|Illinois 1969 passenger issue. Illinois has used the "Land of Lincoln" slogan continuously from 1954 through present. Plates of this era carried either an all-numeric format, or flowed over into an AB-1234 format. Plates from this time period through 1978 were produced by the Polyvend Corporation in Arkansas, who used these dies on many other plates over the years. Illinois plates of the '60s and '70s are also notoriously thin and flimsy, as you could literally roll one up like a straw if you wanted to. Since plates were replaced yearly, they had no need to make sturdier plates, although it does sometimes make finding a decent surviving example difficult today.
|Illinois 1969 passenger issue. Same series as above, this is one of the AB 1234 format plates that followed the all-numeric issues. Note the difference in size between the letters and numbers in this die set. These dies are slightly wider than the ones used on the all-numeric plates as well, check the differences in the "7" and "9" characters between this plate and the one above.
|Illinois 1970 passenger issue. The state alternated the location of the slogan and the state name/year on plates of this era, with the state name on top in odd years and the slogan on top in even years. This plate is of the AB-1234 format, with the larger letters.
|Illinois 1971 passenger issue. This issue again has the state name/year on top (odd year) and is in an all numeric format. Still wafer-thin at this point.
|Illinois 1972 passenger issue. Even year, "Land of Lincoln" on top. Another all-numeric issue.
|Illinois 1973 passenger issue. This plate was in the AB-1234 format with the large letters. No leading zeroes were used for serial numbers less than 1000 in any series, such as this.
|Illinois 1973 passenger issue. Another 1973 issue, some later-period 1973 plates were manufactured with a slight die variation on the state name and year. These plates feature a slightly thinner typeface for these elements. The difference in the dies is most notable the "7" die in the "73".
|Illinois 1974 passenger issue. Standard even-year format, with red on white color scheme. All-numeric.
|Illinois 1975 passenger issue. Nothing special about this issue, another AB-1234 format plate in odd-year configuration.
|Illinois 1976 passenger issue. This was the first graphic issue plate for Illinois, and probably still the most elaborate among general issues for the state. It was one of many states' plates to celebrate the Bicentennial of the U.S. in 1976. This plate was issued in the same formats as earlier plates, but the AB-1234 format plates featured smaller dies for the letters, so all characters were the same size. This appears to be because the larger letters would have interfered with the graphics on the plate. Although different in most other regards to the Illinois issues of the time, this plate is still made of very thin metal.
|Illinois 1977 passenger issue. Back to the standard format for 1977, although the outside border was missing from the plate this year, and the smaller letter dies were retained from the 1976 issue.
|Illinois 1978 passenger issue. This plate returned to the outside border and larger alpha characters of earlier plates. This was also the last yearly issue for Illinois, placing the state behind only Missouri (1979) and Indiana (1981) as one of the last to go to a multi-year plate system. It was also the last of the extra-thin Illinois plates.
|Illinois 1979 passenger issue. In 1979, these new baseplates were introduced. Although dated, this baseplate required stickers from the first year, due to staggered registration. These were issued in all-numeric, AB-1234 and later ABC-123 formats. These plates were issued through 1983 and were in use with stickers through 1987. Starting with this baseplate, Illinois plates were produced in Texas using standard Texas dies. They were also made of much sturdier aluminum, designed to last for more than a single year.
|Illinois 1979 passenger issue. Continuation of the 1979 base above, this plate features the two-letter prefix format that was started after plate number 999 999 was reached.
| Illinois 1982/83 passenger issue. Same series as above. When Texas began making Illinois' plates, several of the earlier issue all-numeric plates were produced with no space in the serial. On 1978 and earlier issues, this number would have read
|Illinois 1982 passenger issue. Near the middle of the 1979-base plate's run, the screened "79" was removed from the top right corner. In this case, it's covered by a sticker on this plate, so you'll have to take my word for it. Plates also started appearing with thinner dies for the serial, such as this one, although still manufactured in Texas. The reflective material on these plates seems to be somewhat brighter than some of the previous issues as well.
|Illinois 1983 passenger issue. Another issue with the "79" removed from the top right sticker well. At the end of this plate series, the number of available numeric and two-alpha combinations ran out. As a result, plates were issued in an ABC-123 format, using combinations near the end of the alphabet (X-Z) to avoid conflicting with the upcoming 1983 baseplate, which was being manufactured in the same format, starting at AAA.
|Illinois 1984 passenger issue. In 1983, new plates were again issued on a new base with the state name and slogan upon a series of stripes at the top of the plate. This base was issued through July, 2001, exhausting several numbering formats in the process. Initial plates were issued in the ABC-123 format, starting at the beginning of the alphabet. Earlier plates in this series had sticker boxes marked "83/85 Sticker" and "84/86 Sticker" at the bottom, suggesting that the plate was intended to be used for only four years.
|Illinois 1986 passenger issue. While new registrants in 1983 through 1985 received these new baseplates in an ABC-123 format, motorists with existing 1979-base plates continued to have them revalidated through the end of 1985. Upon the expiration of these plates, a good number of motorists opted to keep their previous plate number, so plates using the "old standby" all-numeric and double-alpha prefix formats started appearing on the new base in 1985.
|Illinois 1987 passenger issue. Another plate number that was likely carried over from the 1979 base, in the AB-1234 format. Starting with 1987 stickers, the sticker was made twice as wide to cover the entire bottom sticker well of the plate.
|Illinois 1987 passenger issue. New registrants continued to receive plates in an ABC-123 format during this period. This plate, from the 'X' series, was more likely a reissue of a late-alphabet combination used on a late 1979-base plate. Through reissues or new registrations, the entire series from A to Z does seem to have been issued between 1983 and 1995. This plate uses a variation to the baseplate, featuring a slightly larger font for the state name.
|Illinois 1997 passenger issue. After ZZZ-999 was passed around 1995, Illinois switched to this A 12 345 format, which held them for a little while.
|Illinois 1997 passenger issue. The last format of plates on this base were issued in an A 123 456 format with these smaller dies in use to facilitate the longer serial. Not all prefix letters were used, as some combinations would have conflicted with non-passenger types. All 1984-2000 plates on this base were replaced starting in 2001.
|Illinois 2002 passenger issue. This is a late-period issue on the 1983-2001 baseplate. During the last few weeks of issuance of this base, plates from Y62 5000 on were spaced in this Y12 3456 format, rather than with the previous Y 123 456 spacing. This change was due to a switch to a new computerized production system that couldn't handle the half-spaces used to separate the digits in the old format. This change also affects the new Abraham Lincoln baseplates, which are all-numeric and spaced in a 123 4567 format. This variation ran until the 1983 base was exhausted, at approximately the early Y65 4xxx series at the end of July, 2001. The "Z" series was produced on this base as well, although none were issued.
|Illinois 2002 passenger issue. This is the new Illinois baseplate, which made its first appearance in mid-July, 2001 for motorists with August, 2002 expirations. The new graphic was selected in part by voters over the state's web site from an array of several finalists. The design features a graphic of Abraham Lincoln in the background and a blue band at the bottom, containing the familiar "Land of Lincoln" slogan. These plates should have replaced all previous 1984-2001 plates on the road by the end of July, 2002, although production delays resulted in some stragglers on the old base. The serial format for regular plates in this series is all-numeric, in a seven-digit 123 4567 format. Initial issuance of this plate only ended up breaking the 400 0000 mark, largely due to the number of registrants who opted to keep an old plate number, so this format should last several more years.
|Illinois 2002 passenger issue. Another issue on the Lincoln baseplate, this one is a new plate featuring a circa-1999 number from the previous baseplate. Illinois state law allows motorists to reserve their old number on the new plate at no charge upon renewal. Note that the spacing of the old number has been modified to fit the format of the new plate and avoid obstructing the Lincoln graphic - this plate number would have been spaced as "J 158 222" on the old base. I've heard differing reports that anywhere from 45 to 78% of motorists have taken advantage of the opportunity to keep their old number, resulting in some delays in producing new plates. Motorists whose old-base plates expire before their new plates are made are issued a small yellow "T" sticker, temporarily revalidating the old plate.
|Illinois 2002 passenger issue. Another re-issued number on the Lincoln plate. Most of the initial batch of these plates (through 399 9999 on the standard format base) was produced by Waldale, Ltd. in Nova Scotia. with production shifted back in-state to a company called Macon Resources as of late 2001. This resulted in a slight die change to the plates, with the Illinois-made plates using slightly taller characters and, in fact, producing a plate that is slightly taller and wider than the Waldale issues. Some characters have notable differences, as can be seen between the "J" on this plate and the one on the previous plate.
|Illinois 2003 passenger issue. Another remanufacture of an older number, this one is a circa-1984 six-digit plate number. As one can see, the Abe graphic fares a little better in this format, although the "J" does still manage to clip his ear. This was a Macon Resources plate, with larger dies.
|Illinois 2003 passenger issue. Standard-issue Macon Industries plate, using the larger dies and larger plate blanks. Orders for standard passenger plates seem to keep shifting between Waldale and Macon, Macon Resources made plates 295 0001 through 317 8000 and 342 0001 through 359 5000. The state has ordered plates into the 500 series by now, with orders still being split between vendors.
|Illinois 2003 passenger issue. Another Waldale plate, using the shorter dies and slightly shorter plate blanks. Waldale made 100 0001 through 295 0000, 317 8001 through 342 0000 and 359 5001 through 364 3000. They apparently got the contract for this order, through at least the 375 series, as well. No word if one vendor or the other will be dropped now that the initial changeover period is over and the need to produce millions of plates within a short period of time is not as great.
|Illinois 2004 passenger issue. Somewhere around the 550 series of these plates, the blue at the bottom of the plate was switched to a lighter shade. This plate, from the 676 series, is also made of aluminum, which may or may not apply to all the plates from the 550 series and up with the lighter blue, not sure of the two changes are related. I'm told that on later issues of the plate the shade of blue has darkened up once again.
|Illinois 2007 passenger issue. Illinois exhausted their all-numeric format after passing plate number 999 9999 in 2006. The A12 3456 format used on the previous base was then reinstated, starting with the previously-skipped G prefix.
|Illinois 2016 passenger issue. Between 2006 and 2016, Illinois ran through previously unused single-prefix letters in the following order: G, X, A, H, K, L, N, P, R, S, V, E, Y (using the numbers not used on the previous base), Z and Q. This Q series represents the end of the line for one-alpha plate series, leading to a brief foray into two-alpha plates before this base was discontinued at the end of 2016.
|Illinois 2017 passenger issue. In 2016, the last of the available single-prefix letters was exhausted and the state proceeded to issue two-alpha prefixes, starting with the ZZ series and working backwards. This was similar to the arrangement between the 1979 and 1983 baseplates when overflow plates the outgoing base were started at the end of the alphabet to avoid conflicting with the incoming base (see next.) This series made it back to the ZU series before this base was discontinued at the end of December, 2016.
|Illinois 2017 passenger issue. Illinois began rolling out a new general-issue graphic in January, 2017, which will eventually replace all the 2001 base Abe plates on the road. This new graphic also features Abe, but shifted to the far left side of the plate, with a blue and white sky/cityscape image filling the rest of the background. New registrations on this base started in the AA series. Initial plates used an AA1 2345 format (similar to the 3-4 arrangement on the previous base), the spacing was revised after the AF series to place the space between the letters and number, resulting in an AG 12345 arrangement (see next.)
|Illinois 2018 passenger issue. This is the second spacing arrangement for the 2017 issue, using the AG 12345 arrangement mentioned above. Visibility issues persisted with this base due to the lack of contrast between the graphic and the serial, especially at the far left of the plate, resulting in further tweaking. A lighter background was released in 2018 to alleviate these issues, starting in the late AP series.
|Illinois 2018 passenger issue. As mentioned above, legibility issues were identified early on this base due to the dark graphic background, especially the Abe portion to the far left. In a rather ingenious move to use up the remaining dark bases, the state put the seven-digit series on hold briefly in 2017 and began issuing new registrants dormant six-digit all-numeric serials, avoiding the most problematic contrast issues with the background. The seven-digit serials were resumed in the late AP series once the dark background blanks were used up and revised, lighter background sheeting was available.
|Illinois 2019 passenger issue. Plates from the late AP series forward are issued on this revised, lighter sheeting. The graphic background, especially the Abe portion to the left, is notably lighter than previous, resulting in improved contrast with the serial. Replacements of older bases, as well as new registrations in the AQ series and up, will be released on this new background.
|Illinois 2018 passenger issue. This is an example of a remake registration replacing one of the older previous Abe bases (circa 2001) on the revised, lighter graphic. Production of most of the seven-digit remakes was held back until the new blanks were available, while six-digit numbers were reissued earlier to use up the old darker blanks as noted above.
Additional Illinois information provided by: Dustin Schuchard, Joey Hurd, Judd Schechtman, Scott Kaiser
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Last Modified 11/24/2019 (added 2019 plate).