On this page I show off my collection of various types of 1959 Maryland license plates.
Latest noteworthy updates to this page
By now you've probably read or figured out that I was born in Maryland in 1959. Many collectors, including me, try to get a plate from every state from their birth year, but I wanted to take this a step further. Therefore, I'm also working towards obtaining every type of plate issued by my home state from my birth year. Obviously, I was too young to remember 1959 plates in use, but the same plate designs were used through 1970, and the 1959 color scheme was also used in several subsequent years, including 1962, 1964, 1968, and 1970. Therefore, these plates seem like old friends.
This page shows what I've acquired so far in my quest. Some of these plates obviously need to be replaced with better examples. At the bottom of the page is a list of the known plate types that I don't yet have. Some, like the one-of-a-kind (well, two-of-a-kind actually, since they were made in pairs) political officeholder plates I will probably never even see, let alone acquire. It wouldn't surprise me if there are no surviving examples of some of these. But it's okay if this set is never complete – it will just give me something to keep searching for.
1959 standard passenger car
All passenger car plates expired on March 31 of each year, and Maryland made sure you didn't forget it, either. The passenger car serial format was xx-00-00. From 1954 to 1961 expirations, only the letters A through L (excluding the letter I) were used in either serial prefix position. Standard-issue plate numbers were issued sequentially and could not be kept from one year to the next.
1959 organizational member passenger car, standard serial format
Various civic organizations were able to reserve alphabetic prefixes on standard serial format passenger car plates. The organizations themselves then assigned specific plate numbers with their serial prefix to their individual members. Because of this, members of these organizations were able to, and frequently did, obtain the same plate number year after year. Otherwise, there's no way to distinguish one of these organizational member plates from a regular passenger plate without already knowing that a given prefix was reserved.
"BB" prefix plates were reserved for members of the Boumi Temple, which is the local Shriners chapter in Baltimore. It's been reported that "BB" stood for "Boumi Baltimore". "BF" prefix plates were reserved for members of the Tall Cedars of Lebanon, a Masonic group. Apparently "BF" stood for "Baltimore Forest", which is the name of their Maryland chapter.
1959 amateur radio operator passenger car
Amateur radio operators could get plates with their call letters beginning with the 1957 expiration plates. These were sort of an early type of vanity plate. Amateur radio plates with 3-31 expiration dates were issued for cars; those with 4-30 expiration dates were issued for trucks. Dave Nicholson, if you're out there, these were the only type of 1957-1970 expiration Maryland plates that could be had with the letter Q, as this example shows.
1959 House of Delegates elected official
Various polital officeholders were issued plates for their personal vehicles identifying them as such. The House of Delegates is Maryland's lower legislative body. The large round graphic is the state seal; this was a sticker applied to the plate at the time of manufacture. Despite some of these political plates not indicating specific expiration dates, they did in fact expire on March 31 of the year indicated on the plate.
1959 taxi or limousine for hire
Most all non-passenger plates expired annually on April 30. Several vehicle types shared serial format 00-00-xx, with the first letter indicating the vehicle class code. Taxis are Class B vehicles in Maryland, as were most for-hire limousines back in the day. One exception: limousines used exclusively for funeral duty would have been registered as funeral vehicles.
1959 ambulance or funeral vehicle
Ambulances and funeral vehicles are Class C vehicles in Maryland. These plates were issued to commercial ambulances, hearses, and to other vehicles used exclusively for funeral-related or cemetery-related duties. Ambulances owned by fire departments instead bore official fire department plates.
1959 regular truck
Trucks are Class E vehicles, so "regular" trucks (those that don't fall into any special category) were issued plates with the first serial letter "E". Various special types of trucks (farm truck, dump truck, truck tractor, etc.) recieved different types of plates, some of which are shown below.
1959 regular trailer
By now you probably realize that trailers must be Class G vehicles. "Regular" trailer plates from 1954 to 1975 pretty much all have the letter "G" as the first letter. There was at least one special type of trailer (dump trailer) that received a distinct 1959 expiration plate.
1959 new vehicle dealer
Dealers of new vehicles used these plates on their demonstrator vehicles. Used vehicle dealers were issued similar plates, but with a stacked "U/C" prefix to the left of the plate number. Dealer plates were issued in pairs back then, just like most every other type of Maryland plate except for trailer and motorcycle plates. Motorcycle dealers had their own distinct, smaller sized plates.
1959 dump trailer
A dump trailer is a trailer with a tipping mechanism enabling it to dump its load in a manner similar to a dump truck. Yes, such trailers are unusual, and therefore this is an obscure, low-volume plate type. I don't know when the dump trailer plate type was first issued in Maryland; the 1959 expiration is the earliest I've seen. They were last issued on the painted black-on-white 1981 base plate, and the last of these expired in 1987. On the reflective black-on-white base plate introduced in 1986, dump trailers are issued regular trailer plates.
1959 farm truck
Farm trucks were one of those special types of trucks that were issued something other the standard truck plates. The words Farm and Truck run vertically down the left and right sides of the plate, respectively.
1959 intercity bus
Maryland issued several different types of bus plates. PSC Bus plates were issued for intercity buses that charged fares and traveled on fixed routes, such as Greyhound or Trailways buses. The letters "PSC" stood for Public Service Commission, the state agency that regulated certain types of for-hire transportation.
1959 school bus
Maryland also issued two different types of plates to school buses. Regular school bus plates, as shown, were issued to school buses that traveled fixed routes; typically such buses were owned by county school systems or private schools, but they didn't have to be.
1959 school charter bus
This is the second type of plate that Maryland issued to school buses. "School charter" plates were issued to school buses for hire, typically owned by bus companies. Such buses were both school buses and charter buses. Frequently, buses with "school charter" plates also simultaneously displayed "school bus" plates. I can only assume that separate registrations were required for school buses used for multiple purposes.
1959 truck tractor
In Maryland, plates marked Trac, Tractor, and even Traction were not issued to farm tractors, but rather to truck tractors (the front part of a tractor-trailer). For 1954 to 1970 expirations, these plates bore the partial word Trac running down the right side of the plate.
When a dealer sold a vehicle, if the buyer wasn't trading in an old vehicle from which he could transfer existing plates, the dealer would issue temporary cardboard plates, to allow the vehicle to be driven while the paperwork was being processed to obtain new metal plates. This plate is slightly smaller than standard metal plates, about 5 7/8" by 11", and does not have pre-punched bolt holes. This particular plate was for a Hudson.
Related pages on this site
Thanks to those who have directly contributed to the information on this page: "Tiger" Joe Sallmen and John Willard.
Sallmen photographs are presumed to be copyrighted by "Tiger" Joe Sallmen, and are used with permission. Turner and Willard plates are from the collections of David Turner and John Willard, respectively.
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