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License Plates

Until a few years ago, DEPTCOR used the promotional slogan, ''And you thought we only made license plates.” This was very appropriate for a state agency that for years has marketed a diverse line of products and services to government agencies in addition to the manufacture of license plates. Most New Jerseyans probably aren't too sure where their license plates come from, unless it's their local Division of Motor Vehicles office. The fact is that inmates have been making plates in the machine shop of a correctional institution since 1916, the year the Bureau of State Use Industries, or DEPTCOR as the Bureau is known today, was established. DEPTCOR continues to be the sole provider of license plates to the DMV. The original manufacture color combination was cream-color numbers on a blue field, and then changed annually until 1932 when a black field was used. After 11 years a cream field was used. In 1951 the black field returned with cream numbers, changing to orange letters the following year. A straw color plate with black letters came into use in 1959 and endured until 1979 when the blue field with buff numbers was issued. On February 17, 1992, the shop produced its last blue and buff license plate and started producing the new Goldfinch Yellow reflective plates that are still in use today.

In December of 2010, the shop produced the first “Flat Sports Plates” ever used in New Jersey. To date, the shop has produced 2,445 pairs featuring 22 different professional sports teams and NASCAR drivers. In May of 2011, the shop produced the first “Gold Star Family” flat plates. In all the shop produces 189 different kinds of license plates.

An average of 5,400 pairs of New Jersey license plates are made daily at DEPTCOR's modern Auto Tag Shop in Bayside State Prison at Leesburg. In addition to regular passenger vehicle and truck tags (as they are called in the industry) more than 189 different kinds of plates are made in this metal stamping facility. They range from the governor's plates through those for Congressional Medal of Honor recipients to a variety of government, fraternal and service organization plates. About 400,000 personalized, or ''vanity,'' plates have been made since they were introduced in 1975. In total, this shop produces an average of 3 million plates annually.

To find all the license plates spoken about, please click on
New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commissions Web page

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