The state has begun taking orders for old-style plates with either a yellow background (with black letters), a black background (with yellow letters) or a blue background (with yellow letters) that can be used on any new car, commercial vehicle, motorcylce or trailer. These so-called "legacy plates" evoke the look of days gone by, but they are brand new.
In California, yellow, black and blue plates carry special value since they signify that a vehicle has been continuously registered in the West Coast state. That's important to collectors of vintage vehicles since California's generally mild climate is kinder to old rubber and steel than just about anywhere else in the United States. A license plate stays with a car in California, whereas other states either offer the ability to transfer plates to new cars or their registration tags expire after a certain number of years.
According to various Internet sources, the yellow plates were used from 1956 to 1963, the black plates lasted from 1963 to 1969 and the blue plates were phased out in 1982. California stopped replacing plates annually during World War II.
Car enthusiasts have been known to pay extra for a vintage car that still sports its original plates. And for buyers who simply want the look of old plates, a pair of excellent condition vintage tags is a costly and challenging acquisition since the old plates can no longer be tied to a vehicle. Section 5004.1 of the state's Motor Vehicle Code allows pre-1969 cars (and pre-1972 trucks) to be re-registered with "year of manufacture" license plates, although many collectors have reported numerous road bumps to registering their old cars on vintage plates.
However, some California car collectors are crying foul at the new plates, which are more reflective than the real McCoys.
A license plate dealer told the Los Angeles Times that his customers "want original plates."
Still, California's DMV thinks that enough car owners will be willing to pony up the $50 application fee for the new plates - and the extra $40 required annually - to offset a $385,000 start up cost for the new program.
But don't throw out your modern white California plates yet, car fans: California won't start the program until it receives at least 7,500 orders.