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This Is the All-Time Worst License Plate Ever

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author photo by Doug DeMuro February 2017

As some of you know, I generally enjoy license plates, which is something that everyone else finds tremendously strange and weird, except for my friend Matt, who sends me links to cool license plates that I buy on eBay.

So I've accumulated a lot of license-plate-related knowledge over the years, and I believe quite sincerely that I've isolated the all-time worst license plate ever: the Pennsylvania "Flagship Niagara" plate. I call it the worst license plate ever because it's unreadable from any distance, including approximately one foot away from it -- and also because it resulted in a complete redesign of the entire Pennsylvania license-plate system.

Here's the situation with this thing: In the 1990s, Pennsylvania decided to come out with a license plate that hailed the famous Flagship Niagara. By "famous," what I mean is I have absolutely no idea what it is other than something that's commemorated on a license plate.

In order to do this, the state apparently adapted a painting of the ship as a license plate, and they just stuck letters and numbers on top. With only one problem: The painting has a mostly white background, and the color they chose for the letters and numbers is white. I have no idea why anyone ever thought this was a good idea, but it happened, and the plate was issued for several years before they cut it off. While it may not look so bad in the headline shot, take a look at the second picture I've included and see if you can read the plate number -- and remember, there are six total letters and numbers here.

Apparently, law enforcement was so angry with this ridiculous license-plate design that Pennsylvania put a moratorium on all future full-color license plates -- the result being that every single Pennsylvania plate now shares the same basic design, with only a small image off to the left, out of the way of the serial number on the plate.

The sad part is that Pennsylvania used to have some of the coolest license plates in the United States. One had a full-color image of a tiger, and another had a railroad train; there was one with an owl, and an all-black one for the "DARE" program, and another with an otter. While the train and otter ones are still being distributed as supplies last, the fun is generally over. And it's all thanks to the Flagship Niagara plate -- the all-time worst license plate, ever.

Doug DeMuro is an automotive journalist who has written for many online and magazine publications. He once owned a Nissan Cube and a Ferrari 360 Modena. At the same time.

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This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
This Is the All-Time Worst License Plate Ever - Autotrader