner, indicating the annual March 31 expiration date, and a debossed sticker box in the lower right corner. The first style has "75" debossed in the sticker box. Plates of this style, the first to be issued, are numbered 100-000 through at least 336-171. The second style does not have the "75" year designation, and these are numbered from at least 340-359 through 499-999. The cutoff point between the dated and undated styles is believed to be plates numbered 340-000 and 340-001.

 

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

 

The Bicentennial Design

With its simple red horizontal stripes, the 1974 D.C. base is believed to be the second U.S. general-issue auto plate made with graphic reflective sheeting, however we're still uncertain whether the stripes on this particular base are actually part of the sheeting or were painted during the production process at Lorton, as we know they were on later plates. (The 1974 South Dakota plate was the first made with graphic sheeting, having been issued for use beginning in January of the year whereas the D.C. plate made its debut on April 1.) The design, with a U.S. Bicentennial theme slogan and simple embossed motif in the center, was likely created in response to Pennsylvania's similarly composed 1971 base. Of course, D.C. bested Pennsylvania by using a red, white, and blue color scheme, plus the commemorative 1776-1976 year designations.

1972 Promotional artwork of 1974 baseThe 1974 baseplate design was introduced to the public on Dec. 19, 1972, with this photograph accompanying news reports on that day's D.C. City Council meeting at which it was approved. It had been unveiled to members of the council the previous day during its weekly executive session. “As is often the case when a new object d'art is unveiled,” reads the Star-News coverage of the Dec. 18 inspection by the council, “the reviews were mixed.” “I think it's delightful,” announced Councilman Rockwood H. Foster. “I think those red stripes are sort of symbolic of the red tape we have to cut through in Washington,” he said, ignoring the more obvious symbolism, the two stripes of the D.C. flag. Councilman Tedson J. Myers voted against the design, saying “Let's not be the first on the block to have a three-colored license plate... let's come up with a plate that is functional, with larger numbers instead of pictures and advertising on it.” Little did the councilman know that the design would remain in use for decades and that after almost 30 years the numbers would be made smaller and more difficult to read. Councilwoman Marjorie H. Parker felt that the announced 1974 issuance date for the design was too far in advance of the 1976 bicentennial year. “It's like putting out your Christmas stocking in July,” she said.

 

Clara Soumah of the D.C. DMV shows a sample of the 1974 baseplate shortly after it went on sale in early February.

Courtesy DC Public Library, Star Collection,
copyright Washington Post. Photo by Paul M. Schmick.

 

 

Courtesy DC Public Library, Star Collection, copyright Washington Post

 

1974-78 Registration Numbers

As discussed below and with minor exceptions as indicated, we believe that certain blocks of registration numbers were used only for new general-issue passenger registrations during the four registration years during which this base was issued. The lowest numbers, 100-000 through about 285-000, are thought to have been available exclusively to replace valid 1968 baseplates during Mach 1974. Higher-numbered 1974 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

1974
4/1/74-3/31/75
n/a
c.285-000 to 339-999
55,000
1975
4/1/75-3/31/76
"76"
340-000 to 394-999
55,000
1976
4/1/76-3/31/77
"77"
395-000 to c.447-999
53,000
1977
4/1/77-3/31/78
"78"
450-000 to 499-999, then
50,000
     
then c.448-000 to 449-999
2,000


1974 Baseplate Types

Only plate types of which we have found examples are pictured. Images of additional types will be added to the array below as they become available.

1974 base passenger plate no. 310-523
1974 base reserved passenger plate no. 84
1974 base personalized plate no. V J
Passenger - General-Issue

Pass. - Reserved Number

Pass. - Personalized
     
1974 base bus plate no. B-5837
1974 base commercial plate no. C-12250
1974 base dealer plate no. D-701
Bus
Commercial (Truck)
Dealer
     
1974 base Disabled American Veteran plate no. DAV-498
1974 base diplomatic plate no. 131
1974 base Diplomatic Staff plate no. WN-1523
Disabled American Veteran
Diplomatic
Diplomatic
     
1974 base D.C. Govt. plate no. 3355
1974 base hire plate no. H-8950
1974 base D.C. Medical Doctor plate no. MD-441
D.C. Government
Hire (Taxi)
Medical Doctor
     
 
1974 (exp. 3-31-75) motorcycle plate no. M-696
 
 
Motorcycle
 
     
1974 base rental plate no. R-162 validated for 1976 (exp. 3-31-77)
1974 base trailer plate no. T-386
1974 base sample plate
Rental
Trailer
Sample


Correlation of 1974-77 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.

Stickers for 1975 (marked "76") through 1977 ("78") were issued for both renewal transactions and new registrations, whereas those of 1978 ("79") and later years, through as late as SEP 86 as listed and discussed on the 1978 baseplate page, were used to validate 1974 baseplates through September 30, 1986, while 1978 and 1984 baseplates were being issued for new registrations.

As discussed below, for the 1975, 1976, and 1977 registration years, those for which natural validation stickers were used on 1974 baseplates, it appears that sticker serial numbers began at 100000, 400000, and 700000, respectively. Approximately 55,000 new registrations appear to have been issued annually during the four-year period of issuance of this base.

1974 Registration Year (April 1974-March 1975) It is difficult to identify which registration numbers were assigned for new registrations (i.e. on natural 1974 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 1975 number, which we believe to be 340-000, were issued for new registrations during the 1974 registration year. Therefore, DCplates.net believes that any plate numbered from about 285-000 through 339-999 to which a "76" validation sticker was never affixed could reasonably be considered a natural 1974 plate.

1975 Registration Year (April 1975-March 1976) Natural license plates for this registration year are identifiable by the presence of a 1975 (marked "76") validation sticker with a serial number that corresponds to the registration number. The sticker serial on all observed natural 1975 plates is 240,000 digits lower than the plate number. Here are some examples:

License
Plate
Number
1975 ("76")
Sticker
Serial No.
340-359
100359
354-980
114980
388-906
148906

The lowest and highest plate numbers in the table above are the lowest and highest natural registration numbers observed for 1975. We believe that dated "76" stickers were applied to plates beginning at serial number 100000, which leads us to conclude that the first natural 1975 plate was number 340-000. Further information about 1975 stickers is provided here.

1976 Registration Year (April 1976-March 1977) Natural license plates for this registration year are identifiable by the presence of a 1976 (marked "77") validation sticker with a serial number that corresponds to the registration number. The sticker serial on all observed natural 1976 plates is 5,000 digits higher than the plate number. Here are some examples:

License
Plate
Number
1976 ("77")
Sticker
Serial No.
395-261
400261
428-942
433942
440-737
445737

The lowest and highest plate numbers in the table above are the lowest and highest natural registration numbers observed for 1976. We believe that dated "77" stickers were applied to plates beginning at serial number 400000, which leads us to conclude that the first natural 1976 plate was number 395-000. Further information about 1976 stickers is provided here.

1977 Registration Year (April 1977-March 1978) Natural license plates for this registration year are identifiable by the presence of a 1977 (marked "78") validation sticker with a serial number that corresponds to the registration number. The sticker serial number on all observed natural 1977 plates is 250,000 digits higher than the plate number. Here are some examples:

License
Plate
Number
1977 ("78")
Sticker
Serial No.
450-163
700163
455-427
705427
468-056
718056

The lowest and highest plate numbers in the table above are the lowest and highest natural registration numbers observed for 1977. We believe that dated "78" stickers were applied to plates beginning at serial number 700000, which leads us to conclude that the first natural 1977 plate was number 450-000. However, we have also seen plate no. 448-086 with a "78" sticker with serial 743086 over an earlier (presumably a "77") sticker, which we assume is a "two-sticker natural" as defined and discussed here using the 1968 base as an example. This plate, and others with similar numbers just below 450-000, were likely taken from leftover/unissued 1976 registration year stock and issued after plate 499-999 was assigned rather than go above 500-000, which by the time more 1977 numbers were needed had already been made on the forthcoming 1978 baseplate. Further information about 1977 stickers is provided here.


Reserved Registration Numbers Assigned Annually from April 1974 Through March 1978

Registrations 1 through 1250 were reassigned annually during this period. Click here to reach the section of our Reserved Number Plates page where serial numbers of stickers affixed to these plates are addressed.



Click on image for enlarged view.
The graphic plate design introduced in the mid-1970s was reproduced on envelopes in which renewal registration certificates and corresponding plate stickers were mailed. Click on the image for a view of the entire envelope.







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This page last updated on January 1, 2017

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