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November 15, 2019

Ancient Plates of the DOT Plate Search Tool

The DOT website has a plate search tool. I use this tool to research my expected ranges, espcecially for rare insert plates I would never know anything about. While the DOT tool isn't perfect for everything, it is a valuable resource. I've also found some unexpected finds.

At first, I thought that most invalid series were completely wiped from the system. After all, I usally wouldn't find many older insert plates on the system, and even a 2012 88 series passenger plate was unable to be found. Or so I thought.

I was researching tractor license plates, when I was researching the DS series I came across many 2005 plates. At first, I was shocked to find that. But, it turns out that I found out that there are plenty of 1994 series Heavy Truck plates on the system.

I ended up stumbling upon a crazy find while researching GS tractor plates. I searched up GS 10 and it came up with a 3/31/96 expiration date. I was shocked; I didn't think this website would have existed this long, or even would have had something like this. Yet, here it was, a 1996 plate sitting on a plate search webiste, with the site not even claiming that the registration can't be renewed.

Other 1994 plates are a hit or a miss. For example, I could look up XC 5107 on my website (found at Grateful Shed, it expired in 12/31/03.) My plate, DG24087, expired in 12/08, and it didn't come up on the search.

November 7, 2019

The Grateful Shed

I heard of this place called the Grateful Shed Truckyard, a restauraunt in Wisconsin Dells, WI. We went there in August.

We went, and there were more plates than I would imagine. There was the staircase that I saw, with a bunch of 1994 insert plates there. Then there was upstairs, which also had a bunch of Wisconsin plates I needed for my website, like these:

Some of those plates were on the back wall, which is why some of them are very hard to see. Others were sitting right in plain sight, so there wasn't much trouble taking pictures of them. Here is what the wall looked like:


These are various plates I found from Wisconsin on the staircase that I needed for my website:

November 5, 2019

I wasn't working on my website Friday since I wasn't at school that day. I also won't be at school this Friday so I'm going to write my article on Thursday.

Rare insert license plates

Insert plates are somewhat common. In fact, in this series alone for the X weight code, there are over 100,000 license plates issued in just 10 years. With all the Heavy Truck plates issued for the last 10 years, there are probably between 290,000 and 310,000 Heavy Truck plates issued in just a decade.

However, most of those 300,000 plates are from common series; the most common series are D, X, G, H, and E. There are probably about another hundred thousand insert plates out there, but the bulk of those would be lighter trailer plates below the E series and heavy tractor plates from the T series. There are a lot more series of insert plates out there that are from rare series. According to Andrew Turnbull, there could be as many as 478 different series of insert plates out there since 1992.

Tractor plates seem to be some of the hardest to find, not because truck-tracors don't exist anymore, but because most truck-tractors recieve apportioned plates (which is why there are nearly 300,000 apportioned plates out there since 1999). The most common weight code for tractor plates is T, with about 30,000 plates being issued since 1994. The rarest code I know to exist is the B weight code. The A series has yet to be confirmed. The E series is the lightest tractor series I have seen a picture of, and there only appears to be a few hundred of them in existence. The B series does exist; however, it is so rare that there is yet to be a single plate issued. According to the Wisconsin DOT license plate lookup, BS 50 would give a "Plate Not Found" error (the error that occurs when someone looks up a 94 series plate most times) and BS 51 would give "Plate has no current or prior registrations", which usually means that there are sequential plates in that series, but rather it just has yet to be issued. If the plate search is true, then that means that the B weight code tractor plates would be the rarest current Wisconsin license plate I know of. The C weight code only has about 15 registrations confirmed for the current base, from CS 80 to around CS 93.

Heavy trailer license plates are another rare type of plate. Trailer plates beyond the Y series tend to be rare. The T series, for example, only has a serial up to TR 82 confirmed. The Q series has a plate with an expiration date of 12/31/08, which would mean it is most likely a 94 series plate. QR 76 gives the not issued yet error.

I don't know much about Special-UX and Z plates before 2004 and farm trailer plates, so there isn't much to report on there yet.

October 28, 2019

Plates Used Beyond Their Intended Time Period

License plates are usually used for a specific time period. While it would be difficult to tell if a plate was used while it was expired unless it was still on the vehicle, there is a way to tell if a plate was used later than its intended period.

Plates used beyond their intended period are very rare for pre-graphic plates. I've only confirmed a 1985 sticker on a 1973 base plate.

I've confirmed so far (format of each set of information: (type), base (issuance year), validated to):

73 85
88 (91), 12
88 (94), 09
88 (97), 13

Moped 89, 93


Trailer 94, 09


Truck 88, 02

I have also spotted other plates that are expired, still on vehicles. While these are plates that are not on the road, these are plates that still are stuck on vehicles somewhere in Wisconsin. I have spotted so far: (last number year on vehicle last confirmed)

88 (91), 12, 19
01 (05), 17, 19
01 (14?), 14, 18
01 (13), 15, 19

Truck 88, (unknown), 19
Truck 94, (unknown), 17

Semi Trailer 78, 79, 08
Semi Trailer 80, 81, 08
Semi Trailer 82, 83, 19


October 25, 2019

Avery vs. 3M

The beginnings of reflective license plates started in the mid 20th century. I heard somewhere the first reflective plates came out in the 1930s, but it seems a little advanced for that time period. The firs reflectorization started with fine glass particles put on top of wet foreground paint. It seems that midwestern states have a tendency to use this method of reflectorization, though that is just a generalization based on Michigan, Iowa, and Missouri. I've also seen Pennsylvania use this method.

A slightly later method was scotchlite reflective sheeting, by 3M. These plates came around the late 50's with Minnesota. Most states would use 3M reflective sheeting by the 70s. Plates started going graphic during this time too; some states immediately started with graphic plates, while others would use just regular plates at first then use graphic plates.

During the late 90s and early 2000s lots of states switched to Avery sheeting. There really wasn't that much wrong with 3M sheeting (excluding some cases of sheeting cracking when stored in barns for long times). I guess the company was cheaper (other collectors mentioned that Avery isn't as fading prone, but I've seen more faded Wisconsin plates than 3M.) Unfortunatly, the plates were also prone to lifting off the serial number and blistering around it, retracting back and exposing bare metal:


Many states started to come back to 3M, realizing there was a terrible problem. "Coincidentally", around 2007, which is when the states really started switching back to 3M, the sheeting became prone to graying, delaminating, and falling apart in general:

3M gray plate coming soon

Something changed in 2007. This problem isn't even unique to Wisconsin; a google search of "peeling license plate" will bring up Wisconsin, Michigan, California, and Illinois just in the search bar. In fact, I have confirmed this problem in Wisconsin, California, Ontario, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland & Labrador, and New Brunswick.

A lot of today's plates are falling apart. A lot of plates expose bare metal, and many people have to color in their numbers again.

Wisconsin switched back to Avery sheeting in 2017. Wisconsin is the only state I know about that currently uses Avery sheeting.

Interestingly enough, there is a car at a campground I go to, and there is a plate that has been sitting outside since 1990, GNL-000 (censored since it was validated to 2012. I know it isn't supposed to be valid that long, but still it will be censored at the moment), and it is in amazing condition, yet plates from a decade ago are bare metal.

October 24, 2019

1 year of this website

I know, it isn't a Monday or a Friday, but since the real anniversary of this website being created was on a Thursday, I felt it was only appropriate to write this on a Thursday.

I went into my Computer Science Discoveries for one of my electives last year. It was only one semester, while all my other classmates continued on after I left.

In October, we started working with HTML, and, on October 10, 2018, we created our own websites. At first, it looked something like this:

Click on a state to see its page. I will add the other states sometime



New York

Mystery plates

You kind of get the idea. I don't want to make this too long. Note how it used something similar to Times New Roman. The website also had a white background for about a week or two.

Around October 22, 2018, I created my truck plate page. I created it for a multi-page website, and only added the list for the list requirement. I eventually made them links, and added the basic idea into my navigation bar.

The truck plate page was also the first one to use a table and to use the background color. (interesting fail: I used a colon as a period here because of the background-color CSS command)

The first experiments with CSS weren't very good. They came out downright ugly. I started out with the background color powder blue, which is what text is colored when you highlight something.

truck truck truck truckplate 99truck 08truck

I then tested with different shades of blue. I finally settled on light cyan, which makes the site look nice and makes it easier on me so that unknown colors for my color tables don't get confused with the background.

I started experimenting with a header around this time. I started with a blue color, and it didn't come out nice:

In late November, I moved my website after I found out that the website would likely be wiped as the end of the unit came. It still sits there to this day.

In December, I added more states, which continue to be blank pages because I'm too focused on Wisconsin plates.

In February, I added the normal navigation bar that only a few pages still use

Since then, my website hasn't changed that much. I've just added some information.

October 21, 2019

It has been a long time since I last wrote here... mostly I was either busy or I didn't feel like writing an article. I will write 4 articles today just to make up for all the articles I missed.

Wisconsin Truck Plates

Wisconsin truck plates are complicated. That is just a simple phrase to describe truck plates. They are way too overcomplicated.

Truck plates started off somewhat simple: a plate similar to passenger plates, aside from the state name format. In 1923, plates would gain weight codes, and were the only type to be confirmed to have weight codes for 1923.

After 1930, plates changed, a lot. They weren't as complex to study as passenger plates, since there aren't any major changes to note. There are, however, a lot of weight codes to track. After 1940, truck plates became complex beyond belief.

In 1941, Heavy Truck plates were introduced. In addition to tracking a lot of new weight codes, there also were light truck for hire plates in existence, with the added 32 variations of tab colors to track. Formats would change regularly.

Once stickers came along, Heavy Truck and truck plates started using similar color cycles, which makes plates slightly less complicated. Monthly stickers were added in the mid-1960s.

In 1974, a seris of plates were issued. This alone wouldn't be complicated, but the 1974 series of truck plates was very complex. The plates started out with the crude dies that the last series left off on. The double letter plates existed for Heavy Truck plates. Lighter Heavy Truck plates were reflective, while heavier Heavy Truck plates weren't reflective. In 1976, the expiration date changed, and 1976 stickers weren't issued. In 1978, weight codes shifted, and A truck plates became common, while D truck plates were now Heavy Truck plates. The codes were wrong, so 1979 stickers had 3 different colors depending on what the weight of the truck was. In 1980, stickers had the weight number on them. Meanwhile, insert plates were completely changed; Special-UX and Z plates gained weight codes, weight classes shifted a lot, eliminating the XA-XF series and V series, all plates now had double-letters on them, the format of insert stickers changed twice. During this time, insert sticker colors were unique.

After 1980, truck plates were less complex. Lots of unnecessary types were dropped in 2004, so there isn't much to report on now. Right now, the only thing to look after is September insert stickers... they are hard to find.

The Great Migration of America's Dairyland

America's Dairyland has been the slogan of passenger license plates in Wisconsin since 1940. While there have been different variations as to whether the slogan was at the top or bottom, for the most part, it remained largely unchanged (the same can't be said for the dies; they changed regularly). But since 1988, I've noticed something interesting.

In 1987, graphic plates were issued. In the beginning, the America's Dairyland slogan was at the bottom of the plate, fairly in line with the bottom of the border.

Once black plates came along, the America's Dairyland slogan moved down slightly, where the regular letters would touch the bottom of the border and the bottom of the y would go below the border. Shortly after this, the slogan shifted up a little.

Up until recently, the slogan remained unchanged. However, once Avery sheeting returned, the slogan shifted up yet again, this time moving half an inch above the border.

These pictures show just how much America's Dairyland has moved. Oddly enough, America's Dairyland is moving at about a couple inches per year, thanks to tectonic plates.

88 base
00 base 1
00 base 2
00 base 3

My red series truck plates are all unique

I have some red series truck plates. All 5 stickered plates have something interesting about them (other than their weight codes).

I have a 1997 truck plate... but with the border cut off. What the reason was for cutting a border off of a license plate, I don't know, but it has poked me multiple times. Ouch.


I have a 1999 truck plate that is sticker mania... kind of a cool plate.


I also have a 2001 truck plate, red series, that has the stickers on the inside edge of the bolt holes. I guess Wisconsin didn't learn their lesson after the 88 series, which ended up having problems with the prefixes getting in the way of month stickers.


I also have a 2008 truck plate that has the exact same problem, that the person stuck the stickers in the middle.


4 plates that have such amazing serial similarities

I have a run of four regular Wisconsin license plates... 2 I got from a garage sale, one came from an auction, and one came from my school's psychologist's friend.

Their combinations are 581-LNW, 512-LVH, 313-TVS, and 733-VLS. If you look carefully (and look at them in a straight vertical line), it looks like:

Now here's what is amazing. The first two license plates both share the same first letter and first number, 5 and L. The 2nd and 3rd license plates share the same middle letters/numbers: 1 and V. The last two share the same last letters/numbers: 3 and S. That on its own is amazing, not only from different places but also in one run of plates spanning 4 years.These are all the lines I can make with the numbers:




October 7, 2019

Mystery plates from Wisconsin

There are a lot of plate types in Wisconsin... that's one reason why my color cycle page probably has the most lines of code in it (around 1,500 at the moment, and it still isn't even half done yet). Here are some types of plates that I'm not sure what they are used on, or when they were first issued.

Transfer Trailer

This type of plate... I don't know when it was first issued, as I have never spotted any on any roads. The DMV website (or DOT, I never can tell the difference between the DMV and DOT) says that they are used on houses in transit... but how often does that happen? Rarely. So, there is very little research to exist on these plates. Cody James Corbett is the only collector I know about that has covered Transfer Trailer plates at all. My best estimate to when it was first issued was 2010, but again, this is just a random guess.

Every. Collector. Plate. EVER.

Collector plates would follow the same formats as passenger plates, which makes them hard to date. Collector plates I estimate were first issued around 1980, hobbyist may have been issued since 1990. Historic Military Vehicle has been issued since 2010 for sure, and Antique plates came in 1957 (I think, Andrew Turnbull said something like that.).

Special-UX and Z

Even though I have a decent collection on these plates, it still isn't exactly known when Special-UX plates were introduced; the first year known is 1957. Special-Z plates haven't been confirmed before 1967.

PSC Permits

I'm guessing these were in addition to truck plates, but there really isn't any information on these plates, so I'm not sure. I also don't know what each of the letter codes would mean; each letter code got a different color most times like insert stickers, so there is way too many color cycles to track.

Abandoned Trailers in La Valle

In February, my family went to La Valle, Wisconsin, to get some pizza from a restaurant next to the 400 bike trail. While we were driving by the area to get there, I spotted some old abandoned trailers, and what appeared to be a green license plate on one of them.

When I was done eating my pizza, I asked my parents if I could go investigate the trailers, since they were right next to the pizza place. They let me go look, and I brought my tablet to take pictures.

When I got to the trailers, one of the trailers was painted over. The other was facing toward me, so I went up to the plate, which would have been issued early in the series of plates. Above the plate was a stack of Highway Use Tax stickers from New York; the only sticker that I could see was from 1976, but there was several stickers in that pile.

The other trailer was facing towards the road that we drove by. I went closer and found it: A 1983 Contractor semi trailer plate. It was in terrible condition; license plates from the 198s weren't exactly the most durable. The foreground paint was completely washed away, and there was off-white paint showing beneath the green paint. Mysteriously, the sticker appeared to be off-white on green, even though the sticker was suppoesd to be green on yellow. The sticker was half-gone from all the rain and debossed years.

The other trailers on the other side of the road were normal trailers. They had some orange semi plates from the late 1980s on them, so there is nothing to report there.

In case you were wondering, I was too busy to write an article on Friday, so I went and I wrote two articles.

September 30, 2019

Cranfest 2019

Cranfest 2019 was the first year that I got exclusively Wisconsin license plates. I ended up getting a lot of passenger plates (21, 23, 24, 25, 26, 28, 32, 33, 34, 45), some PSC permit plates (32, 38K1), some Heavy Truck plates with restricted use stickers (02, 04) a farm plate (35) and a mobile home plate (61).

This year was overcrowded. Like, it was such a dense crowd that I had to keep stopping every five seconds because my dad, who was hauling a wagon, was stuck in the crowd. I ended up making a beeline for the guy on Church Street, who only had 2 Illinois license plates. That was a mistake, because the person on the corner had a lot of Heavy Truck plates that I wanted. I then went to the guy by the food court, who had what he had last year. I picked up a lot of passenger plates that I didn't have, only because they were $10 each, even though they weren't in the worst condition. Some were decent (23, 25, 28) others were rough (21, 24) others were so rusty that I wouldn't accept them for my collection (16, 18). I also found a box of older decent condition plates. I found a 23 plate for $35 that was in only slightly better condition than the 23 plate I picked up. I also ended up finding a 32, 33, and 34 plate, for between $20 and $28 each. I also picked up a PSC permit plate (32) for $25, and a moblie home (61) plate for $25. I also found a first-issue farm plate from 1935, for $45. Now, this all totals to about $200. I only had $112 on me. So this guy told me the mobile home, farm, and PSC plate was $40 total, and threw in the rest of the passenger plates for $30, for a total of just $70. I quickly picked up the plates and ran off, happy with my huge haul of 11 license plates. I came back a while later, after finding no more plates, and picked up a PSC permit plate (38), and a passenger plate (23) for another $20. I went to my other plates, then realized I didn't pick up a 26 plate. So I grabbed a 26 plate, and he said instead of $18 it would be $5.

I went through the rest of Cranfest without plates, because after the two antique booths, there were nothing but craft booths, sweatshirt booths, and cheap knockoff toy booths, ALL WITH THE SAME FAKE LOL SURPRISES. Then I stumbled upon the one booth I skipped, which just happened to have a lot of modern plates I wanted. Each plate was $6.50, even though they were mixed types and ages; some plates were farm plates from 1980, others were passenger plates from 2003.

September 27, 2019


I first went to Cranfest on September 24, 2015. Since Cranfest starts today, I thought I would write an article on my Cranfest adventures of the last 5 years.

My first Cranfest adventure started from my parents wanting to go to Cranfest. Me being me, I didn't want to go, because I had no idea what I would find. I thought it would just be a bunch of useless crafts and vintage decoration items. I ended up finding a lot of stuff. I found a whole vendor full of license plates. I thought license plates were hard to find, and that my collection would struggle to see its 10th license plate. Nowadays, if I go antique shopping, that's considered a decent shopping spree. Anyway, I ended up having no money on me, since this was never planned and was quite random with such short notice. My dad was nice enough to let me have a sticker mania disabled plate and a 2008 Michigan Great Lakes Splendor license plate. The guy that had the plates was nice enough to let me have some 1982 stickers and a 1990 truck plate. After that, we went to another vendor, who had a sticker mania farm license plate (I remember it being gray, with stickers from the 70s. Either it was a badly faded or it was a 1980's plate) and a dual purpose farm license plate. I ended up grabbing the dual purpose farm plate, since it was in better condition and the farm plate had a stand on it.

Cranfest 2016 was a better result, since I saved up $80 over the summer. I ended up getting a bunch of farm plates (61, 62, 64) and some passenger plates (62, 64, 79) in a bin of plates for $5 each or 5 for $20. The vendor didn't have those plates the next year. I also got a bunch of motorcycle plates (04 green, 06 black, 08) and truck plates (00,01)

Cranfest 2017 was even better. I ended up getting a lot of license plates that were unique, including the mystery Clinton County plate. I ended up getting a distributor plate, 2 dealer plates (91, 95), a farm plate (52), passenger plates (67), and motorcycle plates (98, 02).

Cranfest 2018 was yet another success, with me saving up $120 for Cranfest. I got over 30 license plates last year. I ended up grabbing motorcycle plates (00, 06, 08 green), passenger plates (29, 42,93(pair),98), a collector plate, a motor home pair (92), truck plates (86,98)and a dual purpose vehicle license plate. I got more out-of-state plates, but since then, my collection has concentrated on Wisconsin license plates, so I won't list them until I make pages on the plates. I know I did get some antique car plates from Arizona, Illinois, and Vermont, but I'm not working on those pages at the moment, since I've been working way too hard on my Wisconsin page.

I don't know what plates I will get this year. But, Cranfest is tomorrow, so I will report on what plates I brought home on Monday. I decided that I would update this page every Monday and Friday (I might report more if the occasion is specific enough, like if today was the day that I started collecting license plates, but in general, I will report on it when it comes time to report on my license plate collecting adventures.)

September 23, 2019

Wisconsin Insert Stickers

Wisconsin has issued quarterly tabs from 1941 to 1962, and stickers from 1963 to present. The thing is, Wisconsin used to use unique sticker colors, especially for June and September expirations. The thing is, though, June and September stickers haven't had much variation since 2017. Ironically, the yellow and white color palette had been picked since I started studying insert stickers in summer 2018.

Wisconsin has been using just white and yellow for June and September expirations since 2018. Unfortunately, they messed up with this predictable color palette, because they extended that color cycle to March, so if they would do the exact same color palette each year, then there would be no way to distinguish a March and September sticker. At the moment, it is impossible to identify what month a sticker is, since it is such a small text. When researching license plates on the road (don't worry, I wasn't driving), I can't tell the difference between a September 2019 and June 2020 sticker. If they use the white color scheme for BOTH March AND September 2020 stickers, there will be no way to discern between the two.

Now, the question is, what are they going to do about that?
A while ago, over the summer, I spotted a tractor plate with a white on blue sticker on it. I thought it was the weight class sticker, but I didn't see any expiration date. Was that a September 2020 sticker?
The other day, I spotted a black on pink sticker on a farm truck on a front plate. I thought it was an apportioned license plate because I got a glance at it while driving by Kwik Trip. Is that a December 2020 sticker? And why would it be registered so early? I would have to think that it would be an October sticker, since December stickers shouldn't exist yet. If it did happen to be a September sticker, then Wisconsin would be forced to not use the sticker palette for passenger vehicles for December stickers, something that hasn't happened since 1997 (or 1998, I don't know which since 1997 stickers are practically nonexistent)
I also have spotted numerous green stickers on apportioned license plates. I usually only see June insert stickers on apportioned plates, however, other websites seem to make it look like July and August stickers are super common. I guess everyone in my area of Wisconsin registers apportioned vehicles in June. Is it possible that one of the green stickers was a September sticker?

I guess I'm gonna find out sooner or later the sticker colors, since Cranfest comes up this weekend and Cranfest is always on the last weekend of September. Those September 2019 stickers are going to have to be September 2020 stickers by early next week; otherwise, they are expired plates, which would be great for my expired plates on vehicles commentary I'm gonna make sometime in the future, maybe at the end of the month?

September 20, 2019

Speed plating

This is a new thing to my website, where I post a commentary on license plates, whether it would be a score of license plates, a rant about current license plates, or talk about interesting license plates. There will be a new post to this section every Thursday.

Yesterday, we went to a concert in La Crosse, Wisconsin. I woke up around 10AM, only because the concert was on a Thursday, and I couldn't go to school since the concert required us to leave the house at 2:00 PM and get our stuff ready by 1:00. Anyway, we left around 2:00, and arrived at La Crosse at 3:00. We went to Polito's pizza, which just happened to be next to an antique shop. I ate my pizza, then begged my parents to let me go on a quick look at the antique shop. They let me go for 5 minutes.

I went into the antique shop, then realized that it was huge. I had no idea that I had been to this antique shop before. Maybe one day I will add pictures of the plates that I believe I got there. But, the antique shop had 3 floors, which was a lot more than I expected. I found a bunch of plates in the back of the shop, and there were a couple of pairs of 1972 Wisconsin license plates, a pair of 2001 license plates (which happened to be a sticker mania-ish license plate, but it was a double and it was $10, so I left it behind) and a pair of 1988 Wisconsin license plates. Now, I have been looking forever for 1988 license plates. I left some behind at another antique shop in La Crosse in 2015, so I really was looking for 1988 Wisconsin License plates. Then I found that pair. I quickly scooped them up, and brought them along with me while I sped-walked the entire shop. I went upstairs and found some truck plates for $4, both of which were plates I needed for my collection, a 2011 and 12 truck plate. There also were a bunch of mixed-state plates downstairs, but I was only looking for Wisconsin license plates. I went through the entire shop before my parents came looking for me, which happened to be about a minute after they came.

I did bring home the plates, only because I got lucky and my mom brought my money from mowing lawns all summer. I dropped $12 on them. I went to the concert afterwards, waiting 45 minutes for the VIP thing to start. I enjoyed the concert, the guys who were touring were joking around the entire VIP session and joked around between songs.

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Created December 4, 2022. Updated December 7, 2022.