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1978 Nation's Capital Baseplate

Issued April 1978 Through September 1984 Only For New Registrations

 

1978 general-issue passenger car plate no. 514-991
1979 general-issue passenger car plate no. 568-165
1980 general-issue passenger car plate no. 673-591
1978 (exp. 3-31-1979)
1979 (exp. 3-31-1980)
1980 (exp. 3-31-1981)
     
1981 general-issue passenger car plate no. 720-621
1982 general-issue passenger car plate no. 766-167
1981 (exp. 3-31-1982)
1982 (exp. 3-31-1983)
     
1983 general-issue passenger car plate no. 814-973
1983 general-issue passenger car plate no. 850-199
1984 general-issue passenger car plate no. 882-046
1983 (exp. 3-31-1984)
1983
1984

 

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

Six years and six months: April 1, 1978, through September 30, 1984.

Period of use

Eight years and six months: April 1, 1978, 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 until a staggered registration system was implemented in August 1983 for new registrations and during the March 1984 renewal period for existing registrations. Read more.

The Nation's Capital baseplate is undated, and general-issue passenger car plates are numbered from 500-001 through 925-000. Although "3-31" is displayed with a black-on-white sticker applied to the lower left corner of the earliest 1978 baseplates, there is no permanent year designation. The month sticker was applied before each plate was coated with clear lacquer, an unusual practice in plate manufacturing. Although most 1978 baseplates have an unpainted (i.e. natural aluminum) back, plates as low as 633-645 through at least 723-515 have a painted dark green back.

There was no general reissuance involving this base; rather it was issued only to motorists that purchased new registrations during the period of issuance indicated above. Therefore, no year designation was designed into the plate as had been done with the 1974 base. All plates of this base were initially issued with an expiration date sticker already attached. These are the stickers used to validate 1978 baseplates:

Natural Stickers Used Under the Annual System

Reg.
Year
Twelve-Month
Period of Use
Sticker
Marked

Colors
1978
4/1/78-3/31/79
79
black on white
1979
4/1/79-3/31/80
3/31/80
red on white
1980
4/1/80-3/31/81
3/31/81
blue on white
1981
4/1/81-3/31/82
3/31/82
red on white
1982
4/1/82-3/31/83
3/31/83
blue on white
1983
4/1/83-3/31/84
3/31/84
red on white

Natural Year Designation Stickers Used Under the Staggered System

Marked
Colors
Period of Use
84
red on white
8/1/83-12/31/83
85
blue on white
1/1/84-9/30/84

Dated 86 stickers (accompanied by month stickers as late as SEP) were issued to validate 1978 baseplates through September 30, 1986 (as discussed at the 1984 baseplate page), while 1984 baseplates were being issued for new registrations.


1978-84 Registration Numbers

As discussed below and with minor exceptions as indicated, we believe that certain blocks of registration numbers were set aside for issuance during each registration year before the staggered system was introduced in August 1983, and our assumptions about numbers available for issuance during the 1978 through 1983 (partial) registration years are presented in this table:

Reg.
Year
Twelve-Month
Period of Use
Sticker
Marked
Available General-Issue
Registration Numbers

Quantity of Available
New Numbers

1978
4/1/78-3/31/79
79
500-001 to 562-000
62,000
1979
4/1/79-3/31/80
3/31/80
562-001 to 625-000
63,000
1980
4/1/80-3/31/81
3/31/81
625-001 to 685-000
60,000
1981
4/1/81-3/31/82
3/31/82
685-001 to 750-000
65,000
1982
4/1/82-3/31/83
3/31/83
750-001 to 810-000
60,000
1983
4/1/83-7/31/83
3/31/84
813-001 to 850-000, then
37,000
810-001 to 813-000
3,000

Although numbers 500-001 through 925-000 were made on the 1978 base, not all of them were issued. Because plates were segregated into blocks of about 60,000-65,000 pairs for separate registration years and because validation stickers for the various appropriate years were applied prior to being shipped from Lorton Reformatory (where they were made) to the DMV, at the end of most registration years there remained a relatively small quantity of leftover plates. For example, although numbers 685-001 through 750-000 were set aside for the 1981 registration year, it is likely that some plates of the 740-000 through 749-999 series, most likely the highest numbers, were never needed. In a few instances during the 1970s and early 1980s some of these leftover plates were re-stickered and issued in a later registration year when the original allotment for that year had been depleted (as illustrated here), but in most cases plates prepared for a particular year that were not needed during that year were never used. This unusual plate recycling process may have occurred in mid-1983 as noted in the table above and discussed in the 1983 section near the bottom of this page.

Here are our estimates of the lowest and highest general-issue registration numbers issued on the 1978 base under the staggered expiration system introduced for new registrations in August 1983:


Period of Issuance
Sticker
Marked
Approximate Reg.
Number Range

Estimated Quantity
of Available Numbers

8/1/83-3/31/84
84
850-001 to 870-000
20,000
4/1/84-9/30/84
85
870-001 to 925-000
55,000


Staggered Registrations

In order for the DMV to begin the process of spreading its registration renewal work throughout the year, the expiration of passenger car registrations was staggered daily beginning on August 1, 1983, while 1978 baseplates were being issued. On this date, however, only the expiration of new registrations began to be staggered. Introducing existing registrations to the system occurred during the following renewal period, that of March 1984, at which time the entire population of existing registrations was "evenly divided alphabetically" in order to assign expiration dates throughout the year. The initial expiration date of newly-staggered existing registrations was spread over a three- to fourteen-month period in order to get the system started. These details were provided to motorists in a Q&A brochure prepared by the DMV that may be viewed by clicking on the sticker placement graphic below.

Since the inception of D.C.'s staggered system, registrations have expired daily based upon the initial registration date rather than at the end of the month during which the registration was purchased. In other words, registrations expire every day even though only the expiration month, not the specific date, is indicated with 1985 and later plate stickers.

1978 plate no. 810-067 with 3/31/84 sticker1978 plate no. 863-937 with separate month and year (84) stickersDue to the implementation of this system there are two types of natural D.C. plates with a 1984 expiration. To anyone that purchased a new registration through the last day of July 1983, a single sticker marked 3/31/84 was issued with the new plate. Motorists that bought a new registration from August through early 1984 received two stickers: one bearing the abbreviated month of expiration (AUG, SEP, etc.) for placement in the lower left corner, and a red-on-white year sticker marked simply "84" for the lower right corner.

Click here to read the DMV's Q&A brochure about implementation of the staggered system.Under the one-year system, the one-year registration issued to anyone that purchased a new registration on the first day, August 1, 1983, technically expired on Tuesday, July 31, 1984, but no plates with JUL and '84 stickers are known. The actual expiration date may have been shifted one day to August 1, 1984; it may have actually been July 31 but evidenced by AUG and '84 stickers; or it may simply be that none of the few plates issued that first day have been observed.

 

Click on image for enlarged view.
Click on image for enlarged view.
After it processed a motorist's annual registration renewal transaction, the DMV dispatched a new registration certificate and corresponding plate validation stickers in a pink envelope upon which was printed sticker application instructions. These images show the sticker placement diagrams of pre- (left) and post-staggered registration implementation envelopes. Click on each image for a view of the entire envelope.

Click here to view an image of a 1984 renewal mailing with the stickers and registration certificate intact.


1978 Baseplate Types

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

1978 base passenger plate no. 673-591
1978 base reserved passenger plate no. 253
1978 base bus plate no. B-16052
Passenger - General-Issue

Pass. - Reserved Number

Bus
     
1978 base commercial plate no. C-27450
1978 base clergy plate no. 406
1978 base Dealer plate no. D-3500
Commercial (Truck)
Clergy
Dealer
     
1978 base diplomatic plate no. 8899
1978 base D.C. Govt. plate no. 3403
1978 base D.C. Govt. plate no. 3403
Diplomatic
Diplomatic Staff
D.C. Government
     
1978 base hire plate no. H-17771
1978 base motorcycle plate no. N2475
Hire (Taxi)
Motorcycle
     
1978 base handicapped person plate no. H/P 156
1978 base livery plate no. L-1007
1978 base Rental plate no. R-3755
Handicapped Person
Livery
Rental


Correlation of 1978-83 General-Issue Registration Numbers to Sticker Serial Numbers

Plates of this base, assigned sequentially from number 500-001 through 925-000 (although not every number was used, as discussed above), were issued only for new registrations, which is why only 425,000 pairs were made even though it was the general-issue base for 6.5 years (whereas 400,000 sets of the 1974 base lasted for only four years because the first 180,000 were used to replace existing valid plates).

Because all 1978 baseplates were distributed in conjunction with the issuance of a new registration, the final three digits in the serial number of the first sticker applied to each plate (the "natural" sticker) 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 1978 through 1983 registration years it appears that sticker serial numbers began annually at 100000 or some multiple thereof, and that stickers with the lowest serials were, at least initially, applied to the lowest-numbered general-issue passenger car plates. However, only for 1979 does it appear that a single batch of sequentially-numbered stickers was used to validate all 60,000 or so auto plates.

1978 Registration Year (April 1978-March 1979) Natural license plates for this registration year are identifiable by the presence of a small "3-31" sticker in the lower left corner and a 1978 (marked "79") validation sticker with a serial number that corresponds to the registration number in the lower right corner. Both stickers are black on white. Three plate-number-to-sticker-serial intervals have been identified for this year. Here are some examples:

Plate
Number
1978 ("79")
Sticker Serial No.
Interval
509-632
409632
100,000
514-991
414991
100,000
527-144
427144
100,000
534-566
679966
145,400
538-596
683996
145,400
557-904
704304
146,400

The lowest and highest plate numbers in this table are the lowest and highest natural registration numbers observed for each batch or interval for 1978. Dated "79" stickers were applied to plates beginning at serial number 400001, and further information about 1978 stickers is provided here

1979 Registration Year (April 1979-March 1980) Natural license plates for this registration year are identifiable by the presence of a 1979 (marked "3-31-80") validation sticker with a serial number that corresponds to the registration number. The sticker serial on all observed natural 1979 plates is 462,000 digits lower than the plate number. Here are some examples:

Plate
Number
1979 ("3-31-80")
Sticker Serial No.
Interval
565-603
103603
462,000
587-376
125356
462,000
602-592
140592
462,000

The lowest and highest plate numbers in this table are the lowest and highest natural registration numbers observed for 1979. We believe that dated "3-31-80" stickers were applied to plates beginning at serial number 100001, which leads us to conclude that the first natural 1979 plate was number 562-001. Further information about 1979 stickers is provided here.

1980 Registration Year (April 1980-March 1981) Natural license plates for this registration year are identifiable by a green back and the presence of a 1980 (marked "3-31-81") 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:

Plate
Number
1980 ("3-31-81")
Sticker Serial No.
Interval
633-645
608645
25,000
644-446
619446
25,000
667-688
642688
25,000
673-591
909591
236,000

The lowest and highest plate numbers in this table are the lowest and highest natural registration numbers observed for 1980. We believe that dated "3-31-81" stickers were applied to plates beginning at serial number 600001, which leads us to conclude that the first natural 1980 plate was number 625-001. Further information about 1980 stickers is provided here.

1981 Registration Year (April 1981-March 1982) Natural license plates for this registration year are identifiable by the presence of a 1981 (marked "3-31-82") 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:

Plate
Number
1981 ("3-31-82")
Sticker Serial No.
Interval
692-958
107958
585,000
720-621
135621
585,000
745-070
417770
327,300

The lowest and highest plate numbers in this table are the lowest and highest natural registration numbers observed for 1981. We believe that dated "3-31-82" stickers were applied to plates beginning at serial number 100001, which leads us to conclude that the first natural 1981 plate was number 685-001. Further information about 1981 stickers will soon be provided here.

1982 Registration Year (April 1982-March 1983) Natural license plates for this registration year are identifiable by the presence of a 1982 (marked "3-31-83") 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:

Plate
Number
1982 ("3-31-83")
Sticker Serial No.
Interval
754-748
104748
650,000
766-167
116167
650,000
772-173
122173
650,000
794-651
400651
394,000

The lowest and highest plate numbers in this table are the lowest and highest natural registration numbers observed for 1982. We believe that dated "3-31-83" stickers were applied to plates beginning at serial number 100001, which leads us to conclude that the first natural 1982 plate was number 750-001. Further information about 1982 stickers will soon be provided here.

1983 Registration Year (April 1983-March 1984) Natural license plates distributed from April 1 through July 31, 1983, the portion of this registration year during which full-year registrations (those for which the expiration was not staggered) were issued, are identifiable by the presence of a 1983 validation sticker marked "3-31-84" with a serial number that corresponds to the registration number. Several plate-number-to-sticker-serial intervals have been identified for this period:

Plate
Number
1983 ("3-31-84")
Sticker Serial No.
Interval
810-067
159067
651,000
814-973
101973
713,000
820-791
107791
713,000
836-343
390343
446,000
841-329
408329
433,000

The lowest and highest plate numbers in this table are the lowest and highest natural registration numbers observed for 1983 that are associated with an annual, non-staggered-expiration registration. Despite data shown for plate no. 810-067, we believe it most likely that dated "3-31-84" stickers were applied to plates beginning at serial number 100001, which leads us to conclude that the first natural 1983 plate was number 813-001, not 810-001. Plate 810-067 and others with similar numbers just below 813-000 were likely taken from leftover/unissued 1982 registration year stock and issued after plate 850-000 was assigned rather than go above 850-000, which by the time more numbers were needed had likely already been set aside for issuance under the new staggered expiration system. Further information about 1983 stickers will soon be provided here.



Mandatory Insurance

Motor vehicle insurance was required in the District of Columbia as of October 1, 1983. The two-part (carbonless) form shown below was provided to motorists with existing registrations with a requirement that they provide information about their insurer. The bottom copy, which is yellow, was to be retained by the motorist and kept with the corresponding vehicle registration certificate.

1983 Insurance Certification (front)
 
1983 Insurance Certification (back)






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