British Columbia Registration Decals

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The year 1970 marked a watershed in the history of British Columbia license plates. For almost four years the province had been preparing for the exhaustion of the six digit, 000-000 format in use, almost continuously since 1912. While the selection of a new format was an important decision, equally significant was the introduction of a registration system that implemented the use of decals. Almost every year, BC motorists had to line up at the Motor Vehicle Branch (MVB) to receive new date-stamped plates to replace their expired ones. Editorial writers across the province bemoaned the costs, and unnecessary labour expended to remove old, rusted-on plates every year, pleading with the government to introduce what was commonly referred to as a perma-plate. The 1970 base plate was designed, in part, to address these criticisms and introduce B.C. motorists to a more long-term plate.
Actual registration practices would remain unchanged, as motorists could begin to renew in the first week of January, but were given a grace period of two months before the previous year’s plates expired. Accordingly, all decals expired at the end of February. The new plates came designed with a box located on the bottom-center in which the reflective decals were to be affixed. The 1970 decal is itself, unique in that it did not contain a registration number to identify it with the plate. As 1970 required a complete re-issuance and every motorist had to have the new base plate to be on the road, decal fraud was not a pressing concern.
1970 - 1972
1970
1971
1972
Only one year into this experimental plate run, the 1971 decal was chosen as the best means in which to celebrate the centennial of Confederation with Canada on B.C. a plate. Bearing the centennial logo, the decal also possessed the first registration numbers to prevent theft by tying a decal with a specific vehicle.

Strip of Unissued 1971 Decals
With the successful conclusion of this first run, the province undertook a new phase in 1973, one that was to last five years. Minor modifications were made to the plate to improve upon the style of the previous issue. Following complaints that trailer hitches were obscuring the decals , plates were designed with decal boxes in the upper-right corner (similar in position to the date stamp found on plates from the late 1960s). As it was another general re-issue, no decals were produced for 1973.
1974 - 1978
1974
1975

1976

1977 1978
1974 marked a new change in the appearance of decals. The New Democratic Party (NDP) had been elected the year before on a platform that included the promise to introduce a compulsory government insurance scheme. One of the steps implemented in the creation of the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia (ICBC) was a simplification of the licensing system. Starting March 1, 1974, all cars and trucks would be issued decals as many of the vehicles that had previously carried commercial plates were switched to passenger. In conjunction with this move, validation decals expiring February 28, 1975 appeared bearing the words pass (denoting passenger), and comm (commercial). A move, one would conclude, was necessitated by the folding of two previously separate plate types into one? This trend would be continued until 1978, while both the 1976 and 1977 decals would also be adorned with an image of a dogwood; the provincial flower.

Strip of Unissued 1976 Decals
For the third time in less then a decade British Columbia issued a new base plate in 1979, one that was proclaimed to finally last a lifetime. However, as it was a new issue there would be no validation decals issued as all motorists required new plates either way. With this latest series of decal validated plates, the province sought to break a long tradition of end-of-the-year-rushes in February for renewals by introducing staggered registration. Applying to all those owning a new car for the first time after April 1, 1979, or purchasing a vehicle requiring license plates, a decal would be issued that would remain valid for twelve months, or until the last day of the month preceding issuance. As the majority of driver’s registration expired on February 28, 1980, they would only receive a 1981 decal, making a 1980 dated plate relatively rare.

1980 - 1988: Various Styles
1980
1981
1982
1983
1984
1985
1986
1987
1988

1989 - 1999: Thick Border

1989

1990
1991
1992
1993
1994
1995
1996
1996
1997
1998
1999

1999 - 2003: Thin Border

1999

2000
2001
2002
2003

2004: No Border (long)
2004

2005 - 2008: No Border (short)

2005

2006
2007
2008
Don Schneider's Plate
2009 - 2013: Bar Code

2009

2010
2012
2014: Full Date
2014

Over the next five years the style of decals would change almost year over year, as both the 1982 and 1982 issues had no borders and alternating locations for the registration numbers. 1983 decals came with a white center block, while the 1984 style employed white bookends, and the 1985 decals had no border at all. In 1985 the province undertook another re-issuance of base plates using, for the first time since plates were manufactured at the Oakalla prison, a B.C. company. The rollout plan called for the plates to be ready by January 1985 so that all motorists would receive a pair in the same calendar year. Production delays at the factory of the Surrey manufacturer, however, pushed back introduction to August of 1985, as a result, both the blue-base plate and the new flag graphic can be found with the 1986 validation decal celebrating the World's Exposition in Vancouver that year.
By 1989 ICBC had standardized the style of their decals with coloured lettering, and border on a white reflective background. An alternating colour scheme of green-red-blue-black was also adopted – although, having said that, 1990 was more pinkish then the red of 1994 and 1998. For reasons covered under the “Forged Decal” section, two different coloured decals were issued in 1996; black-on-white for January to October and pink-on-white for November and December.
In 1993 the Lower Mainland was introduced to AirCare; a testing system designed to keep high smog producers off the road (and thereby improve air quality standards). Motorists could not obtain their validation decals until they received a clean bill of health from an AirCare center. Even though staggered registration had been introduced thirteen years earlier, February still remained the busiest month for renewals and in typical fashion most drivers waited until the last possible day of the month before seeking AirCare certification. To ease these end-of-the-month rushes, staggered registration at a daily level was introduced. It is now a mandatory feature on all B.C. plates that a date decal, such as the one pictured above be displayed.

Type I

Type II
A little known problem occurred with the 1998 decals whereby the production process resulted in the "Type I" decals becoming brittle and prone to splitting along the line stamped into the peel tabs found on the back of the decal.


In addition, with the introduction of the two most recent plate types, being the Olympic and Consular in 2007, new embossed decal boxes are being provided which clearly indicate where each type of decal is now to be stuck:

Olympic Base (2007)

Consular Base (2007)

Commercial Truck Base
(limited issuance - 2008 / re-appeared in 2013)

Prorate Base
(limited issuance - 2010 / 2011)

Passenger Base (2013)

Commercial Trailer Base (2013)
It is assumed that it is only a matter of time before all of the bases are provided with this configuration of decals boxes, stay tuned...

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