Motorcycle License Plates, 1957-

Motorcycle plates were issued annually from 1916 through 1964. From 1916 through 1938 they came in pairs, and were issued singly thereafter.


From 1954 through 1968, all types of motorcycle plates used a two-letter prefix, with the letters stacked one above the other. Throughout this period, motorcycle EXEMPT license plates (police motorcycles) were of identical design, but used an "ME" prefix.

1957 - All Washington motorcycle license plates (and most other plates) from 1954 through 1957 were manufactured by the Irwin-Hodson Metals Manufacturing Company of Portland, Oregon. This 1957 plate is made in the same style (dimensions, format, dies) and colors used for 1955 and 1956. 1954 motorcycle plates were slightly larger and used different dies. Size: 7" x 3.5"
1958 - The Washington State Penitentiary plate factory in Walla Walla reopened in 1957 (following its destruction in an October 1953 fire), and is the location where 1958 and later plates were produced. For 1958 through 1962, all regular motorcycle license plates carried the "MO" prefix followed by one to four digits (no leading zeroes). Colors were white-on-green for all five years (dated annual issues). Size for 1958-1968 motorcycle plates is quite small: 6" x 3.5"
1963 - Motorcycle plates were issued in the same color combination as the other types of '63 plates, except these were an annual issue whereas most other '63 bases were multiyear plates. Initially these carried the "MO" prefix, but the 10,000 plates in that series were exhausted. Other verified prefixes: MC.
1964 - The final year for dated, annual-issue motorcycle plates. Verified prefixes: MO, MB, MC.


Motorcycle plates of this era were small, lightweight, and made of soft aluminum that was very susceptible to vibration cracks. As a result, they did not hold up well and most were not used past the mid-1970s. Almost all of those remaining in use were replaced in 1985.

Stickers issued for use on these bases (1965 through 1968) measured 1" wide by 3/4" high.

1965 - The first multi-year motorcycle license plate, bearing the legend "WASH." These base plates had serial numbers that did use leading zeroes. Notice that the 1965 stickers did not have their own serial numbers. Starting late in 1965 or sometime during 1966 the abbreviation was shortened to "WN." to make more room for stickers and to comply with the then-new state law forbidding the use of the "WASH" abbreviation on license plates.
1966 - Example from 1966 showing the use of "WN." rather than "WASH." and also displaying a 66 sticker (in 1966 and all years thereafter, motorcycle stickers bore their own serial numbers).
1967 - A nicer example of the "WN." base with a 1967 sticker. Many of these non-reflective plates were also issued during 1968 with a black-on-red "68" sticker. Numerous different prefixes were used (all with "M" as the first letter), but were not issued in any logical order. This particular plate was issued in Grant county, and you can click here to view the original registration certificate.


A new base appeared during 1968 that was debossed and fully reflective. Serials began at MA-000, and progressed to AA-000 after MZ-999 was reached in 1969. When this base and numbering format were abandoned in 1976, serials had nearly reached the KZ series (the IA-IZ series was skipped). At least three variations of this base are known to exist. The most common type is that shown below representing 1970. The next most common is identical to the 1970, except the hyphen is omitted. This is verified in the MA-MZ series, and on plates from approximately BK through CE. Sample motorcycle plates exist both with and without the dash (numbers ZZ-999 and ZZ 999). The third and rarest type is that which has a debossed, unpainted sticker well following the state name (similar to the format of 1968-1975 motorcycle dealer plates). This style is verified in the FV series (ca. 1973). All varieties of 1968 motorcycle license plates were valid for use through the end of 2000, although most had worn out and been replaced at their owners' option by the early 1990s.

Stickers issued for use on this base (1968 through 1975) measured 1" wide by 3/4" high. Starting in 1976, stickers were 1.5" wide by 1" high. The 1970 sample sticker below used red for the "SAMPLE" lettering. Actual 1970 stickers, however, all had black serial numbers, as can be seen on the 1970 motorcycle plate in the photo. Also, the 1971 stickers faded quite badly when exposed to sunlight (most were completely illegible by the end of 1971, as were the '71 truck and prorate stickers; the red and orange dyes used for that year entirely disappeared from exposure to ultraviolet light).








During 1976, a new motorcycle baseplate began to appear that was embossed, green-on-white, and fully reflective. These bases were all-numeric and started at number 000001, first issued around Spring 1976 (with a 76 sticker). Staggered registrations were implemented at the expiration of 1976 plates in January 1977. Month/year assignments were determined on the same basis as all other plate types (last two digits of the plate), and combined motorcycle month/year stickers exist for all months from July 1977 through December 1981. Separate month stickers were introduced for motorcycles in 1982, and regular passenger stickers were issued thereafter. This baseplate continued to be used until the end of 2000.


1978 - July

1979 - May

1980 - August

1981 - May

Click here for monthly motorcycle stickers, July 1977 through December 1981.





1985 - new dies


1987 - end of green/white series

All material © 2003 by Ian Slade.
Please do not reproduce any content without written consent of the owner.