Iowa

Iowa License Plates

In 1904, Iowa enacted laws to register all motor vehicles within the state.  From 1904 through the middle of 1911, Iowa motor vehicle owners were responsible for providing their own license plates.  These early Iowa license plates were made of leather with aluminum characters attached.  The state of Iowa first manufactured and issued steel license plates from the middle of 1911.  The early Iowa license plates were approximately fourteen inches wide and six inches high.  All issues were embossed/stamped with the year and abbreviation IA, except for the 1916 through 1918 issues which had no year embossing/stamping.  The omission of the year was done in order to save metal for World War I.

The first slogan used on Iowa license plates was THE CORN STATE issued in 1953.   Iowa was a very pragmatic state like Connecticut which had no images on its license plates until 1997.  The simplicity and clarity of license plates from Iowa make them very popular with present day car collectors and auto enthusiasts.  The 1949 Iowa license plate was manufactured with a waffle to add strength.   An experiment in 1979 led to two distinctly different  license plates in Iowa.   Half of the Iowa counties were issued retro-reflective de-bossed license plates and the other half embossed/stamped license plates with the raised characters reflectorized.

Iowa has 197 counties and county numbers first appeared on license plates beginning in 1922 and ended in 1975.  Vertical county numbers were introduced in 1958 and ended in 1975.  From 1976, Iowa embossed/stamped the county name on bottom of its license plates issues.   Iowa did not make any commemorative license plates like the Bicentennial or Statehood anniversary issues like Michigan or Indiana.


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Caroline Alder

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