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Type Sets

Generally speaking, a type set is defined as a set of license plates from a particular year, containing one example of each and every type of plate issued during that year. Although it may seem to be a simple matter to assemble a type set, it turns out that this is not the case. Difficulties arise from the fact that for many years of plates there are certain types which were issued in very small quantities, or even as one of a kind. Governor, Lt. Governor and State Police (both Passenger Car and Motorcycle) are just a few examples of elusive types that a historian or collector may never be able to put his or her hands on.

When New Mexico’s first plates came out in 1912 there was but one type, for automobiles, which we refer to today as Passenger Car plates. So a type set for this year consists of only one plate, but a plate that is difficult to find.

The 1913 motor vehicle law mandated that all motor vehicles had to be licensed, with the result that trucks were brought into the fold, albeit receiving the same type of plate as cars. Two additional types, Motorcycle and Dealer, were, however, introduced, for a total of three types. This was the status quo through June 30, 1923, and neither Motorcycle nor Dealer plates can be said to be common for any of those years up to that time.

The 1923 motor vehicle law, effective July 1, 1923, brought about additional types, to include Commercial Car, Commercial Truck, Motor Truck, Trailer and Highway Department. By the end of the 1920s the list had grown, adding Governor, Official, Staff Officer and Samples. In subsequent years even more were introduced, some of which, like those just mentioned, were not at all numerous.

The two years of type sets which historians and collectors have most often attempted to assemble are 1932 and 1940, no doubt because the plates in both of those years were notably distinct from all other years. Some of the persons who have done this have even claimed that their types sets were “complete,” though they were not, as even the best of them were missing at least two or more types. Below will be seen type sets for both of these years, both of which are the most complete known, but neither of which is fully complete.
1912 Type Set. Consisting of only one plate, Passenger Car, this is nonetheless one of the most problematic years for which a type set might be assembled due to the difficulty in finding a 1912 tag.
1920 Type Set. The type sets for all years 1913 through 1922 consist of just three types: Passenger/Truck, Motorcycle, Dealer. But the scarcity of both Motorcycle and Dealer plates make all of these years difficult candidates for type sets.
1932 Type Set. By 1932 there were more than a dozen different types of plates issued. While the set shown here is the most complete known, missing from it are the Governor and Lt. Governor plates, which both the Biennial Report of the Comptroller’s Department (FY1931 and FY 1932) and contemporary news reports indicate did exist. On the other hand, seldom seen types such as Trailer, Motorcycle, Staff Officer and National Guard Officer are all included. Additionally, one will see here the 1932 registration certificate holder mandated for use by state law and issued by the Motor Vehicle Department, along with 1932 registration certificates for Car, Truck and Motorcycle, and a 1932 Motorcycle title.
1940 Type Set. As in the case of the 1932 type set, the 1940 plates illustrated here constitute the most complete type set known for this year. But it is also not totally complete, missing the Lt. Governor and State Police Passenger Car tags. It does, however, have the exceptionally rare Governor and State Police Motorcycle plates, only one of which of the latter is known. Several of the other types illustrated, if not quite as scarce, are unquestionably hard to find. 
Modern Type Set. The concept of a modern type set is somewhat more nebulous than that for much earlier years when plates were used for only one year, and with the year being embossed on the plate itself. Because New Mexico has not undergone a mandatory general reissue of license plates in over three decades, and because a tag can be renewed indefinitely by application of a current validation sticker, some rather old plates continue to be seen on the road. Complicating the matter further is that plates of a number of types have undergone redesign, sometimes more than once, with all earlier designs still remaining valid.

Consequently, we have elected to show here a modern type set which illustrates just one design of each unique type currently available for issue. Notwithstanding this restriction, something on the order of a hundred distinct types are available today, almost all of which are pictured here.
Photo credits for Modern Type Set:  WNMU sample, motorcycle Medal of Honor sample, and motorcycle Purple Heart sample all courtesy N.M. MVD;  Retired Firefighter courtesy George Kunsman;  all others by Bill Johnston.


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