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Florida's License Plates (Tags)

A Look Back At Florida's License Plates

Florida's First Tags (1905-1915)

Beginning in 1905 and through 1915, Florida required all resident motor vehicle owners to register their motor vehicles with the Florida Secretary of State's Office. A registration included the make, description, serial number, and horsepower of the motor vehicle and a paper certificate issued to the motor vehicle owner. Additionally, the motor vehicle owner was responsible for permanently displaying the certificate number in a prominent location on the rear of the vehicle. Owners often displayed homemade tags or purchased custom tags that were made out of wood, leather, and metal.

City Tags (1905-1917)

In the early days of automobiles, some Florida cities required their resident motor vehicle owners to have a registration similar to the state's requirement. Jacksonville, Pensacola, Orlando, Miami, and Tampa are municipalities known to have had a motor vehicle registration tag requirement.

County Tags (1911-1917)

In 1911, the state mandated that motor vehicles owners display annual county numbers on their vehicles. The county plates were issued by the Tax Collectors in each county. The plates issued in each county varied as they were not standardized state-wide, and each county was responsible for supplying its own plates. Typically, most county plates were made out of porcelain steel.

State Plates (1918 to Present)

A new state law was adopted in 1917 and implemented in 1918 that eliminated city and county motor vehicle registrations and mandated annual state registrations through the State Comptroller's Office (pronounced "controller").


Issued a pair of numbered plates (front and rear) for each motor vehicle.


Began issuing a single plate per vehicle.


An outline of the state was embossed on plates.


The administration of motor vehicle registrations transferred to the Office of Motor Vehicle Commissioner (which became the Department of Motor Vehicles in 1965).


Large tags were reduced in size to 5"x 12."


"Theft Proof" or locking plates were issued.


County prefix numbers appeared (through 1975) and were based on rank order by county population.


World War II steel shortages mandated issuance of a metal tab in lieu of a full size tag. The tab was affixed on the 1942 tag.


Regular tag production resumed.


"Sunshine State" logo appeared on tags through 1975, except in 1951, when "Keep Florida Green" was promoted, and in 1965, when "400th Anniversary" was celebrated.


Plates had double-date format to shift tag issuance from a calendar year to a fiscal year (Example: 1967/68).


The single date format reappeared (Example: in 1972).


Base plate issued with renewal decal or "sticker" issued in the following year. Decals reduced the costs associated with license plate production.


Base plate issued with Alpha-Numeric coding of vehicle tags due to the increases of motor vehicles.


Base plate.


Base plate issued with Alpha-Numeric-Alpha coding system to allow coverage of an expanding number of vehicles.


Specialty Plates - The Challenger license plate was issued for a specific time period (In 1991, it was was extended indefinitely). Also, the Collegiate license plates were established for the nine state universities and the Salutes the Veterans plate was established to support nursing home veterans. (Note: Since 1989, over one hundred specialty plates have been created to support various charitible organizations and causes. To view Florida's Specialty plates, visit


Base plate.


Base plate.


Base plate.