A Website for Porcelain License Plate Collectors & Enthusiasts
TOTAL KNOWN PORCELAIN VARIETIES: 10
I: PRE-TERRITORIALS / CITY & COUNTY PLATES
The counties of Hawaii and Honolulu in the Territory of Hawaii are known to have
issued some of the most desirable porcelains ever made. Prior to 1915, owners
in the Territory's four counties - Hawaii, Honolulu, Maui, and Kauai - were
assigned numbers and made plates of their own. These county laws were in
addition to the Territory's own licensing requirements whereby owners,
regardless of county, were issued small dashboard discs. Beginning in 1915,
however, the two largest counties had so many automobiles that they felt issuing
standardized plates was now warranted. Hawaii and Honolulu would continue
issuing pairs of plates to automobile owners until 1922 when the Territory of
Hawaii finally took over, ceased the issuance of dashboard discs, and first began
issuing standardized plates to all registrants.
During this period from 1915 through 1921, when the counties of Hawaii and
Honolulu were issuing plates of their own, most of the plates were embossed
metal, but a number of porcelain varieties were used also. Both counties issued
porcelains to vehicles in both 1915 and 1916, and both also are known to have
licensed motorcycles with porcelain plates in certain years as well.
The county of Hawaii issued two consecutive years of porcelain passenger plates
- in 1915 and 1916 - both of which were issued in pairs. The 1915 issue is very
standard with an unremarkable color scheme. There were perhaps 950 pairs
issued in 1915, and numbers probably began at #1. There are perhaps 30 of these
plates known in collectors' hands today. In contrast to the 1915 plates, the 1916
issue is one of the most attractive porcelain license plates ever made, with a
striking combination of orange characters on a deep blue-purple background.
There were more than 1200 pairs issued, including a single plate numbered
#1357, which may or may not be a sample. There about 20 surviving examples of
this plate known.
In addition to these two passenger issues, the County of Hawaii also issued
porcelain motorcycle plates in at least 1918 and 1919. This is interesting because
even though the color schemes of the passenger and motorcycle plates were
identical, for some reason the Territory chose to have its cycle plates made of
porcelain and not embossed metal like the passenger plates. Perhaps it is logical
to presume that motorcycles were first issued by the county as early as 1915, but
none has ever been seen. There are two surviving examples of 1918 porcelain
motorcycle plates known and only one 1919 which surfaced in 2011. The most
distinguishing feature of these incredibly rare non-passenger porcelains is that
they are double-sided, as if they were intended to sit above the fender, readable
from both sides. Outside of Hawaii, there are no double-sided porcelain
motorcycle plates known from any city, county, province, or state in the U.S. or
Like Hawaii, the County of Honolulu also
kicked off its run of officially-issued plates
with two porcelain issues. In 1915,
interestingly, county officials chose to
place their order for plates with the well-
known Baltimore Enamel and Novelty
Company - some 6,000 miles to the East!
Although all but one surviving example has
a number below #1,000, there is one odd
plate known numbered #1,935, which
suggests that nearly 2,000 were issued.
Oddly enough, I have verified only 12
surviving 1915 Honolulu porcelains in
collectors' hands, making it by far the most
difficult of the four Hawaiian passenger
porcelains to obtain. In 1916, for unknown
reasons, the County switched
manufacturers and ordered plates from the
Los Angeles-based California Metal
Enamelling Company, which also had the
contract to provide plates to the state of
California that same year. There are around
30 known examples of these plates, which
were issued in pairs and appear to have
numbers ranging up to about 2,400.
Like Hawaii County, Honolulu also issued
porcelain cycle plates. Small plates with
"A" prefixes in the same color schemes as
the 1915 and 1916 passenger plates exist, which are presumed to be motorcycle
issues. I say presumed, because there is actually no hard evidence that these
are Honolulu cycle plates. However, we do know that early Honolulu motorcycle
plates carried and "A" prefix, and we also know from an advertisement by the
Baltimore Enamel & Novelty Company that they made motorcycle plates for the
County of Honolulu in 1915. These pieces of evidence, coupled with the fact that
the surviving examples have shown up in Hawaii, lead collectors to believe that
these are indeed 1915 & 1916 Honolulu porcelain motorcycle plates. There are
about a half-dozen known examples of the 1915 issue, all of which are dug-up
plates numbered between A243 and A492. These are almost surely overruns
which were discarded because there were not enough motorcycle registrations
that year. One might speculate that the Baltimore Enamel & Novelty Company
required a minimum order of 500. The 1916 motorcycle plate is completely unique
in collectors' hands. Like the 1918 Hawaii motorcycle plates, both the 1915 and
1916 Honolulus are double-sided. One of the great Hawaiian mysteries is the
existence of another porcelain cycle - a Honolulu plate from 1921. This is an
undated white & blue base plate with a Territorially-issued motorcycle dashboard
disk attached. Interestingly, the base plate does not match the color of any of the
metal Honolulu County plates from 1917 through 1921, and so we have no idea
when it was first issued. It is entirely possible that this plate was issued much
earlier and was re-validated each year by attaching the new TH tag. Until more
examples show up, we can only speculate.
II: TERRITORIALLY & STATE-ISSUED PASSENGER PLATES
III: TERRITORIALLY & STATE-ISSUED NON-PASSENGER PLATES
||5 1/4" x 14"
||5" x 14"
||4" x 9"
||4" x 9"
||5 1/2" x 14"
||3 1/2" x 10"
||5 1/2" x 14"
||3" x 5"
|* This is an undated base plate with a 1921 Territory of Hawaii motorcycle tab attached.
Honolulu County, HI 1915
|Honolulul County, HI 1916
Photo Courtesy of Mike Duff