New License Plate to Feature Retro Design

By Beacon Staff

HELENA – Montana is redesigning its basic license plate design for the first time in five years, and is looking at a retro-inspired design that harkens back to the plates of the 1970s and earlier.

The plate will feature a simple, solid background of either blue or green — a committee is still deciding the color.

Gone are the mountain ridges along the bottom, and a sky featuring blue-green hues. Also gone from the old plate is the well-known “Big Sky Country” monicker, which was placed under an ornate, and elaborately written “Montana” in an old West style.

The “Big Sky Country” moniker was first placed on plates about 40 or so year ago, according to Department of Justice records. The new plate will revert to the older slogan “Treasure State,” that was common on plates through the 1950s.

By law, the state outline appears on the plate. This time it will be a simply white outline on the solid color background. The bison skull still is on the plate, separating the county number from the plate number.

“MONTANA” will be spelled out in plain, white capitol letters along the bottom. It will be followed by “10”, to denote the 2010 year of issue. Montana plates used to come stamped with a year of issue through about the 1980s.

The Motor Vehicle Division Committee — which meets again in the next few weeks to make a final pick — is looking at three shades of green, and two shades of blue.

Even the shades of blue and green are picked from plates of past, such as one that resembles the green 1973 plate.

Montana is known for a wide assortment of colorful specialty plates, 105 total plus special college and university plates. The committee decided the base plate should look to the days of simplicity in design.

“With over 100 options to choose from, the committee decided to go with a retro look that harkens back to the style used for the first three-quarters of the last century,” said Department of Justice spokesman Kevin O’Brien.

The state outline dates back to the plate of 1933, and is now a legal requirement.

The state last issued a new plate in January 2006. State law requires a new issue every five years, which comes this January.

The new plate will be sold to motorists as they register their vehicles.

The committee is made up of representatives from the Department of Corrections, which makes the plates, Travel Montana, the Highway Patrol and the state Motor Vehicle Division.