Tennessee License Plates 1969-present

TN 69 #RI-3148
Tennessee 1969 Passenger issue. This baseplate was first issued in 1966, and earlier issues of the plate have "66" lightly etched in the top right sticker well. This particular plate was a later issue on this base and does not have the etched "66". These plates were used with stickers through the end of 1970. The format was AB-1234, with a county name sticker applied to the bottom. Tennessee plates from 1936 to 1976 featured the state of the shape, with the plate itself cut to the state shape from 1936 through 1956, and the shape embossed within the standard 6"x12" plate thereafter.
TN 70 #TZ-8347
Tennessee 1970 Passenger issue. Late in the series of the 1966-70 base a small number of plates were made using the full border die used on the upcoming 1971 base, eliminating the space for the county decal at bottom. These were relatively rare, appearing only in the TU, TX, TY and TZ series. These were only used for one year and replaced in 1971 along with all other 1966-70 plates.
TN 72 #11-NX86
Tennessee 1972 Passenger issue. Similar to the previous issue in design, these new plates were first issued at the end of 1970 and feature a format starting with a one or two-numeric county code. The county sticker is also discontinued on this base. Early issues on this base have a lightly etched "71" in the top right sticker well. This plate was issued in county #16, which was assigned to Roane county on this base. Click here for a full listing of Tennessee county codes. These plates were used through the end of 1976.
TN 75 #11-NX86
Tennessee 1975 Passenger issue. Later issues on this baseplate featured a slightly shorter embossed state shape and state name. I'm not entirely sure what the reason was for this change, although it did bring the state shape closer to the correct proportions. This plate was issued in county #11, Rutherford county.
TN 76 #ABN-103
Tennessee 1976 Passenger issue. This was the first appearance of this type of plate, using an ABC-123 format rather than the traditional county code arrangement. I believe these were used as supplemental plates in cases where a county had run out of plates, or as replacements for lost or stolen plates.
TN 78 #26-E514
Tennessee 1978 Passenger issue. These graphic plates were issued at the end of 1976 and feature the state seal and "Volunteer State" slogan. This base also marks the first time since 1936 that the state name was spelled in full on the plate, and also the first plate since that year not to feature the state shape on the plate. This baseplate was used through the end of 1983, and again used county codes as the first numbers on the plate. This plate was issued in county #26, Dyer county. Initial plates on this base were produced by the Polyvend Corporation in Arkansas, using the same dies as used on Illinois plates of this timeframe.
TN 81 #2-GV225
Tennessee 1981 Passenger issue. In 1979, Texas won the contract to produce Tennessee's passenger plates, so plates issued in this timeframe carry Texas dies rather than the Polyvend dies used on earlier plates. Plates with a two-alpha prefix following the county code were introduced as supplies of single-alpha plates were depleted. This particular plate is a train wreck from a die perspective, as the die for the first "2" is narrower than that used for the other "2"s and the "G" is shorter than the rest of the digits. Looks like something that the Texas prison system cobbled together from spare parts. This plate was issued to a lucky soul in Davidson county (#2).
TN 81 #20-KS30
Tennessee 1981 Passenger issue. Another Texas-made issue, this time from county #20, Wilson county. All six characters on this plate appear to be from the same die set (the same dies used by Texas on their own plates from 1974 to present).
TN 81 #ANL-122
Tennessee 1981 Passenger issue. Same baseplate series as above. Plates again seem to have been issued in a more standard ABC-123 format as overflow plates when some counties overran their allocations of standard format plates. This plate again uses Texas dies, although the "mix-n-match" system of choosing dies seems to have appeared again on this plate. The two "2"s on the plate are different widths once again, and the "L" is shorter than the other two letters.
TN 83 #20-RJ59
Tennessee 1983 Passenger issue. In 1981, after four years of having plates produced elsewhere, Tennessee returned plate production to their own prison system. This resulted in a return to the standard Tennessee dies used on baseplates prior to 1977. This particular plate is a standard format issue, again from Wilson county (#20).
TN 83 #BJX-348
Tennessee 1983 Passenger issue. This is another overflow plate in the ABC-123 format, this time using standard Tennessee dies.
TN 85 #6-B0C79
Tennessee 1985 Passenger issue. This plate was introduced at the end of 1983 and was used through the end of 1988. It marked a return to the state shape appearing on the plate. These plates were issued in a 1-A2B34 format (counties 1-9) or a 12-3A45 format (counties 10 and above). The number before the dash is a county code, with "6" indicating Washington county.
TN 88 #CFN-023
Tennessee 1988 Passenger issue. Again with this baseplate, some counties ran out of their standard county coded plates and began issuing plates in this ABC-123 format to new registrants near the end of the baseplate's run in 1987-88.
TN 92 #WPQ-740
Tennessee 1992 Passenger issue. These plates were issued at the end of 1988, and featured a three-star logo from the state flag. These were issued in an ABC-123 format with no coding, and featured a county sticker at the bottom. Some plates of this era carry local county or city tax decals as well as the regular month and year of expiration, apparently Blount county does not require these.
TN 95 #777-CXQ
Tennessee 1995 Passenger issue. This baseplate, used from 1995 through 2000, features a likeness of the state capitol building in Nashville. This plate commemorated the state's Bicentennial in 1996, incorporating the state abbreviation into the word "BicenTENNial". This plate was issued in Henderson county and has wheel tax decals from both Henderson county and the city of Lexington. Good thing there aren't any other open sticker wells, or else someone else'd probably try to tax this guy as well.
TN 96 #473-QQQ
Tennessee 1996 Passenger issue. Same issue as above with validation sticker over the screened '95' expiration. This plate was issued in Carter county and features only the state sticker without any county or local tax stickers required.
TN 01 #BUM 252
Tennessee 2001 Passenger issue. This new baseplate was issued starting in 2000 to replace the previous BicenTENNial base. This plate features the state shape at the center of the plate in green with a yellow sun rising over it. The state's current tourism slogan, "Sounds Good To Me" is featured below the state name, with the traditional "Volunteer State" also present. The initial design brought up some visibility concerns, as the dark state shape graphic can make the last letter or first number difficult to read at a distance. This plate was issued in Davidson county and has a county tax decal as well.
TN 01 #BUM 252
Tennessee 2001 Passenger issue. These plates have also caused a stir in some cases due to the lax standard that the state used to weed out potentially offensive letter combinations. The state made national news, for example, for issuing plates in one county in the "FAT" series. The example in the scan shows another "questionable" combination (one that I couldn't pass up.) This particular plate was issued in Knox county.
TN 02 #HTQ 710
Tennessee 2002 Passenger issue. Continuation of the above baseplate, although there are no fun three-letter words to be found on this one. To address visibility concerns with this graphic, Tennessee revised the graphic slightly in mid-2000, using a lighter shade of green for the state shape in hopes of making the serial easier to pick out. I guess it is a little better. At the time of this change, text was also added to the lower left sticker well of the plate, reading in this case "CLASS CODE/ 1000/ ISSUE YEAR/ 2000." I'm not exactly sure what the purpose of these notations are. This plate was issued in Wilson county and carries a county wheel tax sticker.
TN 07 #291-BQZ
Tennessee 2007 Passenger issue. This new baseplate was introduced in January, 2006 and replaced all previous issues by the end of the year. The new plate features black characters on a background of green rolling hills. The state name is above in script, along with the "The Volunteer State" slogan. This is the first flat general issue for Tennessee, which is unfortunate, but at least the plate uses the distinctive serial font introduced on South Dakota's flat plates rather than the usual generic flat-plate typeface used by most other states. This plate was issued in Davidson county and features a local county tax sticker at bottom right.
TN 10 #563-WQJ
Tennessee 2010 Passenger issue. There was a minor tweak to this baseplate appearing first in 2009, resulting in the bar code being moved from the center of the plate above the county strip to the bottom right. The plate was otherwise unchanged. This change occurred somewhere between the WLR and WLV series.
TN 12 #A21-02N
Tennessee 2012 Passenger issue. In 2011, Tennessee ran out of available serials after reaching the end of the ZZZ series. The serials then continued in a new A12-34B format. At the same time the state tourism website (www.tnvacation.com) was added to the plate, perhaps revealing the original motivation for the earlier barcode-move variation.

Additional Tennessee information provided by: Brian Gleaves, Jim Spitzer

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© Copyright 1998-2014 David Nicholson. All Rights Reserved.

Last Modified 5/19/2013 (added 1970 plate).