This page illustrates some of the various special interest and military service license plates currently or recently seen on the streets of North Carolina.
Latest noteworthy updates to this page
This page illustrates some of the various types of optional North Carolina license plates that are available to members of specific organizations, individuals who have served in the military or have achieved certain other criteria, or to members of the general public who wish to promote a particular cause or other special interest.
Prior to July 1, 2015, most special interest plates and all military service plates were made on the standard First in Flight passenger base, with a screened image and/or text on the left side of the plate. These have always been made with blue serial characters; the state never did switch these plate types over to red serial characters. Since that date, however, motorists have the option of obtaining these plates on either the First in Flight base or the new First in Freedom base. So far, the only special interest Freedom plate I've seen is the Eagle Scout plate I ordered for my own car, which is shown below. Based on that one plate, it appers that sequential Freedom plates are assigned a block of otherwise-unsued plate numbers.
Several special interest plates have been issued with graphic designs completely different from either of the standard passenger bases. These designs have evolved over time, where previously almost any design was acceptable, but now, a white rectangle in which the plate number is displayed is required, and the font of the state name must match that of standard plates. These requirements enable red light cameras and plate scanners to more easily identify the state and read the plate number.
Special interest and military service plates typically have plate numbers with four variable characters and a fixed one- or two- character prefix or suffix, based on the plate type. These plates are initially issued with numbers in the four variable positions, starting at 0001. However, several plate types have exceeded 9,999 registrations. The Great Smoky Mountains plate was the first to do so, in 2004 or so, on the first generation plate. When format 0000S/M was exhausted, new format x000S/M was introduced. Next, University of North Carolina (Chapel Hill) plates exhaused the original U0000 format, and are now issued in format U000x. As successive plate types passed the 9,999 mark, the pattern has been that a variable letter is introduced in either the first or fourth variable position, opposite that of the fixed prefix or suffix character(s). In 2008, the Blue Ridge Parkway plate was the first to exhaust its second serial format x000B/P, and a third format of 0x00B/P was introduced. This has also been used up, and these plates are now being issued in a fourth format of 00x0B/P. Some other plate types have gone through sucessive formats in a similar manner.
One-character prefix and suffix letters are full-sized; two-character prefixes and suffixes are usually much smaller and stacked one above the other. Until mid-2008, variable characters and full-sized prefix and suffix characters were always embossed, while smaller prefix and suffix characters were nearly always screened. Begining in mid-2008, newly-introduced special interest plate types, and all newly-issued vanity plates, were made with screened serial characters. In late 2008 and throughout 2009, existing special interest and military service plate types with sequential numbers also switched over to using screened characters on newly-made plates. Then, since mid-2011, newly-introduced special interest and military service plate types, and all newly-issued vanity plates, again are being made with embossed serial characters. In late 2011 and continuing into 2012, existing special interest and military service plate types with sequential numbers also began switching back to embossed characters.
These plates can be issued to any vehicle that would qualify for passenger car plates, and although the DMV doesn't make it obvious, they will also issue these plates to trailers. In such cases, there's nothing on the plate or the expiration sticker that would indicate the plate was issued to a trailer.
Please note that, unlike the other pages on this web site, very few of the plates shown on this page are from my personal collection, since I don't actively collect North Carolina plates. Most of the plates shown on this page – the ones with bolts attaching them to vehicles – are simply photographs of plates that I've spotted on various vehicles found in parking lots, mostly in and around Raleigh. I haven't tried to individually identify the source of each plate shown. However, all images on this page are photographs that I've taken, unless otherwise credited. Oh, and if you're wondering what that arc of light is on some of the candid shots, it's just a reflection from my camera. I get this when I have to shoot towards the sun due to the position of the vehicle. (Remember when cameras were black and didn't reflect light?)
I sincerely hope that you find this information useful. If you find an error or have additional information, or can provide a photo of a plate that is not shown, please send me an e-mail. There's a link to my e-mail address at the bottom of every page.
Move your mouse over each image to see a description of that plate. Click on any image to see a larger version.
For purposes of this discussion, special interest plates include all optional and/or extra-cost plate types, excluding vanity plates, amateur radio operator plates, handicapped plates, military service plates, and political officeholder plates. Military service plates are addressed further down this page. Strictly speaking, antique auto, horseless carriage, and street rod plates are also special interest plates in North Carolina, but those as well as the other types mentioned are addressed on the Current and Recent North Carolina Personal Vehicle Plates page.
These plates are restricted to individuals who have met the criteria or qualification indicated on the plate. With the exception of the Eagle Scout plates, these are all for "first responders" – law enforcement, firefighting, and rescue personnel. Military service plates are addressed separately, below.
The first First in Flight Eagle Scout plate shown was made using the wider, non-passenger dies, in this case made possible due to the narrow graphic image. The second Eagle Scout plate has the normal passenger dies, and the third Eagle Scout plate has flat serial characters.
Typically, the registrant would be a member of the organization shown on the plate, but this is not necessarily a requirement in all cases.
By way of explanation regarding the plate number (you would think it would consist of a K followed by a four-digit number) and the lack of stickers on plate number K001 above, Greg Ciesielski wrote this to me via e-mail in 2005:
It is a real plate that was given to the KofC State Deputy at the time of startup for the plate. The initiator of the [Knights of Columbus plate] program got [plate number] K001 to put on his car but the NC DMV had a 2nd plate created for the State Deputy. He in turn gave it to me for my collection.
The KofC plates were issued with only three digits after the 'K'. I have [similar plate numbers] on my 2 cars... I have not seen a 4 digit KofC plate yet but I have seen numbers in the 600's and also vanity plates.
Thanks for the info, Greg! One additional point: because they had fewer digits, low-numbered K of C plates were stamped with wider, non-passenger dies to emboss the plate number. Obviously, the state eventually began making them with normal, thinner dies.
University and college plates are available to any motorist; no affiliation with the school is necessary. North Carolina issues plates for both in-state and out-of-state schools. A few schools have changed their logos over time, but outdated logos may still be found on older license plates still in use.
In 2005, the North Carolina DMV introduced with great fanfare an entire series of NASCAR special interest plates, most of them promoting a specific driver and car. The response from North Carolina motorists has been overwhelming apathy – very few of these plates have been issued, and they are rarely seen on the road. I personally am surprised by this, considering that North Carolina is the very heart of NASCAR country. Despite this lack of interest, each year new NASCAR plates types are introduced, and existing types are revised as various drivers change teams, car numbers, and so on. On the other hand, some plate types are discontinued as drivers retire.
In 2008 a Dale Earnhardt, Jr. plate, previously conspicuous by its absense, was introduced. The Earnhardt plate is unique in that it features an American flag in the background rather than a checkered flag. All other drivers' plates, including those introduced after the Earnhardt plate, have the checkered flag background.
In the summer or fall of 2013, a few more general NASCAR plates, not promoting specific drivers, were introduced. These haven't been any more popular; the Ford Racing plate shown below was issued in May 2014, but it's only the seventh one made.
General special interest plates are available to any registrant who requests them. Proceeds from some of these benefit a non-profit organization or state agency. Some of these just consist of logos on the familiar First in Flight background, while others have completely different designs. The In God We Trust / Support Our Troops plate is a hybrid, showing the graphics from the standard plate but with an alternate slogan.
Military service plates are issued based on one's military service record, and are not dependent on membership in any organization. Only a few of these are shown on and may be ordered through the NC DMV web site; the others you apparently have to know about and order by some other method. For these reasons, I'm categorizing military service plates separately from special interest plates.
Military-related organizations such as the American Legion and VFW have their own plates, but those are considered organizational member plates, not military service plates.
Special interest and some military service plates are available as vanities, but the plates must have the prefix or suffix letter or letters associated with that plate type, regardless of whether the prefix or suffix is embossed or screened on the plate. These plates may have up to 4 variable characters, including spaces and special characters which are not considered part of the actual plate number.
For unknown reasons, retired military vanity plates are exceptions to the above limitations; they do not automatically get a specific prefix or suffix letter, and so up to five variable characters are permitted. The U.S. Air Force Retired vanity plate above has the suffix letter "R" at the end, but this was apparently the motorist's choice.
The "G" at the end of the Olympic plate is the required suffix letter, so the perhaps the plate should be read "1996 Gold" (with AU being the chemical designation for gold) rather than "1996 August" or "1996 Saint Augustine's". Only its owner knows for sure.
Well, right now there's only one special interest design available as a motorcycle plate. In the spring of 2009, a motorcycle version of the popular Blue Ridge Parkway plate was introduced. It has some minor differences from the full-sized version, mostly to accommodate the slightly different shape and different bolt hole positions of the motorcycle plate. The motorcycle version gets serial format 0000 B/R, while the full-sized plate has always had a B/P serial suffix.
In early 2016 or thereabouts, the first military service motorcycle plate was introduced, for Purple Heart veterans. I have not yet seen one of these in person or in a photo, but the NCDMV website shows a graphic representation of the plate with a graphic of the medal on the left, the text "Purple Heart Veteran – Combat Wounded" on the right, and the full state name (in a different font than full-sized plate) screened along the bottom. Purple Heart motorcycle plates use serial suffix P/V, while full-sized Purple Heart plates use serial prefix P/H.
These codes are used on special interest and military service plates with four or fewer variable serial characters. Codes used on various standard-issue non-passenger plates may be seen on the serial format reference guide on the North Carolina commercial and government plate page.
|Code||Prefix Use||Suffix Use|
|A||Appalachian State University||Shriners – Amran Temple|
|AA||82nd Airborne Division Association|
|AF||U.S. Air Force Reserve||Marine Corps League|
|AJ||NASCAR – A.J. Allmendinger #43 (discontinued)|
|AR||U.S. Army Reserve|
|BC||Breast Cancer Awareness|
|BE||NASCAR – Bill Elliott #91 (discontinued)|
|BH||NASCAR – Kyle Busch #5 (discontinued) |
NASCAR – Kyle Busch #18
|BK||NASCAR – Brad Keselowski #2|
|BL||NASCAR – Bobby Labonte #18 (discontinued)|
NASCAR – Bobby Labonte #43 (discontinued)
|BP||Blue Ridge Parkway (full-sized)|
|BR||Blue Ridge Parkway (motorcycle)|
|BT||Native Brook Trout|
|BV||NASCAR – Brian Vickers #25 (discontinued)|
|C||Western Carolina University||Clemson University|
|CB||NASCAR – Clint Bowyer #33 (discontinued)|
|CE||NASCAR – Carl Edwards #99 (discontinued)|
|CF||N.C. Coastal Federation|
|CG||Coast Guard Reserve
Coast Guard Auxiliary
|Carolinas Golf Association|
|CH||Carolina Hurricanes NHL team|
|CM||NASCAR – Casey Mears #42 (discontinued) |
NASCAR – Casey Mears #25 (discontinued)
NASCAR – Casey Mears #5 (discontinued)
|CP||Carolina Panthers NFL team|
|CS||Core Sound Waterfowl Museum|
|CT||Coastal Land Trust|
|CV||Sons of Confederate Veterans|
|DB||Durham Bulls AAA baseball team||NASCAR – Dave Blaney #22 (discontinued)|
|DC||Distinguished Service Cross|
|DE||NASCAR – Hall of Fame / Dale Earnhardt|
|DF||NASCAR – Dario Franchitti #40 (discontinued)|
|DH||NASCAR – Denny Hamlin #11|
|DJ||NASCAR – Dale Jarrett #88 (discontinued)|
NASCAR – Dale Jarrett #44 (discontinued)
|DL||Donate Life (organ donors)|
|DP||NASCAR – Danica Patrick #7 (discontinued)|
NASCAR – Danica Patrick #10
|DR||NASCAR – David Ragan #6 (discontinued)|
|DS||Delta Sigma Theta Sorority|
|DV||Disabled Veteran (100%)||Disabled Veteran (100%)|
|E||East Carolina University||N.C. Central University|
|EC||Elizabeth City State University|
|EF||Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation|
|ET||NASCAR – Elliott Sadler #38 (discontinued)|
NASCAR – Elliott Sadler #19 (discontinued)
|F||Wake Forest University|
|FC||Distinguished Flying Cross|
|FF||First in Forestry|
|FP||Fraternal Order of Police|
|FR||NASCAR – Ford Racing|
|FS||Fayetteville State University|
|FW||Veterans of Foreign Wars|
|G||University of N.C. Greensboro||Olympic Spirit|
|GA||University of Georgia|
|GB||NASCAR – Greg Biffle #16|
|GC||Guilford Battleground Company|
|GL||Masonic Order – Prince Hall Grand Lodge|
|GS||Gold Star Family|
|GV||Desert Storm Veteran|
|GW||Gardner Webb University|
|HB||Save the Honey Bee|
|HC||N.C. Horse Council|
|HF||NASCAR – Hall of Fame|
|HG||Harley Owners' Group|
|HH||Home Care & Hospice|
|HK||Mountains to Sea Trail|
|HP||Retired N.C. Highway Patrol Officer|
|HU||High Point University|
|IC||I Care (Animal Lover)|
|JB||NASCAR – Jeff Burton #31 (discontinued)|
|JD||Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation|
|JF||NASCAR – Jeff Green #43 (discontinued)|
|JG||NASCAR – Jeff Gordon #24|
|JJ||NASCAR – Jimmie Johnson #48|
|JL||NASCAR – Joe Logano #20 (discontinued)|
|JM||NASCAR – Jeremy Mayfield #19 (discontinued)|
|JN||NASCAR – Joe Nemechek #01 (discontinued)|
NASCAR – Joe Nemechek #13 (discontinued)
|JR||NASCAR – Dale Earnhardt, Jr. #88|
|JV||The V Foundation for Cancer Research|
|JY||NASCAR – J.J. Yeley #18 (discontinued)|
|K||Knights of Columbus|
|KA||Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority|
|KB||NASCAR – Kurt Busch #97 (discontinued) |
NASCAR – Kurt Busch #2 (discontinued)
NASCAR – Kurt Busch #22 (discontinued)
NASCAR – Kurt Busch #41
|KH||NASCAR – Kevin Harvick #29 (discontinued)|
NASCAR – Kevin Harvick #4
|KK||NASCAR – Kasey Kahne #9 (discontinued) |
NASCAR – Kasey Kahne #5
|KM||Battle of Kings Mountain|
|KN||Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity|
|KP||NASCAR – Kyle Petty #45 (discontinued)|
|KS||NASCAR – Ken Schrader #21 (discontinued)|
|KV||Korean War Veteran|
|LE||Retired Law Enforcement Officer|
|LM||Legion of Merit|
|LR||Lenoir-Rhyne College (discontinued) |
|MC||U.S. Marine Corps Reserve|
|MM||Maritime Museum (Wild Dolphins)|
|MS||National Multiple Sclerosis Society|
|NC||N.C. National Guard Retired||Meredith College|
|ND||NASCAR – David Stremme #40 (discontinued)|
NASCAR – David Stremme #12 (discontinued)
|NG||N.C. National Guard (Active)|
|NJ||NASCAR – Jamie McMurray #26 (discontinued)|
NASCAR – Jamie McMurray #1
|NK||NASCAR – Matt Kenseth #17 (discontinued)|
NASCAR – Matt Kenseth #20
|NL||Florida State University|
|NM||NASCAR – Mark Martin #6 (discontinued)|
NASCAR – Mark Martin #01 (discontinued)
NASCAR – Mark Martin #5 (discontinued)
|NR||U.S. Naval Reserve||NASCAR – generic version 1 (flags graphic)|
|NS||NASCAR – Reed Sorenson #41 (discontinued)|
NASCAR – Reed Sorenson #43 (discontinued)
|NW||NASCAR – Michael Waltrip #55 (discontinued)|
|P||University of N.C. Pembroke|
|PB||Police Benevolence Association|
|PD||Partially Disabled Veteran|
|PF||International Association of Fire Fighters|
|PH||Purple Heart Veteran (full-sized)||Shriners – Prince Hall Shrine|
|PM||NASCAR – Juan Pablo Montoya #42 (discontinued)|
|POW||(Ex-)Prisoner of War|
|PS||Penn State University|
|PV||Purple Heart Veteran (motorcycle)|
|Q||University of N.C. Charlotte||Omega Psi Phi Fraternity|
|R||Retired U.S. Military (various branches)||Retired U.S. Military (various branches)|
|RA||National Rifle Association|
|RC||Charlotte Motor Speedway|
|RD||NASCAR – Ricky Rudd #21 (discontinued)|
|RE||Homes4NC (Housing Opportunity Foundation)|
|RF||Fire Fighter and Rescue Squad member||NASCAR – generic version 2 (race car graphic)|
|RH||Ronald McDonald House|
|RI||Rotary International Club|
|RN||NASCAR – Ryan Newman #12 (discontinued)|
NASCAR – Ryan Newman #39 (discontinued)
|RP||NASCAR – Richard Petty Historic|
|RS||Resuce Squad member||NASCAR – Scott Riggs #10 (discontinued)|
|RW||NASCAR – Rusty Wallace (discontinued)|
|S||NC State University||Shriners – Sudan Temple|
|SA||In God We Trust / Support Our Troops (discontinued) |
In God We Trust
|SC||University of South Carolina|
|SD||Silver Star Disabled Veteran||Western Square Dancer|
|SF||Buddy Pelletier Surfing Foundation|
|SG||Shag Dancing||NASCAR – Sterling Marlin #14 (discontinued)|
|SH||NASCAR – Ricky Stenhouse Jr. #17|
|SI||Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity|
|SM||Friends of Great Smoky Mountains (discontinued) |
Friends of the Smokies
|SP||N.C. State Parks|
|SR||Street Rod (discontinued)||Share the Road (bicyclist)|
|ST||Save the Sea Turtles|
|SV||U.S. Navy Submarine Veteran|
|SW||NASCAR – Scott Wimmer #22 (discontinued)|
|T||N.C. A&T State University||Shriners – Oasis Temple|
|TK||NASCAR – Travis Kvapil #77 (discontinued)|
|TL||NASCAR – Terry Labonte #44 (discontinued)|
|TS||NASCAR – Tony Stewart #20 (discontinued)|
NASCAR – Tony Stewart #14
|TX||NASCAR – Martin Truex #56 (discontinued)|
|U||University of N.C. (Chapel Hill)|
|UA||University of Alabama|
|UF||University of Florida|
|UK||University of Kentucky|
|UM||University of Michigan|
|US||Support Our Troops|
|V||Virginia Tech||Bronze Star – Valor in Combat|
|VA||U.S. Army Veteran|
|VC||U.S. Coast Guard Veteran|
|VF||Fire Fighter||U.S. Air Force Veteran|
|VM||U.S. Marine Corps Veteran|
|VN||U.S. Navy Veteran|
|VV||Vietnam War Veteran|
|W||University of N.C. Wilmington|
|WC||Wildlife Resources (Cardinal)|
|WH||Wildlife Habitat Foundation|
|WS||Winston-Salem State Univerity, version 2|
|WT||Wild Turkey Federation||War on Terror Veteran|
|WV||World War II Veteran|
|X||Winston-Salem State Univerity, version 1
Related pages on this site
Elsewhere on the web
Thanks to those who have directly contributed to the information on this page: Greg Ciesielski, Paul Casadonte, Kenny O'Dell, Mike Fox, John Weeks, Neal Adkins, and Brad Key.
Ciesielski, O'Dell, Casadonte, Fox, Weeks, Adkins, and Key photos are presumed to be copyrighted by Greg Ciesielski, Kenny O'Dell, Paul Casadonte, Mike Fox, John Weeks, Neal Adkins, and Brad Key, respectively, and are used with permission. O'Dell, Chapman, Morgan, and Steele plates are from the collections of Kenny O'Dell, Craig Chapman, Michael Morgan, and Dan Steele, respectively.
This page is