Normal series plates, 1956-2000 DIN style

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 Car Plates
Early 1956 series plate. LB = Ludwigsburg. This plate is a bit higher than modern German plates, and its hyphen is above the vertical center. This is because the plate was most likely made before the introduction of the inspection sticker in 1960.
1960s plastic plate. B = Berlin. In the 1960s, some plates were made of soft plastic. This one has a technical inspection sticker from 1964.

1956-1989 non-reflective normal series plates. Non-reflective plates were produced until 1989 and are still valid if on a vehicle since then.

Here are three examples with 1, 2 and 3 letter district codes:
  M = München (Munich)
  DA = Darmstadt
  WES = Wesel

All three are rear plates with a round general inspection sticker. On the third plate, there are some letters in a narrower script. This was done in case the number would otherwise not have fit on the plate.

Umlaut plate. BÜS = Büsingen (a small German town entirely surrounded by Swiss territory). The district abbreviations use umlaut characters, when applicable. Those characters are not used as serial letters
This otherwise normal series plate is funny, because "dumm" is German for "stupid". DU = Duisburg.
1971-2000 reflective normal series plate. LB = Ludwigsburg. Reflective plates were introduced optionally in 1971, and became mandatory in 1989. Front plate with hexagonal emission test sticker.

American car plates.

  CB = Cottbus
  EN = Ennepe-Ruhr-Kreis
  GL = Rheinisch-Bergischer-Kreis (Bergisch Gladbach)
  NF = Nordfriesland

Whenever possible, American made cars receive short number combinations, so that a plate can be made that does not exceed 12 inches in length. Usually a normal height plate is made, but sometimes non-standard 6 inch high plates were made and accepted by the authority. With the narrow die variety up to six characters can be fitted onto a 12 inch plate.

For more than six characters, it is necessary to use two lines. Normally, small motorcycle/tracor size plates are used for that. You can see such plates at the bottom of this page. The NF plate, however, is a rare odd type, having NF in the size used on the normal small plates, and the serial number in a medium size I have never seen anywhere else.

The GL plate is another oddball, having seven characters squeezed into one line by utilizing the empty space within the letter L.

 Motorcycle and Small Size Plates
Motorcycle plates.

  M = München (Munich)
  EM = Emmendingen
  S = Stuttgart

Nominally, motorcycle plates are identical to two line car plates. However, they are usually less wide, either by having short numbers or by using narrow dies.

The Stuttgart plate is a late version of that style, having already the bigger colorful sticker introduced for the Euro style plates in the late 1990s.

Small size plate. UN = Unna.

These plates are always used on small motorcycles and tractors. With special permission, they can also be used in cases where a full size plate would not fit (e.g. American cars).
Small size mystery plate. BGL = Berchtesgadener Land.

This is a moped sized plate with a normal number on it. The plate was definitely used on a vehicle, but it is in a size and shape that should not exist.

 Moped Insurance Plates

Top row: 1959 plate
Bottom row: Plates for 1971, 1978, 1979 and 1980. The 1971 is not yet reflective.

These plates are issued annually by the insurance companies. They were introduced in 1957, and initially had black characters with annually varying background colors. In 1960 the background became always white, and the characters became black, blue and green in a three year pattern. In 1961 the size was slightly increased. At the bottom of the plate, there is the writing "HUK-VERBAND" followed by the year. Plates are valid until the end of February of the following year.

See also from the France page:

 Temporary, provisional and trade plates
1969-1995 plate for car imported from Germany.

When a French bought a used car in Germany, he could keep the German number (on a yellow plate) for four months to drive in France. This practice was unofficial. Although this plate has a German number and was made in Germany, I decided to consider it French, because its legal (or at least customary) basis is French.

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