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California’s license plates are made by the thousands each year at Folsom State Prison.

And the inmates make all kinds, considering that, as of a year ago, there were 31,916,865 registered vehicles in the state.

There’s the basic plate for cars, which now starts with the number 6 followed by three letters and three numbers. DMV spokeswoman Jan Mendoza says the state issued six-digit plates from the 1950s or so through the late 1970s until it ran out of combinations and started putting a number at the beginning. The first permanent license plate was issued in 1914 by the state.

There are plates for pickups, panel vans and other “commercial” vehicles that start with a number, then a letter and five numbers. But there are so many of those vehicles that the DMV recently ran out of that license configuration and now is issuing the reverse configuration: Five numbers, a letter and a number.

The “special interest” plates, of which 852,037 are active:

A sample personalized plate

–Personalized basic plates, which the DMV checks forward and backward for offensive or inappropriate meanings. These cost extra and the money — $629,844,229 from 1990 to June 2010 — is used on environmental issues by the state resources agency.

Arts plate sample

–Arts, which supports the state Arts Council.

You've got to be a firefighter -- or retired -- to get one of these.

–Firefighter, which only current or retired firefighters are eligible for. About 22,000 have been issued.

A sample for the California Memorial plate.

–California Memorial, started after the 9/11 attacks and the money goes to the Anti-terrorism Fund and the California Memorial Scholarship Fund.

Coastal plate with the whale tale

–Coastal, with a whale tale on the plate: The money goes to the state Coastal Commission for maintaining beaches and for education programs.

Collegiate plate

–Collegiate. Currently only a plate for UCLA is available. Just why only UCLA the DMV couldn’t really answer.

A kids plate sample

–Kids plate, which supports the Child Health and Safety Fund for child-care licensing and safety.

Lake Tahoe plate

–Lake Tahoe, with the money goes to preservation and restoration projects in the Tahoe area.

Olympic sample

–Olympic, with the money going to the California Olympic Training Center Fund.

–Prisoner of war. This one’s free but you have to prove you were a POW.

A veterans sample

–Veterans. The money benefits county veterans service offices.

The Yosemite plate

–Yosemite, with the money going to Yosemite National Park restoration projects.

Most states issue more than 100 special interest plates, but Mendoza says most states don’t have as stringent requirements as California where at least 7,500 applications must be received for a special interest plate before it’s issued.

As a result, some proposed plates were scraped, including ones regarding Ronald Reagan, breast cancer, Rotary, Girl Scouts, San Francisco Bay Conservancy, emergency medical services and Sierra Nevada Conservancy. Others were issued for a while before being discontinued, although the plates remain valid, including the Los Angeles Olympic Games for 1984; bicentennial of the Bill of Rights, issued in 1990 and 1991; and citizens band radio operators, which stopped being issued in 1983.

Three new plates have been proposed but haven’t been issued pending achieving the 7,500-application mark: Agriculture, Snoopy and veterinary.

Then there are the “special” plates:

Amateur radio plates include the owner's call letters

–Amateur radio

–Antique motorcycles, for those made in 1942 or before.

–Medal of Honor recipients, also free.

Gold Star Family plate

–Gold Star Family, also free, for family members of an active-duty service member killed in the line of duty.

–Historical vehicle, for those made after 1922 and at least 25 years old and of historic interest. Driving limited to exhibitions, parades and such.

–Horseless carraige, for those made in 1922 or before or made with 16 or more cylinders before 1965. Driving also limited to exhibitions, parades and such.

In this sample Legion of Honor plate, the Distinguished Service Cross is shown.

–Legion of Honor, also free, for those who have been awarded the Army, Navy or Air Force medal of honor, Army Distinguished Service Cross, Navy Cross or Air Force Cross.

–Pearl Harbor survivor, also free

A sample press photographer plate

–Press photographer

–Purple Heart medal recipients, free.

And then there are even more plates, including if you’re a member of Congress or the Legislature, you’re disabled or you’re an official at a foreign consulate in California and for trailers and park trailers.

If you’re interested in one of these plates, more information is available at the DMV by clicking here.

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