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Quiz: Do you know the state by its license plate?

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Michael Flocker

Quiz: Do you know the state by its license plate?

Back in 1893, France was the first country to introduce a license plate, also known as a registration plate. In 1901, New York became the first state in this country to make license plates mandatory.

A vehicle’s license plate has evolved a great deal since the French first started numbering them sequentially, starting at one. In this country, each of the 50 states and Washington D.C. has its own license plate, determined carefully by committees and having specific designs, letters, and layouts often based on the state’s history, topography, geographical location, and cultural phenomena.

Even if you have not traveled around the United States much, you likely have experienced the time suck of sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic. One way to make that downtime more enjoyable is to test yourself on license plates from different states.

If you’ve been observant, you can’t have helped but notice the various symbols and designs on license plates from states all over the country, aside from the obvious differences in colors and the use of letters and numbers. Take this quiz to put your observation and memorization skills to the test and see if you recognize the plates from all 50 states. While you may find that some popular states will be easier to guess based on their license plates, find out if you're a pro who can identify the more obscure ones.

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Wikimedia Commons

Clue #1

This Midwestern state introduced a bluebird license plate in 2008 that was replaced by a new bicentennial design. The reason? The state Legislature wanted to commemorate and celebrate 200 years of statehood for the state’s bicentennial that falls on Aug. 10, 2021. In 2016, the state’s Department of Revenue ordered a reissue of state license plates with the new design, which was determined by the License Plate Design Advisory Committee.

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Pixabay

Answer #1: Missouri

- Year this design went into effect: 2018
- State slogan: Bicentennial

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Wikimedia Commons

Clue #2

This Midwest state has a light blue plate with part of the state seal in the background in white. It also includes the state’s entire name printed in capital letters at the top of the plate in serif type. In 2018, the state’s Department of Revenue changed the way it manufactured license plates. It switched from embossed characters on the plates to digitally printing them, which proved faster and more convenient for motorists. According to The New York Times, in October 2018, this state recalled 731 license plates with the letter combination of JAP. The Japanese American community complained it was a racial slur.

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My Travel Lessons // Shutterstock

Answer #2: Kansas

- Year this design went into effect: 2007
- State slogan: None

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Jerry "Woody" // Flickr

Clue #3

This West Coast state began issuing permanent license plates in 1914 made from porcelain with white lettering on a red background. Five decades later, in the 1960s, the state’s license plates were black with chrome yellow characters. More recently, the state Department of Motor Vehicles introduced plates with a white background that included its website address on the bottom in a basic red script.

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Pixabay

Answer #3: California

- Year this design went into effect: 2011
- State slogan: None

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Wikimedia Commons

Clue #4

This state is the second-largest in the United States. Its current plate is black and white with a star in the upper left corner that has the same color scheme. The license plate also includes a small black outline of the state printed between three letters and four numbers. The state switched from a colorful red, white, and blue design in 2009 to a simple black and white design, as many motorists complained that the previous colors did not go well with their vehicles.

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Pixabay

Answer #4: Texas

- Year this design went into effect: 2012
- State slogan: The Lone Star State

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cylent // Flickr

Clue #5

State prison inmates make 10,000 license plates every day in this Midwestern state. The plate features the county of the vehicle’s registration at the bottom and the letters and numbers are in black against a white background with the top of the plate covered in a light blue background with the state’s name and skyline in white. In 2019, the state debuted the blackout license plate, which, as the name suggests, is black with white letters and numbers.

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f11photo // Shutterstock

Answer #5: Iowa

- Year this design went into effect: 2018
- State slogan: None

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Wikimedia Commons

Clue #6

With the phrase “Greatest Snow on Earth” on its license plate along with snow-capped mountain peaks, this state is a popular skiing destination. One design of the license plate has a person skiing in the background and another has the famous red rock arch, which Americans voted as their third favorite in 2014.

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canadastock // Shutterstock

Answer #6: Utah

- Year this design went into effect: 2007
- State slogan: Life Elevated

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Clue #7

This state is famous for its thousands of lakes and brutally cold winters. "10,000 lakes" has had a place on the state's license plate since 1950

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photo.ua // Shutterstock

Answer #7: Minnesota

- Year this design went into effect: 2009
- State slogan: 10,000 Lakes

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Wikimedia Commons

Clue #8

The license plate of this state features an image of the Sower, an iconic sculpture atop the state’s capitol building. The statue is of a pioneer scattering seeds over the capital city. According to a local newspaper, the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles was embarrassed when the artist of the previous license plate portrayed the pioneer’s statue inaccurately and in a sexually suggestive style that left state residents both shocked and amused.

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marekuliasz // Shutterstock

Answer #8: Nebraska

- Year this design went into effect: 2017
- State slogan: None

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Clue #9

This is the only license plate that mentions the USA after the state’s name to avoid confusion about it belonging to a neighboring country. The plate has a chile on it and came to be known as the “chile plate” by members of the Automobile License Plate Collectors Association. In 2017, the association voted it as the “best plate.” This state is also known as the “uranium capital of the world” after it produced most of the country’s uranium supply during the post-World War II era.

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Herbert Heinsche // Shutterstock

Answer #9: New Mexico

- Year this design went into effect: 1989
- State slogan: Land of Enchantment

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NG8 // Shutterstock

Clue #10

The license plate of this state features the state’s flag colors: black, gold, red, and white. It was Gov. Larry Hogan’s idea to use the flag design in 2016 and the new plates replaced ones that commemorated the War of 1812.

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Sean Pavone // Shutterstock

Answer #10: Maryland

- Year this design went into effect: 2016
- State slogan: Maryland Proud

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Amy the Nurse // Flickr

Clue #11

This Southern state’s license plate is inscribed with its nickname, “Sportsman’s Paradise” that acknowledges the state’s many hunting and fishing spots. The pelican, which is the official state bird, also is featured in between the letters and numbers of the license plate.

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Sean Pavone // Shutterstock

Answer #11: Louisiana

- Year this design went into effect: 2005
- State slogan: Sportsman's Paradise

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Clue #12

This East Coast state’s license plate bears the words “Constitution State” at the bottom. The plate’s slogan refers to a set of local government rules that date back to 1639 known as the Fundamental Orders.

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Sean Pavone

Answer #12: Connecticut

- Year this design went into effect: 2000
- State slogan: Constitution State

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Clue #13

Also known as the “Mountain State,” the state’s license plates are blue and gold, which are the official state colors. These colors were adopted on March 8, 1963, during the state’s centennial year.

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Answer #13: West Virginia

- Year this design went into effect: 2006
- State slogan: Wild, Wonderful

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Clue #14

These state license plates have a similar color scheme to the taxis that ferry passengers in the biggest city in the United States. The license plates are black and what the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles refers to as “empire gold.”

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Answer #14: New York

- Year this design went into effect: 2010
- State slogan: Empire State

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Clue #15

Known for its stunning beaches, this state has a license plate with a white background and rainbow that stretches across the plate. The state’s capital city is also known as the “rainbow capital of the world” as its elevated location, sunny beaches, and precipitation mean that a rainbow appears almost daily.

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Answer #15: Hawaii

- Year this design went into effect: 1991
- State slogan: Aloha State

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Clue #16

This state boasts of one of the oldest national parks in the National Park System and has the highest volcano in the Cascade Range. Mt. Rainier is featured in the background of the license plates.

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Answer #16: Washington

- Year this design went into effect: 1998
- State slogan: Evergreen State

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Clue #17

One of the country’s most iconic desert landscapes and the sun setting on it is part of this state’s license plate. The state is home to a famous national park that is one of the seven natural wonders of the world.

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Sean Pavone // Shutterstock

Answer #17: Arizona

- Year this design went into effect: 2008
- State slogan: Grand Canyon State

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Clue #18

As more than half of the state is covered in thick and lush forests—78% to be precise—it’s obvious that this state takes pride in successfully conserving its green space. Accordingly, its license plates also are green.

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NEKVT // Shutterstock

Answer #18: Vermont

- Year this design went into effect: 1985
- State slogan: Green Mountain State

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Amy the Nurse // Flickr

Clue #19

A hero of the American Revolution, Gen. John Stark’s motto “Live Free or Die,” became the slogan of this East Coast state. It also is imprinted on the state’s license plates.

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Winston Tan // Shutterstock

Answer #19: New Hampshire

- Year this design went into effect: 1999
- State slogan: Live Free or Die

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Clue #20

In 2012, this state’s license plates got a makeover. The Biloxi Lighthouse was replaced by the famous blue guitar, “Lucille,” that belonged to legendary singer-songwriter B.B. King. Previously, the Biloxi Lighthouse symbolized the resilience of the Coast after the damage inflicted by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

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Peek Creative Collective // Shutterstock

Answer #20: Mississippi

- Year this design went into effect: 2012
- State slogan: Birthplace of America's Music

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Clue #21

This state’s license plate refrains from displaying its nickname, Keystone State, and instead just uses its emblem. The state earned the nickname because of the key role its citizens played in the economic, social, and political development of the United States, and because it was the middle colony of the original 13 colonies.

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Sean Pavone // Shutterstock

Answer #21: Pennsylvania

- Year this design went into effect: 2006
- State slogan: None

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NG8 // Shutterstock

Clue #22

The Wright Brothers made the first successful flight in this state; and to recognize their contribution, the license plates have the words “First in Flight” printed on the top. In 2015, the state released another design of license plates bearing the slogan “First in Freedom” that pays tribute to the state’s efforts to break free from Great Britain as one of its colonies.

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Sharkshock // Shutterstock

Answer #22: North Carolina

- Year this design went into effect: 1982
- State slogan: First in Flight

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Clue #23

After the state survived Hurricane Matthew in October 2016, the Department of Motor Vehicles announced it would issue a new license plate and sticker. The plate’s new design includes a palmetto tree and a crescent tree in dark blue against a white background. The state’s motto, “While I Breathe, I Hope,” was a tribute to the state’s resilience in 2016.

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f11photo // Shutterstock

Answer #23: South Carolina

- Year this design went into effect: 2016
- State slogan: While I Breathe, I Hope

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Clue #24

Known for its 98 historic and wooden-covered bridges that date back to the 1800s, this state’s latest license plates celebrate these iconic structures. From 1820 to 1920, an estimated 500 covered bridges were constructed in this state. 

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Sean Pavone // Shutterstock

Answer #24: Indiana

- Year this design went into effect: 2017
- State slogan: None

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Paul Sullivan // Flickr

Clue #25

The world-renowned Mount Rushmore inspired the state’s slogan “Great Faces. Great Places.” This landmark has been a prominent feature on the state’s license plates for decades.

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welcomia // Shutterstock

Answer #25: South Dakota

- Year this design went into effect: 2016
- State slogan: Great Faces. Great Places.

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Wikimedia Commons

Clue #26

President Abraham Lincoln began his political career in this state that proudly has the slogan “Land of Lincoln” on its license plates. The most recent plates include Lincoln’s face and the famous skyline of one of the country’s largest cities.

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Rudy Balasko // Shutterstock

Answer #26: Illinois

- Year this design went into effect: 2017
- State slogan: Land of Lincoln

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Clue #27

The slogan, “Taxation without Representation,” was etched across license plates as a protest against the lack of residents’ voting rights, according to The Washington Post. Residents stuck to the slogan to shame members of Congress who reportedly spend billions of residents’ tax dollars without first consulting with them. Despite the license plate’s strong sentiment, the slogan did not affect lawmakers.

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Answer #27: District of Columbia

- Year this design went into effect: 2017
- State slogan: Taxation without Representation

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Clue #28

While this state has more than a dozen license plates, the standard-issue one features a tree against a mountain backdrop. Another clue: the state also boasts the deepest lake in the United States, aptly named Crater Lake, which is 2,000 feet deep.

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Answer #28: Oregon

- Year this design went into effect: 1990
- State slogan: None

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Wikimedia Commons

Clue #29

This state holds the distinction of being the first of the 13 original states to ratify the U.S. Constitution. So, it earned its nickname, “The First State,” a slogan prominently featured on its license plates.

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Felix Mizioznikov // Shutterstock

Answer #29: Delaware

- Year this design went into effect: 1959
- State slogan: The First State

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Amy the Nurse // Flickr

Clue #30

This state is, in fact, a peninsula located on the East Coast that has one of the most simple and straightforward license plates in the country. With a light yellow background, the state’s silhouette is featured in the center of the plate and the slogan at the bottom.

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Roman Babakin // Shutterstock

Answer #30: New Jersey

- Year this design went into effect: 2007
- State slogan: Garden State

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Clue #31

The iconic Teton mountain range stretched across the license plates of this state for close to a decade. More recently, the state chose a different scenic beauty for the plates, the Lower Green River Lake and Squaretop Mountain located in the Bridger-Teton National Forest.

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haveseen // Shutterstock

Answer #31: Wyoming

- Year this design went into effect: 2016
- State slogan: None

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Clue #32

While North Carolina was where the Wright Brothers successfully flew a plane for the first time, this state is known as the “Birthplace of Aviation.” The state’s license plate declares it as the place where the Wright Brothers were born; and claims to be the state of aviation because the Wright Brothers did their research, made their designs, and created their first aircraft in this state.

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Pedro Gutierrez // Shutterstock

Answer #32: Ohio

- Year this design went into effect: 2010
- State slogan: Birthplace of Aviation

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Rafael Medina // Flickr

Clue #33

Popularly nicknamed as “The Volunteer State,” the origin of the nickname dates back to the War of 1812 when thousands of soldiers from the state were credited with prominent roles in the war. The state’s reputation for having the most reliable and proactive volunteers strengthened during the Mexican-American War when 2,800 state volunteers were sought, but a whopping 30,000 showed up.

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Answer #33: Tennessee

- Year this design went into effect: 2011
- State slogan: The Volunteer State

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Clue #34

The state calls itself “Vacationland” because of its diverse flora and fauna. While some license plates have a “Support Wildlife” slogan at the bottom, the standard-issued plates feature the state bird, the black-capped chickadee, and a pine cone to represent the Eastern white pine, which is the state tree.

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Mihai_Andritoiu // Shutterstock

Answer #34: Maine

- Year this design went into effect: 1999
- State slogan: Vacationland

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Wikimedia Commons

Clue #35

The one thing that has stayed consistent in the many license plate designs of this state over the years has been some form of the word “potato.” At first, the slogan was “World Famous Potato” in the early 1950s and was then changed to “Famous Potatoes” a few years later. After all, the state has always taken pride in producing high-quality russet potatoes.

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CSNafzger // Shutterstock

Answer #35: Idaho

- Year this design went into effect: 2008
- State slogan: Famous Potatoes

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Oklahoma

Clue #36

The scissor-tailed flycatcher, the state’s bird, appears on all license plates with a slogan that encourages people to explore this state. In 2017, the license plate design was changed after some controversy because it showcased the sculpture of the “Sacred Rain Arrow.” The statue is of an Apache warrior praying for rainfall by shooting an arrow at the clouds.

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Answer #36: Oklahoma

- Year this design went into effect: 2017
- State slogan: Explore Oklahoma

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DoT

Clue #37

A bison has been the main feature of this state’s license plates. While at first it was positioned at the bottom left side of license plates, a more recent design switched the bison’s position to the lower right side. The word “Legendary” was adopted by the state’s Tourism Department; it replaced the phrase “Discover the Spirit” at the top of the plates.

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John Brueske // Shutterstock

Answer #37: North Dakota

- Year this design went into effect: 2016
- State slogan: Legendary

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TEAMLOGO

Clue #38

Mountains in multiple hues and snow-capped peaks are featured on every license plate with this state’s slogan at the bottom that reads, “Home Means [state name].” Previously, the license plate depicted the state’s famous mountain ranges against the backdrop of a stunning sunset.

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Evgeniya Lystsova // Shutterstock

Answer #38: Nevada

- Year this design went into effect: 2016
- State slogan: Home Means Nevada

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Clue #39

An outline of the state’s most famous export, peaches, is at the center of this state’s license plates. In the center of the peach, there is a green silhouette of the state that takes pride in its nickname, “Peach State.”

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Sean Pavone // Shutterstock

Answer #39: Georgia

- Year this design went into effect: 2012
- State slogan: Peach State

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Clue #40

The state’s slogan is featured prominently on its license plates. To the top right side of the license plate, there is a barn, greenfield, and two birds flying over it to represent the state’s thriving dairy industry.

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f11photo // Shutterstock

Answer #40: Wisconsin

- Year this design went into effect: 2000
- State slogan: America's Dairyland

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Amy the Nurse // Flickr

Clue #41

This East Coast state’s license plates are among the most patriotic in the country with the slogan, “The Spirit of America” printed at the bottom. The plates are simple: a white background, with numbers in red and letters in blue, to match the colors of the U.S. flag.

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Answer #41: Massachusetts

- Year this design went into effect: 1988
- State slogan: The Spirit of America

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Clue #42

The Southern state has license plates with a white and light blue background and the state’s name and numbers in indigo blue. At the bottom, the county of registration is in a different shade of blue. The state’s slogan, “Unbridled Spirit,” is accentuated with the head of a running horse, its mane flowing, to the upper right side of the state’s name.

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Alexey Stiop // Shutterstock

Answer #42: Kentucky

- Year this design went into effect: 2005
- State slogan: Unbridled Spirit

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Amy the Nurse // Flickr

Clue #43

The license plate features a big diamond in the center that refers to the state’s abundant natural resource of the world’s most expensive gemstone. The state is also home to the Crater of Diamonds State Park.

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Eduardo Medrano // Shutterstock

Answer #43: Arkansas

- Year this design went into effect: 2006
- State slogan: The Natural State

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Clue #44

The smallest state geographically in the country, this state’s license plate features the ocean’s waves. The state’s official nickname is the “Ocean State” because of its proximity to the Atlantic Ocean.

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Answer #44: Rhode Island

- Year this design went into effect: 1996
- State slogan: Ocean State

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Clue #45

Located in the South, this state's license plate has a U.S. flag in the background, with the words “God Bless America” at the bottom. At the top right, there’s a red heart with the state’s slogan, “Heart of Dixie.”

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Answer #45: Alabama

- Year this design went into effect: 2014
- State slogan: Heart of Dixie

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Clue #46

At the center of the license plate is a flag with stars known as the Big Dipper and Polaris or the North Star. The flag stands for this state’s northern position and its strength that also earned its slogan, “The Last Frontier.”

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Answer #46: Alaska

- Year this design went into effect: 2010
- State slogan: The Last Frontier

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Clue #47

To lure more tourists to the state of great lakes and also because it has the longest freshwater shoreline in the United States, this state’s government launched a tourism initiative along with new license plates that displayed a new slogan. The aim of the state was for motorists to be the tourism initiative’s “brand ambassadors.”

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Sean Pavone // Shutterstock

Answer #47: Michigan

- Year this design went into effect: 2013
- State slogan: Pure Michigan

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Clue #48

Home to the Rocky Mountains, the license plate bears an embossed mountain design that stretches almost to the top of the plate. This mountainous state issued its first license plate in 1913 and the first embossing of the mountain on its license plates was done in 1960.

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welcomia // Shutterstock

Answer #48: Colorado

- Year this design went into effect: 2000
- State slogan: None

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Lutsenko_Oleksandr // Shutterstock

Clue #49

Unless residents request a different license plate, the standard-issued ones are simple with a white outline of the state on blue and the numbers and letters within that, and a slogan at the top within the state outline. Those who prefer an environmentally themed license plate can opt for one of the “Yellowstone Forever” plates.

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Gary C. Tognoni // Shutterstock

Answer #49: Montana

- Year this design went into effect: 2010
- State slogan: Treasure State

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Clue #50

This state is famous for lovers, according to its slogan. The slogan appears at the bottom of the plate in black letters with a red heart in the place of the “V” in “lovers.” The blue-and-white color scheme has been standard for decades.

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Sean Pavone // Shutterstock

Answer #50: Virginia

- Year this design went into effect: 2014
- State slogan: Virginia is for Lovers

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Clue #51

The Sunshine State is famous for its oranges and features the fruit in the middle of its license plate along with three white flowers. In the past, the state’s license plate has featured a sunset and the face of its endangered panthers.

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Sean Pavone // Shutterstock

Answer #51: Florida

- Year this design went into effect: 2003
- State slogan: Sunshine State

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