Like in the UK, California's license plates follow the vehicles they originate on, not the owner, so residents can easily pick out cars that have been in continuous California circulation since way back in the last millennium. A car with yellow tags with black lettering was registered between 1956 and 1962, one with yellow tags with black lettering is from circa 1963 to 1969, and one with blue tags with yellow lettering got them sometime from 1970 to 1982.

State Governor Jerry Brown has signed a bill allowing for the return of those plate styles. If the Department of Motor Vehicles receives 7,500 pre-orders between January 1, 2013 and January 1, 2015 for the vintage replica plates, it will begin issuing them for any vehicle for a personalized plate fee of $50. If fewer than 7,500 pre-orders are received in that two-year span, those who submitted $50 payments will have their money refunded. According to the Los Angeles Times, if the program goes through, buyers of the plates will also have to spend a further $40 every time they renew their registrations.

Hemmings has a little history on why the color of one's plate is such a big deal in The Golden State. For those who don't need the lesson, you can check out the press release below for more information on the program and how to order.

Despite some classic car enthusiasts who apparently only want original vintage plates and not these new, so-called "legacy license plates," we have a feeling this one is a done deal.
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Classic Car Owners Get A Chance At Vintage California Plates
California Legacy License Plates Available for Pre-Order January 1, 2013

Sacramento, December 27, 2012 – The California Department of Motor Vehicles announced today it will be taking pre-orders for a new License Plate Program offering vehicle owners the opportunity to purchase replicas of California license plate designs issued in the 1950's, 1960's, and 1970's.

The new program will bring a retro look to modern license plates by offering three classic license plate designs. Legacy License plates can be ordered for any year model automobile, commercial vehicle, motorcycle, or trailer. The styles include black lettering over a yellow background seen in the 1950's, yellow lettering over a black background seen in the 1960's and yellow lettering over a blue background that was available originally in the 1970's. The plates cost $50 for non-personalized or personalized plates.

A pre-order form California Legacy License Plate Pre-Order Form (REG 17L)is available at The completed form and a $50 payment must be mailed to the address provided on the form. Payment can only be made by check, money order, or cashier's check. Pre-orders cannot be processed at DMV Field offices or Auto Club offices.

The law specifies that 7,500 applications must be reached by January 1, 2015. If 7,500 applications are not received by that date, any fees paid for the California Legacy plates will be refunded to the applicant.

Governor Brown signed Assembly Bill (AB) 1658, by Assemblyman Mike Gatto (D–Los Angeles) on September 28, 2012.

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 2 Years Ago
      Sorry, this is incorrect... The Black background with Yellow lettering was issued from 1963 up til 1969... BLUE/Yellow started in the 1970's, til the present WHITE/BLUE versions came along in 1982. The Yellow background with black letters were PRE-1963.... and haven't been used in MANY since then. AUTOBLOG... your fact checker needs to do better research.
      • 2 Years Ago
      California needs more revenue so why not? It will look good on my '54 Chevy truck.
      • 2 Years Ago
      The yellow one is really cool, but $50 every year to keep it? No thanks.
        • 2 Years Ago
        An extra fee is pretty standard to most states with vanity/special plates. Here in Texas normal yearly registation fees are $65 and $120 with personalized plates.
        • 2 Years Ago
        I believe it's a one-time fee. I'm planning to order 3 of them for different vehicles.
          • 2 Years Ago
          The annual fee is like a personalized plate fee. I'll be converting three personalized plates so as long as it's not an extra fee.
      • 2 Years Ago
      I like California's current license plates with the script writing. It is distinctly Californian. IMO that one is already a classic in itself.
      • 2 Years Ago
      The black plate was Cals only plate for yrs, it was the best.Slimpe and to the point.
      • 2 Years Ago
      OCBRAD, I agree. I'd like the "SUN" plates, too. They give us an option for those, I'll get some, too
      • 2 Years Ago
      I don't like it. It gives a false impression as to the registration era of the vehicle--including to the police, who have a hard enough job identifying vehicles in violation of something.
      • 8 Months Ago

      Does anybody know if you can still order after January 1 2015 or is this the deadline?

      • 2 Years Ago
      Hell, Leno could reach that goal all by himself! ;)
      Carbon Fibre
      • 2 Years Ago
      Of course, anything to gather and collect identification from every single person before the international ID system comes into place, the mark of the beast.
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Carbon Fibre
        Oh my gosh did you really bring up the "mark of the beast" in an autoblog column?
          • 2 Years Ago
          Wait until the Mayans hear about this!
      • 2 Years Ago
      How about bringing back that ol proof of citizenship, birth certificate, ya know the old, legal way of doing things. Guess not, this is California after all.
      • 2 Years Ago
      Any thing to get more of our money
        • 2 Years Ago
        The plates do appear to be optional. The CA DMV isn't requiring that you select one of those plate designs. Personally, I like the retro blue tag/yellow lettering combo.
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