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Low Numbers

A low-numbered New Mexico license plate is defined as one which has a serial number with no more than three digits, and no other letters or numerals as part of the serial number. The presence of the zia symbol is acceptable because even where used as a separator between numerals, it is not part of the serial number itself. These plates hold a special fascination for many people, and on this page we illustrate one for every year from 1912 through 1974, inclusive (excepting 1943, when cars and trucks did not receive metal plates).

Since the earliest days of New Mexico’s license plate history motorists were able to request and receive low numbers which had been issued to them in prior years. Over the years this was done under both formal and informal policies. The following is an extract from a Bureau of Revenue Memo dated November 10, 1954, explaining to license plate distribution offices the procedure under which these plates would be obtained for the 1955 registration year.


Individuals may have the same low numbered license plate they had in 1954 again in 1955 provided that a written request is submitted to the respective license plate distributors by December 15, 1954. In Santa Fe County the special request must be made direct to the Motor Vehicle Division. All special requests must be in writing. Upon receipt of a special request, the plates will be reserved until December 24, 1954. If application for requested number plates is not made by this date, and fees paid, then the license plate distributor will sell plates to first person calling for them.


On other special numbers you are hereby instructed to use discretion but to give preference to those people who had the same number in 1954, however, all license plate distributors are cautioned that all license plates must be sold in numerical sequence.
Photo Credit: 1930 courtesy Alan Betts.  All others by Bill Johnston.


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