History of Kansas Automobile Plates
On July 1, 1913, the state of Kansas began requiring license plates for automobiles. For the first nine years, Kansas license plates were undated. The 1913 through 1920 plates are identified by the position of the letters "KAN" and by the color combination. From 1921 through 1976, dated plates were issued each year with the exception of 1943, 1952 and 1953. An unpainted metal tab was used to validate the 1942 plate. Tabs were also used in 1952 and 1953 to validate the 1951 plate. Starting in 1976, multi-year plates have been used. From 1977 through 1980, stickers were used to validate the 1976 base plate.
In 1981, a new design was issued having a blue background, white letters, and silkscreened in gold are the state name at the top and three stalks of wheat on the left side. The wheat graphic made the county code and month letter difficult to read so by the request of the highway patrol, a new easier to read design featuring a white background with blue letters was issued. This new design replaced the offending wheat stalks with a half sun design using wheat stalks in the upper left corner. The new design replaced the blue plate for all new registrants beginning in 1982 but any blue plates that were already issued continued to be used through 1988.
New base plates were issued in 1981, 1989, 1995, 2002 and 2007 with stickers used for all other years.
From 1913 through 1929, there was no county designation on Kansas license plates. Kansas began county coding in 1930, assigning each county a number from 1 through 105 based on population. In 1951, the county number designation was replaced with a two-letter county abbreviation. If you are not sure what number or two-letter code was assigned to a particular county, go to the "Kansas County Codes" section of this website.
Kansas Car and Truck License Plate Composition
From 1913 through 1946, all Kansas plates were made from steel. Immediately following WW2, when the price of aluminum dropped below the price of steel, many states began to use aluminum for plates. For some years, both steel and aluminum plates were issued. Here is a breakdown of those years.
1947: Almost all plates are steel but a handful of aluminum car plates are known.
1948: The majority of car and truck plates are aluminum, but steel plates are known for both car and truck.
1949: All car plates are aluminum. The majority of truck plates are steel but a substantial amount are aluminum. NOTE: 1949 is the ONLY year where truck plates were not the same color as car plates. All car plates are black on bare aluminum. Being made from steel, truck plates had to be painted, and are painted black on cream. Later in the year when truck plates began to be made from aluminum, they were still painted black on cream to match the color of the steel plates.
1950: All car and truck plates are made from aluminum.
1951: The vast majority of car and truck plates are steel, but a small amount of aluminum plates are known for both car and truck.
1952: Most of the small tabs used to validate the 1951 plate are made from steel, but some aluminum are known as well.
1953 to 1974: All Kansas plates are made from steel.
1975: All car plates are steel. Truck plates however are made of steel and aluminum.
1976 and newer: All Kansas plates are made from aluminum. There are slight variations in the design of 1976 plates including painted and non painted backs.
History of Kansas Truck Plates
From 1913 through 1920, trucks and cars used the same license plate. In 1921, Kansas began issuing truck plates. Truck plates were identified with a "T" prefix up through 1950 with the exception of 1924 when "TRUCK" was spelled out vertically on the right end of the plate. From 1951 through 1979, "TRUCK" was spelled out vertically between the two-letter county code and the registration number. Like car plates, new plates for trucks were issued every year with the exception of 1943, 1952 and 1953 when metal tabs were used. 1943 truck tabs used a "T" prefix like regular truck plates but 1952 and 1953 tabs had no truck identification on them. 1975 was the last year of annually issued plates. From 1976 through 1979, truck plates were validated with stickers on the 1975 base plate. In 1980, a new base plate was issued with "TK" in the upper left corner to designate a truck plate. Stickers were used on this base from 1981 through 1988. Like car and motorcycle plates, a new blue on white design was issued in 1982 for new registrants only. Previously issued blue plates were not replaced. Both designs were used through 1988. Beginning in 1989, the only identifying marks for truck plates were the weight sticker in the lower right corner and the year sticker which has "TRUCK" spelled out on it. New dated base plates were issued in 1989, 1995 and 2002 with stickers used all other years.
Starting around 1932, Kansas began issuing tonnage weight attachments which were attached to the regular truck plate. These attachments matched the color of the truck plate for each year and came in various weights. Beginning in 1956, these plates switched from a ton designation to the letter "M" and ranged from 6M to 24+M sizes. From 1956 through 1960, a second attachment was issued that designated what type of truck it was. Types included regular, farm, local, and 6000 mile. The last year these attachments were used was 1960. They were replaced in 1961 in favor of stickers.
History of Kansas Motorcycle Plates
On July 1, 1913, the state of Kansas began requiring motorcycles to be registered. Like automobiles, motorcycle plates were not dated from 1913 through 1920, with the position of the "KAN" and the color combination used to identify the year. The 1913 plate had slanted characters so the plate could be mounted either vertically or horizontally. Kansas motorcycle plates used a vertical format from 1914 through 1929. Beginning in 1930, a horizontal format was used and Kansas motorcycle plates have been horizontal ever since.
Kansas motorcycle plates were not county coded until 1961. The word "cycle" was used beginning in 1961 as well. New plates were issued every year through 1975. The 1975 Kansas motorcycle base plates were validated using stickers from 1976 through 1979. There are two styles of 1975 plates. Initial production did not include the word "CYCLE", but sometime around 1978 the word "CYCLE" was added vertically on the right side. In 1980, a new white on blue plate was issued. Like car and truck plates, a new blue on white design was issued in 1982 for new registrants only. Previously issued blue plates were not replaced. Both designs were used through 1988. Beginning in 1989 all motorcycle plates use stickers for the date.
History of Kansas Trailer plates.
Trailer plates were first issued in 1930. In 1946, a new plate type for house trailers was added. These plates used an H prefix ahead of the registration number. Beginning sometime in the 1930's through 1960, metal weight tabs were used as well. They were replaced by a sticker beginning in 1961.