A Website for Porcelain License Plate Collectors & Enthusiasts
Florida Archive


Florida is one of the most fascinating states in the country in terms of porcelain
license plates.  Although the state itself never issued any porcelains, the pre-
state era is filled with them.  Because the first state-issued plates did not hit the
road until January of 1918 - later than any of the then 48 states to do so - there
was a huge period of time for cities and counties to license vehicles on their
own.  There are places such as Franklin, Miami, and Zephyrhills that are known to
have issued non-porcelains, and plates exist in brass, copper, flat painted tin,
and embossed metal.  But unlike any other state, Florida’s pre-state era is one
defined by porcelain, with more than 90% of the surviving Florida pre-states
being made of it.  In fact, between 1910, when the city of Jacksonville pioneered
Florida’s history of porcelain license plates, and 1917, when the pre-state era
came to a close, we know of X different porcelain varieties that were issued.  
Thus, Florida far outshines any competitor in terms of the sheer number of
porcelain varieties known.  The state of North Carolina could theoretically
surpass Florida one day, because each of that state’s 100 counties appears to
have had its own annual porcelain For Hire plates for five years from 1922
through 1926, but as of now nearly 90% of this theoretical total remains
unaccounted for, leaving Florida as the undisputed king.

Florida did not issue porcelains for an especially long period of time (only 7
years), but there were an astonishing 58 different cities and counties during that
time which issued them.  City plates (first issued by Jacksonville in 1910) and
county plates (fist appearing in 1911 as a result of Chapter 6216, Act 93 of Florida
Laws) were both good for a period of one fiscal year from October 1 through
September 30.  City plates were frequently issued in pairs, while county plates
were singles only.  The vast majority of locally-issued porcelains are dated and
come in a few standardized formats and sizes – notably about 60 different
examples of a common 4” x 9” rectangular issue – although there are a number of
fascinating exceptions to these generalizations.  In fact, Florida porcelains can be
rectangular, oval, square, round, diamond-shaped, and even curved to fit the
fender of a motorcycle.  They range from the tiniest St. Johns 1916-17 motorcycle
discs measuring a mere 2 inches in diameter to the massive Manatee 1911-12
issue at over 13 inches in length.  Every color in the rainbow is represented on
these plates, with odd color schemes such as Citrus County’s red & yellow 1915-
16 plates and Fernandina’s undated green & orange porcelains.  Most are for
passenger vehicles – identified variously as “PRIVATE” or “OWNER.”  The second
most common type is “FOR HIRE,” which was also known as “PUBLIC” on Key
West plates and “TAXI” on Escambia issues.  These were used on buses,
limousines, or other vehicles for hire.  The only other class commonly licensed
with plates was motorcycles.  The one exception here is the city of Jacksonville
which issued porcelain license plates to everything from Drays, to Fruit &
Vegetable Peddlers, to Ice Cream Peddlers!

In terms of when these plates were issued, Jacksonville stands alone as having
produced plates as early as 1910.  Only in 1911 did other jurisdictions jump on the
bandwagon, including porcelain issues from at least seven counties across the
state.  From Baker & Duval in the North, to Manatee on the Gulf Coast, to Brevard
& Volusia on the Atlantic, porcelain had become a staple throughout Florida by
1911.  By 1913, there were some three dozen different porcelain plates being
produced in the state annually, and by 1916 and 1917, the number had reached
almost 60.  Most Florida porcelains are unmarked on the reverse, but we have
identified about two dozen from varying jurisdictions which were manufactured
by the Baltimore Enamel & Novelty Company.  This company managed to gain a
contract early on in the process and obviously parlayed their success into
additional contracts.  BALTO’s closest competitor – the Ingram Richardson
Company – is known to have secured only a single contract in Lee County.  It is
perhaps due to the fact that so many Florida porcelains were manufactured by out
of state companies, who may have been unfamiliar with the Native American
influenced names of the state, that another notable aspect of Florida porcelains
exists – misspellings.  In fact, variable or incorrect place names are known on
porcelains from Hillsborough, Jefferson, Okaloosa, Sumter and Suwanee.

Perhaps the most interesting statistic of all when it comes to Florida porcelains is
their remarkable rarity.  Although literally thousands of porcelains have survived
from the state, when we look at each variety individually, the vast majority are
remarkably scarce.  When looking at Florida pre-states as a whole, they are
perhaps most striking for their sheer rarity. Of the 28X different known types
which are included here, 11X, or 4X% of them, are unique as far as we know in the
world of license plate collecting.  If we expand the standard of rarity to those
plates of which five or fewer examples are known, the number rises to an
amazing 21X, or 7x% of the total.  Approximately 2X% of the remainder fall within
the range of 6-30 examples known, while the final few percentage points belong
to the very few plates of which more than 30 are known.  While certain plates
such as some of the Hillsboroughs, Jacksonvilles, and Volusias are relatively
numerous, the only Florida pre-states that approach the status of being truly
common are the Alachua 1915-16 & 1916-17, and the Jacksonville 1912-13 & 1913-
14, each of which is believed to have more than 100 surviving examples in
existence due to massive dump digs.  These exceptions aside, one can see that
rarity is truly the one defining characteristic of Florida pre-states.

Because of the sheer number of plates, I have broken the Florida archive into 4
separate pages.  Please click on your preference below.


None issued.


None issued.


Oscar Brock, "Florida Prestate Auto Tags Revisited."  The ALPCA Register, 48, 1
(February, 2002), pp. 13-20.

Oscar W. Brock, Jr., "Florida - The Sunshine State: Part 1 - Pre-State Plates from
Local Issues to 1917."  
ALPCA Newsletter, 33, 1 (February, 1987), pp. 1, 4-7.

(Alachua, Baker, Bay, Bradford, Brevard, Broward,
Calhoun, Citrus, Clay, Columbia, Dade, DeSoto, Duval,

(Santa Rosa, Seminole, South Jacksonville,
St. Augustine, St. Johns, St. Lucie, Sumter, Suwanee,
Tampa, Taylor, Volusia, Wakulla, Walton, W. Palm Beach)

(Leon, Levy, Liberty, Madison, Manatee, Marion,
Monroe, Nassau, Okaloosa, Orange, Osceola, Palm
Beach, Pasco, Pinellas, Plant City, Polk, Putnam)

(Fernandina, Gadsden, Hamilton, Hernando,
Hillsborough, Holmes, Jackson, Jacksonville,
Jefferson, Key West, Lafayette, Lake, Lee)