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Oregon has a colorful and interesting license plate history. Through the years, Oregon plates were issued for all types of specialty groups including motorcycles, grocery delivery, city service vehicles, farms, airplanes, and taxies. Cities and towns even issued their own plates. This makes collecting plates in Oregon fun and interesting! (And often times very challenging). Our history is about passenger plates. 

Colors were changed as often as two times in a single year and in some years, the plate size depended on the number of digits, the longer the number, the longer the plate! As the years progressed, the plate size became more uniform, but it still seemed like each year brought a new idea and many different metals were used, in various thickness'. This makes restoring the plates very challenging, having to use different techniques and processes for different years.

The earliest known Oregon registrations date from about 1905. Most of these were painted directly onto the vehicles, some plates were made of leather and even porcelain. In 1908 a properly manufactured plate (made in Boise, Idaho) was made available to motorists. These early single plates were made of two pieces of steel soldered together at the corners.

In 1911, Oregon issued it's first state license plates which were manufactured in Portland, at the Irwin-Hodson Company, where some are still manufactured today. Oregon plates were never made in prison. 1911 plates were only made from August to December. From 1911 until present, Oregon passenger plates were always made in pairs with only one exception in 1946.  In 1913, Oregon experimented with two different metals; most were made of brass. Both had a wire inserted to make the raised edge.

Plates in 1914 and 1915, were made of steel again, but as in 1913 the plate numbers were concave. Steel plates were used through the end of World War II.

In 1929, Oregon decided to end the year's registration in June of each year. To accomplish this, 1929 plates were used on passenger cars until June of 1930. From July of 1930 through July of 1931, cars used 1931 plates. This continued until December of 1933. This is confusing because there were no 1930 plates made and two different 1933 plates - a June and December of that year.  If you have a 1930 car you can now register either a 1929 or 1931 plate to it. To add to the confusion, Oregon issued a 1930 windshield sticker in that year. 1934 went back to a full year for each plate.

World War II changed the way Oregon did things. 1943, 1944 and 1945 saw only a windshield sticker offered with the continued use of the 1942 license plates. Because of the steel shortage after the war, Oregon's only year of a single plate was 1946. In 1947, Oregon solved this problem by switching to a much more available aluminum and continued to make two plates for each year.

In 1950, Oregon decided to use their plates more than one year. Even though 1950 plates were stamped with the year, only some of 1951 plates were stamped. Oregon put slots in their plates to accept metal year tabs from 1951 to 1955.

In 1956, there was a national drive to make all license plates in the country the same size. Oregon changed to the national size and that size is still used today. 1956 plates were the last plates to be year stamped; they were also slotted and metal year tabs were used from 1957 to 1960.

In late 1960, Oregon introduced the "Pacific Wonderland" plate, which turned out to be it's only stamped "slogan" plate ever made. In 1961 Oregon went away from the metal year tabs and started using a year sticker, which was updated each year. Pacific Wonderland plates were used through 1964.

1965 through 1974 plates used a new numerical style, the plates had three letters followed by three numbers. This style is still being used today on some of Oregon's plates. 1975 through 1987 saw the Oregon plates change from the blue background with yellow letters to a reflective yellow background with blue letters. This "reflective" paint was baked on for the first time! The first silk screened base was issued in 1988 when the current "tree plates" were issued. Since 1988, we have seen the new graphics plates, the first being a tree with a controversial tan sky. We have also seen Oregon Trail plates and Salmon plates. The new Cultural and Crater Lake plates have bright colors and the numbers are not even raised.

As you can see, Oregon is a very colorful and exciting state when it comes to license plates. We can't wait to see what's coming next! You can copy this address to take you to the History page on the Oregon DMV website: http://www.oregon.gov/ODOT/CS/SSB/history_center_dmv_license_plates.shtml

 

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Last Updated 06 May 2009

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