|Rhode Island 1969 passenger issue. Rhode Island began issuing the "Discover" base at the end of 1966, and it was continued through 1971. This base could still be used with date stickers through the 1980 issue.
|Rhode Island 1973 passenger issue. This base was first issued at the end of 1971 and used through 1979. It marked the first appearance of the "Ocean State" slogan that is still presently in use. This plate also has a "Q" on it, making it extra good. R.I. is a pretty good state for "Q" seekers.
|Rhode Island 1976 passenger issue. One of the few "graphics" during this time period, the 1976 Bicentennial date sticker features a Revolutionary War soldier transposed over the shape of the state of Rhode Island. Plates of this time period used a brighter white reflective material than previous plates did as well, although this may not be evident from the scan.
|Rhode Island 1976 passenger issue. Along with the standard AB-123 format used on Rhode Island passenger plates, the state also issues some all-numeric and one-alpha plates as well. I recall hearing at some point that "Q" prefix single-alpha plates were reserved for police officers and other government officials for their personal vehicles, to identify them to police and keep them from receiving tickets. No idea if this is true or not, but it makes for an interesting tale.
|Rhode Island 1978 passenger issue. In 1977, some Rhode Island plates were produced in New York using distinctive New York dies of that era. These plates did not include the "Ocean State" slogan, as the taller New York letter dies did not leave enough room at the top of the plate. These plates are a rather rare variation, with only inactive combinations in the AA through CZ series being made in this format.
|Rhode Island 1978/80 passenger issue. Here's another plate to put in the "rare-ish" column. Nothing special about the plate itself, as it's a typical 1972-base Rhode Island plate, issued in 1977. The oddity here is the black on white "80" sticker, since all registrants were supposed to get new, dated baseplates for the 1980 expirations. Due to what the ALPCA archives cryptically refers to as a "lost plate mix-up," however, some motorists were given these "80" stickers to temporarily re-validate their old black-on-white plates until their 1980 plates could be issued.
|Rhode Island 1982 passenger issue (1980 base). This base was issued starting in 1980 with many variations of the baseplate. Changes from the 1971-1979 base included a color change from traditional R.I. black and white to blue on white, and the addition of an anchor and embossed date in the top corners. Dated issues were released in 1981, 82, 83, 84, 85 and 86, with 1981 being the most rare. These variations make this particular period of R.I. plate history particularly difficult for the completist. This series was used through 1996. Another "Q" plate here as well.
|Rhode Island 1981 passenger sample. Regular passenger plates were stamped on the dated "81" base as well, but these are quite rare, as most new registrants in 1981 received standard "80" dated plates. The "81" plates were stamped on bases that were intended to be used for Commercial plates and were used as overflow when the "80" plates ran out, or for replacements for lost/damaged 1980 plates. I originally had a vanity plate as my example for this base and have now moved up (I guess) to this sample plate. Someday before I die I'd like to get a regular passenger example on this dated 81 base, but given their rarity I might not live that long.
|Rhode Island 1985 passenger issue (1982 base). New registrants in 1982 were issued this dated baseplate, continuing the 1980 series. Many motorists were re-issued the same number that they had on their previous plate, so the letter sequences were not always issued in any discernable order. Rhode Island does not use leading zeroes in plate numbers, so for serials below 100, this AB-12 format was used.
|Rhode Island 1984 passenger issue (1983 base). Again in 1983 a new, dated baseplate was issued to new registrants.
|Rhode Island 1984 passenger issue. Same series as above, this is the "84" embossed date version. This series seems to be more plentiful, as more plates seem to be available to the collectors' market in good condition. I'm not sure why, probably just attributable to spikes in registration numbers for this year.
|Rhode Island 1985 passenger issue. Also same series as above, "85" embossed version.
|Rhode Island 1986 passenger issue. Rhode Island issued four different baseplates to new registrants in 1986. This one was the standard format plate, like the others issued from 1980-85. These consisted of a screened base with an embossed "86" (see next), plus the introduction of an undated screened base (see first 1987 plate) and an undated all-embossed plate (second 1987). The dated '86 varieties are getting harder to find in acceptable condition, as the new registrations for this year were split between the various types.
|Rhode Island 1986 passenger issue. The other dated 1986 variation, this plate marked Rhode Island's first use of a screened background for a baseplate. The anchor and "86" remain embossed, however. The original design for this plate called for a sailboat graphic to be placed at the center, with the sail extending into the large space between "Ocean" and "State". The graphic made the plate too difficult to read and was scrapped, although the space remained. Relatively few of these plates were made, so they are quite scarce today, especially in good condition. Some of these were issued without the embossed "86" in the corner as well.
|Rhode Island 1987 passenger issue. Rare version of the screened base above without the embossed "86" in the upper righthand corner. I'm not sure exactly what the reasoning for dropping the date was, but I've only ever seen a couple of these, both four-digit AB-12 format plates like this one.
|Rhode Island 1987 passenger issue. This was another of the bases introduced in 1986, identical to previous all-embossed issues but undated. This particular issue is also an error plate, with the dash between the letters and numbers left off. Oops.
|Rhode Island 1990 passenger issue. Continuation of the undated baseplate, this series features a slightly different die set for the slogan and state name (notice the "S" in "STATE" for the best example of the difference.)
|Rhode Island 1992 passenger issue. And another different die set for the state name and slogan. The state name dies are easiest to spot on this one, they're much more squared off than the previous set.
|Rhode Island 1993 passenger issue. This is a die variation from the rest of the series, issued around 1991. A fire at Rhode Island's plate shop caused plates to be produced during this period in Massachusetts, using the distinct Massachusetts dies for the numbers. Lettering for the state name and slogan was changed (again) slightly as well.
|Rhode Island 1995 passenger issue. Yet another base variation, this series had a screened background with the state name and slogan. Yet another "Q".
|Rhode Island 1996 passenger issue. At the end of the blue-on-white "Anchor" base the state returned to an all-embossed format with no date. This plate was issued through the end of the run of these plates in 1995-96, when all previous 1980 and up blue-on-white anchor plates were replaced with new "Wave" baseplates.
|Rhode Island 1997 passenger issue. These "Wave" plates were first issued at the end of 1996 and remain the current Rhode Island issue. The plate changeover was done in an odd fashion, with existing registrants being sent new plates with the same number as their old ones before the old ones had necessarily expired. The plates were then to be displayed without stickers until the next renewal, so only new registrants would be issued stickers immediately. Since Rhode Island has two-year registrations, this meant that a wave plate could have been valid without stickers for up to two years before the old plate expired. As of the end of 1998, all wave baseplates are properly validated with stickers.
|Rhode Island 2002 passenger issue. All-numeric version of the Wave baseplate. Along with the typical AB-123 plate format, Rhode Island also issues all-numeric plates. Occasionally, there will be a period where inactive numbers in a certain block or another start to get issued to new registrants. In early 2001, plates in the 80000 and 90000 series started appearing as new issues.
|Rhode Island 2007 passenger issue. Rhode Island discontinued issuing recycled five-digit plates to new registrants in 2007 due to increased issues with mis-identified vehicles (new registrants inheriting parking tickets from the last use of the number, etc.) As a replacement, the state chose a six-digit, all-numeric format. The new issues reportedly started at 710-000 to avoid conflict with some all-numeric non-passenger issues.
|Rhode Island 2018 passenger issue. In 2015, Rhode Island ran out of all-numeric serials after running through 710-000 through 999-999, then backing through the 600, 500, 400 and 300 series. The default solution of going back to inactive AB-123 format plates was again adopted, resulting in five-digit plates becoming the norm once again.
|Rhode Island 2022 passenger issue. Starting in 2021, re-issuance of five-digit plates had once again become untenable, so the state decided to extend the series by adding a single number ahead of the letters. The dash between the letters and numbers was also removed for some reason. Plates from the start of the series at 1AA 100 through the early 1AL series had a space in the middle, which disappeared for the range between approximately 1AL200 and the early 1BR series, after which it was replaced. Rhode Island seems to have adopted this single 1AB 234 format series across several plate types as well, so it can appear on both passenger and non-passenger plates.
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Last Modified 8/1/2022 (added 2018 and 2022 plates).