(COLORADO SPRING) — You see them often, but the most popular license plate on Colorado’s roads is not an expired temporary tag. The blackout license plate has become the latest trend taking over Colorado.
The formerly retired black-style license plate has only been back in circulation since January, but it is already the most popular specialty plate.
After legislation passed in January 2022, The Colorado Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) released three throwback license plates: black, red, and blue. The retro black-style plate is based on the 1945 Colorado license plate and has quickly become the most popular specialty plate in the state.
“I don’t think anyone expected them to do this,” Christopher Hochmuth, Colorado DMV Administrative Resources and Inventory Manager said. “The fiscal notes that went with the bills projected, 700 to 800 (black-style) plates for the year, and they did that in the first month. Eight months into this, we’re at almost 100,000 plates. It has blown every expectation out of the water.”
Hochmuth says other specialty plates have become popular, but nothing compares to the retired black-style plate.
“Most group special plates take two, three even four years to hit those numbers, the closest we’ve ever come to any plate hitting those numbers that fast was the Bronco charities plate when it was first issued, and it took them three months to get there and the ‘Adopt a Shelter Pet‘ plate, that took two months to see those numbers,” Hochmuth explains
There are 6.2 million Colorado license plates on the road. More than half of those are passenger vehicle plates with Colorado’s classic green with white mountains, which is still the state’s most popular plate. Yet in its short time, the retired black-style plate is the new most popular specialty plate. There are 214 various license plates offered across Colorado and in the last month, the blackout style eclipsed the Columbine ‘Respect Life’ specialty plate in popularity.
According to the Colorado DMV here are the top license plates in Colorado as of September 2023:
- Passenger Vehicle plate (regular), 3.9 million
- Retired black-style plate, 97,000
- Columbine ‘Respect Life’ plate, 79,000
- Colorado Parks & Wildlife – Wildlife Sporting plate, 36,000
- Colorado Pioneer plate, 31,000
- Ski Country USA plate, 29,000
- Colorado Temporary License plate, 314,000
“A lot of plates do go to worthwhile causes and It’s not just a piece of metal on the back of the car,” Teddy Williams, Colorado Springs license plate collector said.
You may be wondering why Colorado has so many types of license plates and who those extra registration fees benefit.
“Specialty license plates stem out of the Columbine plate and somebody wanting to raise funds for the students and victims and survivors of the Columbine shooting, because that’s the origin of the Columbine plate and that’s how it started, as a passive fundraiser,” Hotchmuth explained. “The Department of Revenue doesn’t retain any of those fees. They’re passed through to other organizations or other entities throughout the state to fund the various programs that they fund.”
Hotchmuth says that’s the case with all of Colorado’s specialty license plates. The retired black-style plate benefits the Colorado Disability Funding Committee. $25 from each specialty license plate goes towards the committee tied to the plate and the organization uses those funds to give grants and scholarships to organizations that assist people with disabilities.
“Each plate is tied to its unique charitable organization,” Williams said. “It’s really important to do your research before just deciding ‘oh I don’t want to give money away, I don’t want to support this cause or that’, do your research.”
Any Coloradan can acquire a specialty license plate by paying a one-time fee of $60 with an annual $25 fee collected each year upon renewal, but it’s obvious one plate is a fan favorite.
“Everybody loves the simplicity of the black plates,” Williams said. “They go with every car, every color and they’re sleek.”
Many Coloradans are rocking the retired black-style plate while Williams turned it into a hobby.
“It’s a really great pastime, it’s a great way to meet people and bond over a common interest,” Williams explained “A lot of people don’t realize that there’s a community for everything.”
Williams joined the Automobile License Plate Collectors Association (ALPCA) and now he is encouraging younger community members to get involved.
“License plates are going to continue to evolve, and as the group grows we would love for more younger people to join us and to bond over this unique hobby,” Williams explained.
“I thought it was fascinating how you could fit so much visual information about a large geographic location into one rectangle and eventually that actually influenced me to study graphic design,” My dream job is to design license plates.”
While Williams drafts up the next ever popular specialty tags for the state, he made sure to collect Colorado’s unofficial most popular plate.
“This is the infamous Colorado temp tag, you do see a lot of them on the road and a lot of them are expired,” Williams explained. “They do expire believe it or not.”