Maryland sample license plate

Rick Kretschmer's License Plate Archives 

Maryland sample license plate

A Pictorial History of Maryland License Plates

Samples and Other State-Made Pseudo-License Plates

 

This page covers various types of plates manufactured in the Maryland license plate facility and/or distributed by the Maryland motor vehicle agency, but which are not actual license plates.  For the most part, these look like license plates, but were never intended to be used as such. 

Latest noteworthy updates to this page
  • August 15, 2013  –  Added a new section for state-made souvenir plates, with photos. 
  • July 16, 2013  –  New page, with the sample plate section moved from another page and enhanced, and the other sections brand new. 
    Added in the sample plate section photos of a 1957 passenger car sample, paper 1970 and 1971 passenger car samples, a paper 1976 passenger car sample without the MVA legend, a 1976 motorcycle dealer sample, a www.maryland.gov generic sample with no shield, a War of 1812 generic sample, a first-generation Treasure the Chesapeake error sample, and a Maryland Association of Realtors organizational sample.  Replaced paper 1976 passenger car sample with the MVA legend and paper 1976 Bicentennial sample with photos of those I've added to my collection.  Upgraded generic sample plate with a shield and no web site legend. 
    Added new sections for prototype and test plates, and for blank plates; each with new photos. 

Introduction

This page started out as just a page for Maryland sample plates.  Then I decided that it would makes sense to include protoype and test plates on it as well, since it's sometimes hard to tell the difference.  Blank plates make sense to include here as well. 

My "Pictorial History" pages are intended to be a supplement to the information found in the ALPCA Archives.  I am providing additional details and additional photos not found in the archives, and clarifying information when appropriate.  When the ALPCA archives cover a subject in great detail, I do not repeat that detail here.  I sincerely hope that you find this information useful.  If you find an error or have additional information, or can provide a plate or a photo of a plate that I'm missing, please send me an e-mail.  There's a link to my e-mail address at the bottom of every page. 

Mouse over any image to see a description of the plate.  Click on any image to see an enlarged version. 

Maryland sample plates

Like most states, the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration produces sample license plates to provide examples of what real plates look like.  Mostly these are used internally by the MVA and by law enforcement agencies.  However, in Maryland, some types of sample plates are given out to anyone who requests them, free of charge.  Obviously these are not valid plates for use on a vehicle. 

However, most MVA employees don't seem to know about sample plates.  When I've tried to get free sample plates, my e-mail and hard copy written requests for these were ignored, and I was told over the phone that the MVA did not give out sample plates, period.  I knew this information was incorrect, so I didn't give up.  The first time I went in person to the MVA headquarters in Glen Burnie, I was given the runaround by several well-meaning but clueless employees who knew nothing about sample plates, until I finally ended up at the Customer Relations office.  There, they knew all about sample plates and even had a whole filing cabinet full of them ready to give out to anyone who walked in.  However, during subsequent visits, more often than not, they have not had any sample plates in stock and I've left empty-handed. 

Despite my unsuccessful efforts to obtain sample plates from the MVA, others have reported success in their pursuit of Maryland sample plates, so give it a try if you're so inclined. 

The most common sample plates through about 1990 were made to represent passenger car plates, and had serial numbers in a passenger car format, but usually with the numeric digits all zeroes, and the serial letters, if any, all "A".  Since about 1990, the common, freely-issued sample plates have been made more generic, so that they don't just represent passenger car plates.  Since then, the serial characters on these plates have spelled the word SAMPLE.  Motorcycle sample plates were made in a regular motorcycle serial format containing zeroes in the numeric positions until about 2000; now these are also made with the serial SAMPLE. 

In the past at least, samples were also made for various non-passenger plate types, and today they are made for various organizational plate types.  However, these were and are made in very small quantities, are not given out to the general public by the MVA, and are not normally used by law enforcement, and so they're nearly impossible to obtain.  These samples typically have the serial formats, legends, and graphics appropriate for the plate type, but with all numeric serial digits zeroes. 

Maryland sample plates through 1953

1947 sample
1947 passenger sample (amateur repaint; YOM plate in actual use)

Sample plates from the 1910s with all zero serial numbers differed from real plates and were probably prototypes or samples used by salesmen trying to win a contract from the state to manufacture license plates. 

Sample passenger plates in styles actually issued have been observed as early as 1923.  The serial number was always 00-000 through 1953.  Likely non-passenger samples were also created, but I've never actually seen any. 

Maryland sample plates 1954-1970

1957 passenger sample paper 1970 passenger sample
1957 passenger car sample (plate collector unknown), paper 1970 passenger car sample

Sample passenger plates are known on 1954-1964 plates with the serial AA-00-00, and occasionally also AB-00-00.  On the 1965-1969 plates, sample passenger plates are known only with the serial AA-0000, and on the 1970 plates, only AA 0000.  Metal samples exist for all of these years; paper samples were made for at least the 1970 plate. 

Maryland sample plates 1971-1975

paper 1971 passenger sample
Paper 1971 passenger car sample

Sample passenger plates on the 1971 base are known only with the serial AA 0000.  Both metal and paper samples exist; metal plates may be stamped with either the 1957-1974 serial dies or the 1974-present serial dies. 

Maryland sample plates 1976-1987
Sample passenger plates

1976 passenger sample 1979 bicentennial passenger sample 1981 passenger sample
Metal sample plates:  1976 standard passenger car sample (Sells photo / plate), 1979 Bicentennial passenger car sample (Sells photo / plate), 1981 standard passenger car sample

paper 1976 passenger sample paper 1976 passenger sample paper 1976 bicentennial passenger sample
Paper sample plates:  1976 standard passenger car samples without and with MVA legend, 1976 Bicentennial passenger car sample

Sample passenger plates on the standard red-on-white and black-on-white metal bases have serial AAA 000.  Sample passenger plates on the optional-issue Bicentennial and 350th Anniversary bases have serials 000 AAA and 000*AAA, respectively. 

Paper versions of the red-on-white, black-on-white, and Bicentennial passenger plates were also produced.  The paper red-on-white plate was made with both serials AAA 000 and AAA 101.  Only serial AAA 000 is known on the black-on-white paper sample, and only 000 AAA is known on the Bicentennial paper sample. 

Generic sample plates

A generic sample plate with the serial SAMPLE was produced on at least the red-on-white 1976 base. 

Sample non-passenger plates

1976 motorcycle dealer sample
1976 motorcycle dealer sample (Harbold plate)

Maryland sample plates 1987-present
Sample passenger plates

current standard base sample type 1
Standard base passenger sample in format issued 1986-2004 (O'Connor photo / plate)

When the current, reflective black-on-white standard base came out in 1986, sample plates were initially made with serials NAA*000 and NAA*001, with the asterisk indicating the location of the shield.  Both metal and paper versions are known to exist. 

Why the "NAA" prefix, and not "AAA" or "ABC" or "SAM"?  Because real passenger car plates on this base were first issued beginning in the N series, to not conflict with the serial numbers of the previous base that were still on the road.  Apparently NAA*001 was not actually issued as a real plate, but other low-numbered NAA-series plates are known to have been issued and used. 

Generic sample plates

1986 base generic sample version 1 1986 base generic sample version 2 current standard base sample type 5 current standard base sample type 6 War of 1812 generic sample
Standard base generic sample plates (www.maryland.gov plate with shield – on display at the Maryland MVA main office; www.maryland.gov plate without shield – Childs plate)

Chesapeake generation 1 sample version 1 Chesapeake generation 1 sample version 1 error Chesapeake generation 1 sample version 2 Our Farms sample Chesapeake generation 2 sample
Special interest generic sample plates

In recent years, Maryland has only distributed generic sample plates with the serials SAM*PLE or SAMPLE.  So now, the use of all letters on the sample plate doesn't necessarily indicate where letters would go versus numbers on real plates.  That way, the sample plates "work" for the various passenger car serial formats, vanity plates, truck plates, taxi plates, etc., etc. 

One interesting generic sample variation is the first-generation Treasure the Chesapeake plate with the bird graphic in the center of the plate, where the serial letter M was stamped using an upside-down W die, shown above.  This would probably be considered an error plate more than a legitimate sample plate. 

Sample motorcycle plates

1986 base regualr motorcycle sample type 3 current motorcycle sample type 4
Regular motorcycle and generic motorcycle sample plates

Samples of standard-issue motorcycle plates were originally made with serials 00000D, 0000D0, and 000D00, as the real plates progressed through these formats.  Subsequently, generic sample motorcycle plates are being issued with serial SAMPLE.  Similar to the full-sized generic sample plates, the generic motorcycle sample doesn't show where letters versus numbers go, and so can be used as a sample for standard-issue motorcycle plates regardless of the serial format used, and also as a sample of a vanity motorcycle plate. 

Sample organizational plates

Association of Realtors sample
Maryland Association of Realtors sample plate

I've been told that for each of the 700+ types of organizational plate types, the MVA makes only two sample plates, with all of the numeric digits zeroes.  The MVA keeps one for internal use, and gives the other to the person in that organization who coordinates the promotion and distribution of the organizational plates to its members.  This enables the coordinator to use an image of the sample plate in promotional materials.  Only a small number of these organizational sample plates have found their way into the hands of plate collectors. 

Maryland prototype and test plates

1988 Maryland fleet trailer prototype
1988 fleet trailer prototype plate (Childs plate)

Like all states, Maryland at times makes prototypes of proposed designs, and also makes plates to test the manufacturing process and the materials used in making the plate, for such purposes as to actually see what the finished product will look like, and to conduct durability and visibility tests.  Not many of these see the light of day outside of the MVA.  Shown above is prototype of a fleet trailer plate design that was never put into production. 

Maryland blank plates

1986 shield base blank

A blank plate is one that, for whatever reason, does not have any plate number stamped or printed on it.  This one was obviously pulled from the production line due to the wrinkles in the vinyl sheeting used for the background of the plate. 

Maryland state-made souvenir plates

1988 C.A.R.E. souvenir plate 1988 Intl. Assn. of Chiefs of Police souvenir plate 2008 Maryland Roads 100th Anniversary souvenir plate
1988 C.A.R.E. national conference souvenir plate (Sallmen photo / plate), 1988 International Assoication of Chiefs of Police regional conference souvenir plate (Sallmen photo / plate), 2008 Maryland Roads 100th Anniversary souvenir plate (Childs plate)

On occasion, the state of Maryland produces souvenir plates to commemorate state-related anniversaries or to distribute to participants of state-sponsored events or to visiting dignataries.  These differ from ordinary booster plates in that they are made on state-owned license plate manufacturing lines, they use some of the same materials used for real license plates, they're not made available to the general public, and they're not intended to be used on vehicles, since Maryland requires actual license plates on the front of nearly all vehicles.  Shown above are a few such souvenir plates.  There are certainly others. 

Related links

Page credits

Thanks to those who have directly contributed to the information on this page:  "Tiger" Joe Sallmen and Jim Childs. 

O'Connor photograph © copyright by Tim O'Connor.  All rights reserved.  Used with permission. 
Sells and Sallmen photographs are presumed to be copyrighted by Mike Sells and "Tiger" Joe Sallmen, respectively, and are used with permission.  Harbold and Childs plates are from the collections of Harold Harbold and Jim Childs, respectively. 


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