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The Tin Years: 1916-1941

In 1916, Delaware switched to cheaper, embossed painted steel plates, issuing pairs each year through 1941. Colors were changed annually from 1916 to 1928, and in 1929, blue/yellow was adopted as a regular color scheme, alternating yellow background in odd-numbered years, blue background in even- numbered years. Also, that year the large diamond symbol was added to the left side of the plates, not representing a gem industry but signifying the small States importance as a "diamond among states; much larger and better known. The blue/yellow color combination was retained through the 1941(3-31- 42) issue except for the anomalous years of 1938 and 1939 which were red/silver and silver/maroon respectively. There is no dated 1940 plate; in this year and the year following, the expiration dates appeared on the plates, 3-31-41, and 3-31-42, the latter being the last of Delaware's single-year plate issues prior to the introduction of the permanent porcelain plates later that same year. Sizes of the "tin" issues varied; 1916 and 1917 were the largest, 6 1/4" x 15 1/4" and heaviest gauge steel. Height was reduced in 1918 to 5 1/2" and this was maintained through 1928; the length during these years varies: most were 13 1/2" long, the exceptions were 1921's over 20 thousand, all 1922's, and 5-digit 1923's; these were an additional 1 1/2" longer. Curiously, 1919 is the only year to appear in reduced length for lower numbers; four different lengths have been noted for this year. Size was increased to 6" x 15" for years 1929 through 1935. In 1936, the plates were down sized to 5 1/2" x 10 1/2" and the resulting smaller diamond became a separator preceding the last three digits of the plate number (no diamond appears on 3-digit or less plates from 1936 onward). Certain of these "tin" years are very difficult to locate in better grades of condition due to poor paint quality, being very prone to flaking in moist conditions (typical of the East), or under thermal stress. In order of difficulty, the worst years are '19,'16,'22,'21,'26 and '23. Interestingly, Delaware's 3-31-41 and 3-31-42 plates have an 'Illinois' appearance due to their being manufactured by the same company that made that State's plates,

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