Evolution of the number plate

The number plate has been around almost as long as the car itself. The Netherlands were the first country to introduce the number plate and initially called a ‘driving permit’. The first number plate also started from the number 1. The earliest plates where either made out of Porcelain which was baked onto an iron surface or just ceramic without any backing. These early designs proved to be extremely fragile and very implacable. As technology advanced more and more materials where used to experiment with to achieve a more robust plate. Some of the materials that have been used are cardboard, leather, plastic and copper as well as pressed soybeans.

The early number plates all consisted of various dimensions from one place to another as no set standard had been set. This obviously would cause problems when people moved from one state to another. The standardization came in 1957 when major manufacturers came to an agreement with governments and international standard agencies.

There is still an element of variations in existence but there are three basic designs that are current today:

• 12 by 6 Inches – used by most of America
• 20.5 by 4.5 Inches – used by the majority of the European countries
• 14.5 by 5.3 Inches – used in Australia

Today’s number plates are usually made of metal (mainly in America) or Plastic (like those of the UK) and are attached to the vehicle or trailer for identification purposes. The plates today are a combination of numbers and letters that are unique to that vehicle.

Depending on where you are the number plates vary by description, they might be referred to as ‘licence plate’, ‘number late’, ‘registration plate’, ‘vehicle tag’ or just as a ‘tag’.

Most governments legally require registration plates to be attached to the front and the rear of the vehicle. However some vehicles like motorcycles only require one plate which is normally situated on the rear of the vehicle. Information about the vehicle can be obtained from the national databases which relate the number plate to a description of the vehicle which include things like colour, model, year of manufacture, engine size, type of fuel used and mileage (which is noted during car services) and the VIN number as well as the name and address of the registered owner or keeper.

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