Wisconsin Department of Transportation

Alert: The following services will be unavailable on Saturday, January 5, 2013 from 12 a.m. (midnight) to 6 a.m. CST due to system maintenance.

Sesquicentennial and red-letter license plates

When will the reissuance process begin, and how long will it take?

  • It will occur automatically when a registration renewal is completed on or after August 27, 2013.
  • DMV will mail the first reissue registration renewal notices for these plates at the end of August and continue until all remaining Sesquicentennial and red letter standard auto plates are replaced Ė fall of 2014. 

How will motorists know?

  • Motorists with plates scheduled for reissuance will receive a renewal letter rather than a postcard, explaining the process.
  • This will begin with registrations expiring October 1, 2013, and later. DMV will mail October renewal notices on August 29, 2013.
  • Motorists with Sesquicentennial plates expiring before October 1, 2013, did not receive a message on their license plate renewal, but will receive new plates if they renew on August 27 or later. An informational insert provided with the certificate of registration will inform them that they will receive new plates.
  • Some Sesquicentennial plate holders with a personalized plate message that cannot be replaced, due to duplication conflicts with other personalized plates issued, will receive an additional letter.

How will plates be reissued?

  • Renewals done by mail or Internet: You will receive a certificate of registration, but in lieu of an expiration sticker, an informational insert will be included explaining that your license plates were reissued and that new plates will arrive via USPS. DMV will mail license plates separately and include the necessary sticker kit with an additional informational insert explaining why you've received new plates.
  • Renewals done by third-party agents: You will receive a year sticker and certificate of registration from the agent, as normal. DMV will mail license plates separately and will include the necessary sticker kit with an additional informational insert explaining why you've received new plates. DMV will provide an informational sheet to the agents to help answer questions regarding the reissuance process.
  • Renewals done at DMV customer service centers: If you are applying at a service center, you will receive license plates, stickers and a certificate of registration.

Why is DMV doing this?

  • These plates are years beyond their projected life cycle.
  • Their reflectivity is decreased, and they are faded, making them less visible at night, and more difficult for law enforcement to read.

       Old Sesquicentennial plate Old red-lettered plate

  • The American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators (AAMVA) recommends standards for license plate design: white backgrounds and black letters provide the best contrast and visibility.
  • Additionally, AAMVA has published a license plate design "best practices" guide for improving the effectiveness of automated license plate readers (ALRPs). 

Why arenít Sesquicentennial plates being replaced with new Sesquicentennial plates?

  • They were a limited edition series created to commemorate the 150th anniversary of Wisconsinís 1848 statehood.
  • They were available from December 1996 through December 1998, at which time DMVís statutory authority to issue new Sesquicentennial plates ended.
  • After 1998, DMV continued to issue Sesquicentennial plates for replacement purposes. In 2008, the remaining stock was gone, and customers needing to replace their Sesquicentennial plates received regular design plates.
  • With over 440,000 issued, they were very popular. However, they are very old and ineffective for law enforcement to identify a vehicle. Sesquicentennial plates were difficult to read due to the "busy" nature of the background design and the red letters.

What will replace Sesquicentennial and red-letter plates?

  • Depending on the type of registration for each vehicle, you will receive regular auto, farm, light truck or motor home plates.
  • If you have a personalized Sesquicentennial plate, you will receive regular plates with the same message. About 700, or 3% of these customers, will not be able to retain their personalized plate message because it has already been issued more than once. DMV no longer allows any duplication of personalized plate messages due to law enforcement concerns. Affected customers may choose to reapply for a different personalized message or receive a regular sequentially numbered plate and will be notified in writing.
Questions? Contact us: Wisconsin DMV email service
Call: (608) 266-1466
  • Last modified: August 23, 2013

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