How Did Iowa’s Blackout License Plates Really Get Started?
One thing my fiance and I first noticed after we moved to Iowa was how many different license plates you'll see while driving around. We both grew up in Minnesota and you really only see 1 kind of plate up there. There just isn't a lot of plate variety in my home state.
You occasionally see a personalized plate or a plate that shows off someone's favorite Minnesota Sports team but it's pretty uncommon. That's not the case at all here in Iowa. You see all kinds of different styles of plates if you're paying attention.
If you're from Iowa or have lived in Iowa for a long time, you might be used to seeing a big variety of license plates when you're out and about so you might not notice it as much but I promise, it's true. After living here for 11 months, I still get surprised by how many different kinds of plates I see.
Earlier this week I was at a busy intersection with a lot of cars around me and I counted a total of 5 different styles of Iowa license plates. If you're ever driving in Minnesota, you'd be lucky to see 5 different styles of plates in an entire day, much less at 1 intersection.
Other than the standard blue, white, and green Iowa plate, one of the more popular license plate choices in Iowa is the Blackout plate. Why are these so popular and why did Iowa start selling them? According to an article from the Des Moines Register in 2019, Iowans are partially responsible for "willing these plates into existence."
According to the Des Moines Register, in 2019, there was a state budget bill passed by the legislature that directed the Iowa DOT to design and produce these blackout license plates. When these plates were first introduced, it took 1 week for them to be sold out.
The Iowa DOT shouldn't get credit for 100% of the Blackout plate design as some creative Iowans are partially responsible. Iowans were creating their own versions of these plates before the Iowa DOT was ever involved.
According to the Des Moines Register, drivers were ordering specialized Dordt University college license plates and pairing them with plate covers that covered up the college name. Iowans who did this are the real ones responsible for creating "hack" versions of the now popular blackout plates.
Just cover up the top and the bottom with a plastic license plate cover and you have the original Iowa blackout license plates. Without the Iowans who started doing this, we might not have the popular blackout license plates we see today.