Arizona License Plates

Arizona Territory cities issued motor vehicle license plates starting from about 1909.  Arizona became a state in the union in 1912 but the earliest license plate sample found was a 1914 white on blue issue. The first slogan on an Arizona license plate was issued in 1939: MARCOS DE NIZA. This license plate commemorated the arrival of the Franciscan monk Marcos De Niza in 1539 in his search for the legendary Seven Cities of Cibola. The GRAND CANYON STATE slogan was first embossed in 1940 on Arizona license plates and this continues today with a screen print of the slogan.

The first graphic to appear on Arizona license plates was an embossed steer head on left center and this was the first plate in the United States to feature livestock. In 1980, a cactus logo was embossed between letters and numbers on the Arizona license plate and these plates are still used today by collectors. The saguaro cactus symbol on a desert landscape with slogan GRAND CANYON STATE.

As a mining state, Arizona was fist to use copper to manufacture license plates beginning in 1932, although copper colored plates were used as far back as 1916. Pure copper license plates were also used in 1936, 1937 and 1938. In 1949, a waffled textured was embossed on Arizona’s aluminum license plates to make them stronger. Not many copper license plates from Arizona have survived in good condition and these are highly collectable.

Due to the dry desert climate in Arizona, old vehicles survived in good condition compared to the snow states where salt used on winter roads damaged car bodies or in sea coast states like Florida and Louisiana.  Arizona boasts a large number of car collectors because of many retirees from California and mid-western states who moved there. 


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Charles Tupper

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