The gold plate was issued from 1956 to 1962.

There’s something nostalgic about California’s license plates from the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s. Now, you may be able to have them again or for the first time.

The DMV this year started taking $50 pre-orders for what it’s calling legacy license plates. That’s the yellow one with black lettering issued from 1956 to 1962, the black with yellow lettering handed out from 1963 to 1969 and the blue with yellow lettering distributed from 1969 to 1986.

The DMV won’t start making any of the old-fashioned plates until it’s received 7,500 pre-orders for one of the plates by Jan. 1, 2015. So, for example, if the DMV gets 7,500 pre-orders for the yellow plate but less than that for the black or blue plates, it’ll only start making the yellow plates. It’ll produce the other two plates only once they individually reach 7,500 pre-orders.

If not enough pre-orders have been received by 2015 for the plate you want, then the DMV will refund your money.

But DMV officials are fairly confident they’ll get enough orders. DMV spokeswoman Jessica Gonzalez said the DMV officially started taking applications Jan. 1 but a “soft launch” of the program before that resulted in 105 pre-orders.

The vintage plates are returning because Assemblyman Mike Gatto, D-Los Angeles, pushed AB1658 through the Legislature to create the program.

The black plate was issued from 1963 to 1969.

“California government doesn’t do much for the thousands of car enthusiasts up and down the state,” Gatto said in a statement in September after Gov. Jerry Brown signed his bill. “AB 1658 will enable the backyard auto restorer, the nostalgic or the owner of a brand-new retro-styled automobile to choose a license plate that best matches the look of their car while making a little money for the state too.”

Besides recreating the plates, Gatto’s bill requires that any money left over after the DMV covers its program costs be put into other DMV programs that have suffered budget cuts.

“This is an easy way for the state to make life a little more enjoyable for those of us who appreciate the classic era of automobile design,” Gatto said.

The plates won’t be exactly like the old ones because, for example, state law now requires that new plates be reflectorized. Yearly renewals will cost you $40 on top of the regular fees. You can personalize these plates, with two to seven characters.

As soon as a plate hits the 7,500-order mark, the state will start getting the legacy program going. But DMV officials say it’ll take nine to 12 months before they actually start making plates.

If you order a personalized legacy plate and someone else orders the same personalization for the state’s regular license plates, you’ll lose out and your $50 will be refunded unless you check the application box that says you’ll take a sequential number plate in case your personalized plate is taken.

The blue plate was issued from 1969 to 1986.

You can find the pre-order form  by CLICKING HERE. You have to print it out and mail it in with your check, money order or cashier’s check. No online ordering and no credit cards.

For more information about old California license plates, CLICK HERE to check out plates dating back to 1914 and CLICK HERE to read DMV data about individual plates and years.


Follow the Road Warrior on Twitter via @PDRoadWarrior


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  1. Richard Wilson

    Nice article. But the ending date for the blue plates is not exactly correct. DMV may have stopped using the blue plates for standard issue after 1986, but you could still get personalized plates on blue until at least 1991, when I got a set for my new Subaru.

    January 6th, 2013 6:58 pm


    Forget the license plates, Now we have to deal with these new $150 Star something smog checks that no one does around here! please explane this!??

    January 6th, 2013 8:12 pm

  3. Jodella

    “If not enough pre-orders have been received by 2015 for the plate you want, then the DMV will refund your money.”
    And loaning the DMV money possibly interest-free is a good idea because….

    January 6th, 2013 9:19 pm

  4. ak

    @mc rider….. Star certified Amiga are about $80.00 and there are local smog shops that are certified… Check out the BAR website for a listing.

    January 7th, 2013 6:11 am

  5. ak

    *star certified program

    January 7th, 2013 6:12 am

  6. rasputin

    this is so lame. Only classic cars were to have these plates. Now some stupid modern cars will have them and devalue the true old ones that are on all my classic cars. Welcome to america where everything is for sale, including you.

    Next they will want to get the old classic cars off the roads with new smog laws. I know how about all cars are illigal to turn on, must save the planet.

    This politican who said that congress does nothing for the car enthusiasts owner….well this is not something for them, this is for modern car owners who want to look retro and hip and its pathetic

    January 7th, 2013 8:21 am

  7. Joe

    Silly program for wannabees. Hilarious !!

    January 7th, 2013 10:16 am

  8. Rex Faktor

    BTW, I do STAR smog checks. Without the crazy price. With nothing extra for EVAP tests. Watch out for the price gougers that are sure to try to take advantage…

    January 7th, 2013 4:23 pm

  9. Danny Cruz

    Does anybody know if the $40 renewal of the legacy plates also includes personalization? Seems that the $40 renewal fee applies to sequential plates too.

    So, for the personalized ones… Does the $40 cover it, or is the usual $35 to renew a personalized plate tacked on top of the $40?

    December 24th, 2013 11:59 am

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