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Washington, D.C. License Plate Displays



A Century of District of Columbia License Plates

A Collection Assembled by J. Ray Frank

This impressive collection of Washington, D.C. license plates was shown by veteran plate collector Ray Frank at the 2011 international convention of the A.L.P.C.A., which was held in Charleston, West Virginia, from July 22-25. The display is comprised of nine panels, eight of which feature a complete set of passenger car plates from 1917 through 1994, with a representative selection of plates issued before and after that 78-year period.

The entire display of D.C. plates shown by Ray Frank in Charleston, W.Va. in late July 2011.
  The portion of the Charleston Civic Center in which the display was presented was ideal because it was well lit and had an open space of about 30' in front of it, allowing viewers to step back and view the entire collection from an unobstructed distance. The nine panels, covered first in red felt and then burlap, are each 2.5' wide, comprising a total length of 22.5'  



A portion of the title panel of Ray Frank's display.  

The top portion of the title panel of Mr. Frank's display features Maryland and D.C. plates attached for more than 90 years, as well as a rare inverted error on the 1984 base. Click here to read about the two older plates, and here to see images of more D.C. error plates.




A portion of Ray Frank's D.C. colleciton display
A portion of Ray Frank's D.C. colleciton display
The display includes four porcelain enamel plates, including a nice example of the rare 1907-08 plate (no. 1745). Note also that four plates in the collection (2.5 of which are pictured above, with the full 1949 plate shown immediately below), have the same general-issue registration number, 67-387, evidence that numbers not considered low still could be assigned to the same vehicle owner for multiple years. This kind of detail in the Frank collection is but one example of the care taken in its assembly over many years.

 

A portion of Ray Frank's D.C. colleciton display
A portion of Ray Frank's D.C. colleciton display
Seeing an entire year-by-year set of a jurisdiction on one display helps to identify relationships that might not otherwise be evident, such as that the small yellow-on-black plate marked "1952" was immediately followed by an entirely redesigned issue, the larger green-on-white two-year base marked "3-31-54." In assembling the display, care was taken to assure that plates such as these were presented immediately adjacent to each other, as opposed to in different rows or columns, so that the relationship is clear.

 

A portion of Ray Frank's D.C. colleciton display
A portion of Ray Frank's D.C. colleciton display
A good display educates viewers not only through the plates themselves, but with narratives and labels to identify relevant facts that may not otherwise be evident. An example on the Frank display include notations as to how registration years and the periods of validity were shown on plates through the confusing transition period of 1938 through 1941. Also noted are milestones such as when registration numbers first eclipsed 100-000 (1923) and when Maryland's registration number format was briefly used (1955-1956).

 

A portion of Ray Frank's D.C. colleciton display
A portion of Ray Frank's D.C. colleciton display

 



A portion of Ray Frank's D.C. colleciton displayA portion of Ray Frank's D.C. colleciton display


The entire display of D.C. plates shown by Ray Frank in Charleston, W.Va. in late July 2011.



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This page last updated on January 1, 2017

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