Archive for Sunday, March 10, 1991


March 10, 1991


Bored children riding on long car trips may have another style of Kansas license plates to look for if the Kansas Legislature approves legislation allowing veterans groups to put special license plates on their cars.

And the measure, which is pending in the Senate, would be the first change in the state's license plate system since a new format was adopted in the late 1980s.

Kansas has a history of changing its license plate format, a Lawrence license plate buff says.

"Kansas has got a very strange license plate system," said Tom Allen, a Lawrence resident and member of the Automobile License Plate Collector's Assn. Allen has been collecting and trading plates for about 27 years.

"We're one of the few states that has a classification according to county."

Vehicles registered in the state carry license plates that designate the county of registration by a two-letter county code.

"DG" is the abbreviation identifying Douglas County license plates.

Allen, who has about 12,000 license plates, said that although most people don't know it, the Kansas license tag system used to be much different.

According to the motor vehicles division of the Kansas Department of Revenue, the state's license plate system began evolving with the proliferation of the automobile in the early 1900s.

In those early years, the car owner had to fasten metal numbers onto a piece of leather and attach it to his or her car.

In 1913, the Kansas Legislature passed an act that authorized the issuance of metal license plates for the first time. The plates were not dated and had no county designation.

HOWEVER, the colors were changed annually and the position of the state designation "Kan" was moved from time to time.

Allen said shortly after 1930 a county number system based on population was started.

"They used to be issued according to a number code," he said. "When they first started the number system a while back, each county was given a number according to its population."

License plates issued in each county carried a number based on the county's population rank, based on the 1930 census.

For example, Douglas County had a population of 25,143 in 1930, making it the 16th most populous county in the state. All license plates issued in Douglas County under the system had the number 16.

THE NUMBER appeared as part of the plate's number, Allen said. The two were separated by a dash, he said.

The numbered system was in effect until 1950, when the current county classification system was adopted.

Allen said that even though Douglas County's population rank may have changed from 1930 to 1950, the county's number remained 16 under the old classification system.

If a license plate system based on county population were in place now, Douglas County license plates would have the number 5 because its 1990 population 81,798 makes it the fifth most populous county in the state.

Allen speculated that the plate categorizing system was changed in 1950 to accommodate an increase in license plate registrations.

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