Prestates/City Plates

The term prestate can be confusing because its meaning
can vary from state to state. In Arizona's case, it means any
license plate issued before the state-issued plates appeared
in January 1914. So it includes all the plates before statehood
in February 1912 as well as the 2 year period after statehood.
Our good neighbor to the East, New Mexico, started issuing
state-issued plates immediately upon statehood in Jan. 1912
so their prestates are strictly anything before their statehood.



Seven months after Arizona became a state in 1912, motorists were required to register their
vehicles with the Secretary of State and upon doing so were issued a 2 inch diameter aluminum disk (seal).
Stamped with a registration number, the disk was required to be mounted
somewhere on the vehicle usually on the dashboard. Since the State only issued disks and not plates
from 1912 to 1914, it was the responsibility of the motorist himself to come up with a license plate with
a number matching the number on the disk. He could either purchase one from various private businesses,
or even make it himself. The plates were made from a variety of materials including wood, leather, and metal
The numerals were to be at least 3 inches in height and 1/2 inch wide along with the state initials ARZ.
The first disk was stamped 1912-13 simply because it was issued late in the year ( first registrants on Sep.20,1912 )
and it allowed motorists to be registered thru the end of the following year. Registration disks also accompanied
state-issued plates from 1914 thru 1916 and then were discontinued.
Motorcycle registrants were also issued disks during this same period.
(See MC, 1914-)


(From private collection)

1912 Arizona leather plate.


(From private collection)

1912 Arizona
The only State-passenger porcelain plate known.


(From private collection)

1913 metal plates
Kits were available to assemble your own plate.
The metallic characters had tabs that were inserted into the upper and lower slots.



AHS-CAD, 79.95.1045

-1912 Photos at left and right-
-are the same vehicle with
------Prestate # 119

--.-forfor Larger Images.

AHS-CAD, 79.95.1046





Porcelain plate and postcard circa 1910
( Click on plate for larger image )


Other known 5"x 10" Tucson plates all in private collections. #333 is also known.

In Tucson an announcement was made in late June 1910 that 400 new plates of the most approved design had
been ordered and within three weeks motorists would be able to come in and replace their old time-worn and
battered plates for the new ones. So it appears that the porcelain Tucson plates can be dated to July, 1910 and
there was an unknown type that preceeded them.







All three circa 1911 Prescott porcelains above are from private collections.
The size of 7.5 X 14 makes them the 3rd largest American porcelains in sq. inches.

----------1924---(Ken Fite)

  Prior to statehood in 1912, many cities issued their own plates. Tucson
Phoenix and Prescott plates are known. Bisbee, Clifton, Flagstaff,
Mesa and Tempe all had laws requiring license plates. For unknown
reasons, Prescott and Douglas continued to use a city plate beyond 1916.


5.5" X 10"






The four porcelain survivors shown above are believed to be from Douglas Arizona but can't be verified with 100% certainty.
All measure 4.3 X 7.8 and are from private collections.



1911 (2 1/2" Long)


1911 (4 1/4" Diameter)


1914 (3 1/8" Long)


1915 (2 1/4" Long)







1923 ( pvt )


Undated ( pvt )







Phoenix City Plate, circa 1910

(From a Private collection)


Circa 1909-10

(From the Greg Gibson collection)

CLICK for Larger image

CLICK for Larger image
Az Historical Society, CAD


CLICK for Larger image
Courtesy of Mesa Southwest Museum

  CLICK for Larger image

The two photos to the right were taken in Mesa City at Statehood Day festivities, Feb.1912.
CLICK on All for LARGER Images.


Records indicate that b&w Phoenix plate #259 was issued sometime before
February 22, 1910, #310 was issued before July 27, 1910, and #335 before November 10, 1910






---1920 Bisbee ---( Pvt )


---1921 Bisbee ---( Pvt )



1912-1925 Passenger Pics
1926-1937 Passenger Pics
1938-1955 Passenger Pics
1956-2014 Passenger Pics

CLICK on Steerhead