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Delaware's Permanent Plates: 1941 to Present

There are those who claim that the First State's registration system and its corresponding plate issues during and after World War 2 are "first in confusion" and are neither understandable nor comprehensively collectible by the average, or even the experienced, hobbyist. This simply is not true, and by the time this article is concluded, you will, with careful reading, gain both an understanding of these interesting plates as well as a detailed checklist by which to either enhance or diminish your own Delaware collection as you see fit.

In this section, the word 'type' refers to the type of vehicle (car, truck, cycle, etc.) that the plate is used on (here we are discussing only passenger plates). 'Style' refers to the overall, basic characteristics of the plate itself, whereas 'variety' refers to specific, detailed variations, often minor, within the basic plate style. With this terminology, every plate change that occurs can be clearly delineated, catalogued, and thus made understandable and accessible to the average collector. Locating some of the minor varieties is another order of business!

Before attempting to understand the individual plate issues, what was issued on what date, and so forth, it is important to remember that all Delaware plates since 1942 have been permanent issues, assigned to a vehicle, not to a person. These plates do not expire; they remain with the vehicle as long as registration is maintained. If the vehicle sits idle and registration lapses for more than a year, the plate number can be reissued to another vehicle, unless the owner pays a retention fee. This 'tag retention' feature, introduced in 1951, is used when an individual is fond of a certain license plate number but does not want to keep up the vehicle it is assigned to, or is in process of selling the vehicle. It is possible to retain a plate number even after the vehicle has been sold, prior to obtaining another vehicle. Because people move around, and cars are sold out-of-state, plate numbers lapse frequently, or become 'open'. Delaware regularly purges their registration lists and reissues these 'open' numbers as new plates, feeding them back into the system. Thus, it becomes difficult at some point to tell the exact original date of issue of a specific plate if it is a reissued older (i.e. lower) number on a later base.

There have been six basic styles of permanent plates used in Delaware since the last of the single year plates expired on 3-31-42. These styles are:

Style #1, Porcelain Enamel: 1942-1946
Style #2, Stainless on Stainless: 1947-1950
Style #3, White Scotchlite on Stainless: 1951-1958
Style #4, Gold on Blue Riveted, with Slots, no Slogan: 1958-1962
Style #5, Gold on Blue Riveted, "THE FIRST STATE": 1962-1968
Style #6, Gold on Blue Silk-Screened: 1968-Present

Click on the link to look at each of these styles, and its varieties, one by one.


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