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Tabs and Stickers: Validation and Renewal of Delaware Plates

The dates in the previous section headings show the approximate periods of time during which each particular base style was in production. Since the tabs indicate expiration date, not base issue date, each base will automatically be slightly older than the earliest date tabs it can properly carry. Caution must be taken when affixing tabs to 'naked' bases so that they are not incorrectly backdated. Even the knowledgeable can make mistakes. For example, the Delaware photo in Jim Fox's newly published book shows plate number 183100 with 1953 tabs; this 6" x 12" white/black base did not come into use until five years later.

The tabs, usually called 'inserts' in Delaware, are simple embossed painted metal affairs with offset 'ears' that fit into slots at the top of the porcelain bases and at the bottom of the three subsequent styles of base. The left side tab divides the year into quarters, and each is a separate color, i.e. 3-3l(black/white), 6- 30(white/lite green), 9-30(white/red), 12-31(white/brown). The right side tabs indicate each year in two digits, 41 through 62. Year colors alternate yellow on blue for odd years, blue/yellow for even years. Year tabs for 44 and 45 were decals on a flat galvanized steel tab. Two color shades exist for each of these two decal years: a darker yellow-orange variety for 44, and an orange/blue variety for 45. At this point it is indeterminate which is the scarcer variety for each year, and speculation as to why the variations do exist leads one to suspect the vagaries of the manufacturing and/or procurement process. There are corresponding decal tabs known for the quarterlies; these are uncommon. A few porcelains are known to have quarterly and '42' decals directly on the base; these are quite rare even in 'fair' condition and virtually unknown as excellent original specimens. Year tabs were steel through 49, also 53, 54, and most 55's. Aluminum was used for 50, 51, 52, 55 new registrations, then 56 through the last tab year of 62. Year tabs for 53, 54 and steel 55's have a serial number stamped into the right-hand "ear". Month tabs also switched to aluminum during the early 1950's. Several minor variations in character spacing of both steel and aluminum quarterly tabs are known.

Stickers in blue on yellow scotchlite were introduced in January 1962, replacing the metal tabs of a previous era. The four quarters were printed as MAR, JUNE, SEPT and DEC and the year 63 appeared on a separate sticker. Three typeface variations are known for the 63 stickers. A good many Delaware motorists applied the 63 stickers directly on top of the metal 62 tab still in place on the older, still valid bases. New registrations at this time were receiving the new 'FIRST STATE' plates without tab slots. 'Strip' stickers, identical in style to the 63's, were in use with dates 64 and 65 but these are much less prevalent. Most renewals in 64 and 65 received a new style of sticker that combined the year and quarter onto one 1 1/4" x 1 5/8" piece of scotchlite, colored black/white for March, white/green for June, black/red for September and black/gold (or deep yellow) for December. This single sticker, quarterly color pattern continued through 1970. In mid-1969 Delaware changed from quarterly to monthly registration. Early registrations during this transition period received large (3" square) bold blue/yellow 70 windshield stickers with the expiration month prominently displayed (7, 8, 9 etc.) as a supplement to the now-incorrect quarterly plate sticker. These windshield stickers were black/green for 1971 and were discontinued after that year, by which time the new red/white monthly '71 plate stickers had been completely integrated. '72 stickers continued the red/white combination for all months. In 1973, a different color was adapted for each month, and this continues today. With a few exceptions, the month colors parallel each other fairly closely year after year . A two-year registration option for new vehicles was adopted in 1989, increased to three years a couple years later. In September 1991, the State began splitting each registration renewal month in half, to alleviate end-of-month delays at the various Motor Vehicle offices. Thus there are now two stickers for each month. The overlap of the new semi-monthly system with the older two and three-year registration option will result in 36 different sticker possibilities on passenger plates for years '93 and '94!

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