Massachusetts License Plates, 1969-present

MA 69 #L61-145
Massachusetts 1967-70 passenger issue. This base was issued with windshield stickers starting in 1967, then with plate stickers starting in 1971. The numbering format started with six numeric, then one alpha-five numeric, then five numeric-one alpha. I'm not exactly sure of the date on this plate, but for the sake of my collection I'm counting it as the 1969 issue. Many 1967-base Massachusetts plates were produced in Illinois, but using standard Massachusetts dies. These plates can be identified by a raised area surrounding the entire state name at the top of the plate.
MA 71 #859-770
Massachusetts 1971 passenger issue. All-numeric version of this base, this one was also manufactured in Illinois as shown by the raised area around the state name. 1971 was the first year for passenger plate validation stickers. Some early 1971 stickers are a reversed red-on-white format and were made of paper that did not hold up very well. Finding these today is tough.
MA 72 #405-59F
Massachusetts 1972 passenger issue. Continuation of the 1967 base, featuring the 123-45A numbering format and date sticker on the plate. This plate was a later issue on the 1967 baseplate, produced at the state prison in Walpole, Massachusetts. These plates are distinguished by the lack of a raised area around the state name. Staggered registration was implemented in 1969 in Massachusetts, with the month of expiration determined by the last number on the plate. This is a "9" (September) expiration plate. Plates ending in an "X" or "Y" suffix were also issued, for November and December registrations, respectively.
MA 74 #6F-2706
Massachusetts 1974 passenger issue. This base was first issued in 1972 and was issued through 1978. These plates remained valid with stickers through 1983. Numbering formats included 123-456, 1A-2345, 12A-345, 123-45A and A12-345. Examples of some of the different numbering formats follow:

MA 75 #69E-950

1974, Letter in Position 3

MA 75 #498-081

1975, All-numeric

MA 75 #582-62X

1975, Letter in Position Six ("X" (Nov.) Exp.)

PA 79 #P11-119

1977, Letter in Position One

MA 76 #766-15W
Massachusetts 1976 passenger issue. Some 1972-base Massachusetts plates were made with these smaller dies by the Polyvend company in Arkansas. Most plates ending in 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 or 0 (May through October expirations), X, or Y (November or December expirations) were manufactured with these dies.
MA 78 #517-699
Massachusetts 1978 passenger issue. Another Polyvend plate, this time an all-numeric issue with a September ("9") expiration.
MA 78 #220 Q
Massachusetts 1978 passenger issue. A "reserve series" plate, carrying a number out of the normal pattern with five or less characters. This one also uses the letter "Q", which was not used in the normal passenger sequence for this base.
MA 79 #746-ABM
Massachusetts 1980 passenger issue. This green on white base was first issued in 1977 and was issued concurrently with the red on white base through 1978. This series of plates started at number 100-AAA, with some all-numeric plates being issued starting in 1983. The 1977 base is still valid as of 1999 and has been extended indefinitely by a recent state registration law making all existing registrations "lifetime". Some older numbers have been reissued on this base as recently as 1997, mostly to fleet vehicles, non-commercial pickups and as replacements for lost 1977 baseplates.
MA und. #1-AAL
Massachusetts undated passenger issue. This is kind of a curious plate from the early 1977 base. When Massachusetts decided to go to the 123-ABC format, they initially intended to start each series at #1 and go up from there. Since no leading zeroes are used in Massachusetts, the result was an odd-looking format like this for all plates with serials less than 100. Shortly after beginning the series this way, the state decided that all plates should carry a full six digits and the small number of these plates that were issued were recalled. From that point forward, each number series started with "100" rather than "1."
MA 80 #826-44X
Massachusetts 1980 passenger issue. Through 1977 and 1978, Registry offices in Massachusetts alternated between issuing the new green plates and using up the old stock of red plates every couple weeks. It is therefore possible to have natural 1979 and 1980 expirations on both bases, as seen with this 1980 red plate. When staggered registration was established in Massachusetts in 1969, plates ending in "X" or "Y" were established as November or December registrations. This practice was discontinued with the release of the green plates, making this one of the last November passenger registrations to be issued. When the red plates expired in 1982 or 83, new green plates were issued to "X" and "Y" plate holders, pro-rated to switch to a new month. From 1983 forward, only non-passenger registrations expire in November or December.
MA 85 #128-540
Massachusetts 1985 passenger issue. As noted above, starting in 1983 plates in a 123-456 format were issued on the 1977 base. This was the same period that the '72-era red-on-white base was retired, so these all-numeric plates were mostly reissues to holders of the same numbers on the old base. Leftover all-numeric plates were issued to general registrants. These plates are also still valid today, and are considered more prestigious than the 123-ABC format plates.
MA 89 #37863
Massachusetts 1989 passenger issue. This was a reserve series plate on the 1977 base, having five or less characters. Reserve plates were issued in pairs during this period, as opposed to the regular issue, which were issued as singles.
MA 93 #X 2988
Massachusetts 1993 passenger issue. The "Spirit of America" base was first issued to vanity, reserve series and some non-passenger varieties in 1987. This plate is a reserve issue Spirit plate, issued out of the standard 123-ABC format.
MA 93 #702-THV
Massachusetts 1993 passenger issue. Although the Spirit base was introduced in 1987 for some types, the 1977 "greenies" continued to be issued exclusively to standard passenger registrations through mid-1993. Later on in the run of the 1977-base plates, a slight die change was made. Plates in the "S", "T" and "V" series, plus some re-issued numbers from earlier series were made using the slightly shorter (2 3/4" tall) dies used on the Spirit baseplate, as opposed to the standard 3" dies used on previous issues.
MA 95 #979-ZRR
Massachusetts 1995 passenger issue. Massachusetts issued these Spirit-base regular issues starting with the "Z" series in 1993, later working back through Y, X and W. There was some controversy about whether the state should return to a two-plate system for general plate issues or not, and some 1977-era numbers were reissued on new green-on-white plates during this period (1992-94) while the state decided whether to keep issuing regular-format Spirit plates or not.
MA 98 #460-9CW
Massachusetts 1998 passenger issue. When the regular 123-ABC series ran out, Massachusetts went to a 1234 AB series. The last digit of Massachusetts plates is the expiration month and the first plates of this series were issued with September expiration, so the first plate was 100-9AA. These plates were first issued in 1995 with 1997 expirations. Plates were issued with September and October expirations in this 123-4AA format (with a dash between the third and fourth number).
MA 99 #5235 AF
Massachusetts 1999 passenger issue. This is a continuation of the 1234 AB series. After the first sets of September and October plates were issued in the 123-9AB and 123-0AB formats, the dash was removed and the space moved after the series for visibility reasons. This format then took over and was used for all months until each series was exhausted at the end of the ZZ series.
MA 03 #462 5SC
Massachusetts 2003 passenger issue. Example of a prevalent error series that occurred on a number of plates in the ###5 Sx series, issued in June 2001 to expire in May 2003. Most of this series was formatted incorrectly, with the space placed between the third and fourth numbers instead of between the numbers and the letters. For example, this plate should have been stamped "4625 SC," not "462 5SC." A few thousand sets of these were made and issued, presumably starting at 100 5SA and running into the later portions of the ### 5Sx series. The error was corrected late in the 5/S series, as I saw a SW plate once that was correctly formatted. The error was likely due to production having started on plates from the next serial format, which appeared in a 3-3 arrangement (see next.)
MA 03 #41E P00
Massachusetts 2003 passenger issue. Now, this format is just weird. As the different months exhausted their 1234 AB format plates, these odd 12A B34 format plates began to appear. The first of the plates was issued in November 2001 for October 2003 expiration. The really weird thing about these plates is that while the last number continues to match the expiration month, the second to last digit remains constant until the first four characters on the plate have run through a complete series. So, the first October plates were issued from 10A A00 through 99Z Z00 before the second to last number changed to "1" (10A A10 through 99Z Z10, etc.) The initial "00" series of plates yielded some pretty funny combinations, my favorite of which is probably the different "P00" plates like this one.
MA 07 #17T P22
Massachusetts 2007 passenger issue. Tweak alert! Starting in March, 2005, Massachusetts switched to using a serif '1' die on standard passenger plates, replacing the previous straight-line '1' die. This was presumably to make it easier to identify a '1' from a distance, and also to standardize production between plate types (certain non-passenger and optional plates had been using the serif die already). These plates first appeared on natural-expiration FEB 07 plates ending in the '22' series.
MA 08 #778 BW0
Massachusetts 2008 passenger issue. Starting in November, 2006, Massachusetts ran out of serials in the 12A B34 format ending in '0' for October expirations and adopted a new format. This new format is 123 AB4 and began in the October series (all October plates end in zero). This could potentially cause identification problems with the October series, since previous issue, still-valid 123-ABC format plates were issued ending with the letter O. This format has since been expanded to other expiration months as they exhaust their available serials in the 12A B34 format.
Update: As of 2007, the state had in fact decided this format ending in zero was a potential problem so it was discontinued following the ###-NZ0 series. October expirations were then swapped to the presumptive next format, 1AB-234. As an added annoyance, all the plates in this new format initially started with '1' (1AA-100 through 1ZZ-990) before flipping to 2AA-100.
MA 09 #82E J77
Massachusetts 2009 passenger issue. Meanwhile, the tweaks continue. Starting in April, 2007 for natural MAR 09 expirations, the state began using screened month designations at the top of the plate as opposed to the previous embossed type. No idea why this was done, as it can't possibly help but be more expensive to screen a second color onto the reflective background. It also presents a logistical nightmare, as 12 different sets of blanks must be stocked and kept track of to make sure the screened month matches the serial being stamped. But, hey, I'm certain there was a very important reason for the switch, known only to a RMV official deep in the bowels of Tremont Street.
MA 09 #1CZ 750
Massachusetts 2009 passenger issue. As mentioned above with the 2008 plate, Massachusetts ran into a potential conflict with the 123 AB0 series relating to existing passenger plates ending in the letter O. For this reason, they stopped the October series in the 123 AB0 format early, at 999 NZ0, and skipped directly to the next format in line, 1AB 230. All other expiration months eventually followed suit, but this jump put October expirations even further into the lead where new, exciting formats are concerned.
MA 13 #1SPE 60
Massachusetts 2013 passenger issue. In 2011, Massachusetts debuted the sixth serial format for the Spirit plates, this 1ABC 23 format. As of 2016, this format has only appeared for October plates, as October historically runs ahead of the other months and also truncated the 123-AB0 format early. These plates appear to run in sequence such that all the '1' prefix plates (1AAA 10 through 1ZZZ 90, the last 0 is static for October) are run through, then the '2' prefix is started, etc. through 9ZZZ 90. Plates with the '9' prefix have been issued in 2016, which suggests we'll see the seventh series Spirit plate, whatever that is, sooner than later.
MA 20 #14D 190
Massachusetts 2020 passenger issue. October expirations ran through the end of the 1ABC 20 series by 2018, bringing about another new format. This format, 12A 340, was something of a stopgap, yielding less than 20,000 combinations before reaching 99Z 990.
MA 21 #328 H80
Massachusetts 2021 passenger issue. The single-letter October plates, as noted, don't buy the state a lot of time, so a new format was needed by 2019. The letter was dutifully moved one position to the right, yielding another 20,000 or so serials.

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© Copyright 1998-2022 David Nicholson. All Rights Reserved.

Last Modified 8/1/2022 (added 2021 plate).