Which U.S. States Have the Best (and Worst) License Plates? Goose Joak Reviews Them All (51-46)

We took a weekend trip to Denver and Colorado Springs over the weekend.  Caught a Rockies game and a Jewel concert, both of which were outstanding.  Also toured a craft brewery called Wynkoop and had some great meals along the way.

Aside from baseball and music and nature (and getting away from work), one of my favorite things about road trips is seeing all the license plate designs from out of state.  I'm kind of an amateur design junkie (you may have noticed, if you've been to this blog before).  Usually this manifests itself with baseball cards but I'm also fascinated with state license plates among other things.

So, tonight I downloaded the license plates of all 51 states (counting D.C. as a state) and ranked them in order of worst to first.  

We'll start with 51- 46.  This will seem pretty negative at first but realize that much of this is in jest.  And you've gotta start somewhere!  

Again, I have never designed a license plate before so even #51 should get some credit.

The Worst

51. Rhode Island

Oh wow, what a train wreck.  It just makes my eyes hurt.  I'm sorry, Rhode Island.  But you have to live with this!

The most damning thing about it is the clip art wave in the background.  I just can't get over how bad it is.  Frankly, if it didn't say 'Ocean State' I'm not sure I would even know what the background was supposed to be.  I probably could have done it on an Apple IIe.  On accident.  In first grade.  With my eyes closed?

Let the record state that my wife thinks this is 'OK' and doesn't deserve to be rated the lowest.

My suggestions for a quick makeover?  Make the anchor the central theme and nautical-ize the fonts.  That alone would salvage it and probably even catapult this into the top twenty.  It's not that far off from being fixed -- but the things that need to be fixed really drag it down!

50. Vermont

The border is wider on the sides than the top, the slogan is difficult to read, the font is complete patchwork and the color scheme is beyond repair.  Subtlety anyone?  

I don't understand the emboss pattern either.  Why?

Much like Rhode Island, I think you can pretty quickly modify the existing design concept and really improve it. 

49. Alaska

Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh! Make it stop! Do you think they used PowerPoint or Word to make this?  Or maybe even both?

Much like the screenplay to Armageddon (terrible, even with seven screenwriters), this looks like it was put together by a half dozen, half interested people.  Ok, so that's a bit harsh.  Maybe this is just a result of trying too hard, or doing too many revisions.  It just feels like somebody's boss kept saying "why don't you add xyz?"

Me?  I would scrap this and start over. Put a picture of a log cabin or a glacier or some wildlife or something.  Please.  Or, just do the mountain and sky.

Speaking of which, maybe it would be fun to photoshop my own versions of these.  But let's not get ahead of ourselves here!  Which I often do.

48. New Hampshire

At first blush it isn't awful.  Honestly, there are much less inspired ones further up the list.  But then you start to think about it.  And what gets me is the juxtaposition of ideas here.  Namely, the state slogan is morbid and extremely serious (LIVE FREE OR DIE), and yet the license plate is so peaceful and pastel-like.  And I must say, I don't think they were going for irony here.  They seem like completely unrelated thoughts.

If that weren't enough, let me ask: is the background a tree or a rock?  I can't tell.  And they totally stole the "S" from Mississippi.  At least that's my impression.

47. Indiana

Looks more like a packing label than a license plate.  Boo.

46. New York

It looks like a muddy, uninspired New York Mets color scheme.  What happened? 

Go back a few years and New York had a very good license plate. This one is not one of my favorites.

That's it for now.  We'll lead off next time with North Carolina, most likely!  Hope you've enjoyed.  Most of these license plates are from http://www.15q.net/usindex.html.  Great website.


  1. Interesting post. I can't wait to see where Texas ranks. By the way, headed to Colorado in a couple of weeks...any suggestions for dining in Denver/Colorado Springs area?

  2. Thanks! Yeah my wife was a big advocate of the Texas plate. For me it is almost certainly in the top half for sure. Very colorful if a little over the top for my tastes, but like my wife said, Texas is big and bold. So it gets points for the degree of fit.

    As far as Denver/Colorado, our hotel was in the Denver Tech Center area. We had a meal down the block at a chain called McCormick's which delivered on all accounts. But I will say, everything in the area was packed and according to the locals was supposed to be pretty good.

    If you're in the mood for something more progressive we really were impressed with Wynkoop. In addition to the brewery and bar staples like wings, etc. they had some off color items like vegan barbeque that I was dying to try. Depends on your tastes but I am going to swing back and try more of that menu again next time I am in the area.

  3. The New York license plate is new. It's just started popping up on cars around here the last couple of months.

    I kind of like it because the same color scheme was used when i was a kid. I thought the white plates were kind of boring.

  4. My brother has a white 1980 corvette...and he has to put that abomination of a (New York) license plate on it...truly a shame.

    My favorite of all is Utah, with Delicate Arch in the background. Interested to see where it ranks...

  5. This is one of the coolest ideas you've ever had. And you've had some good ideas Dave.

    My only question is do you have something against New England? Please don't let the comments effect future rankings though. I can't wait for the countdown to continue!

  6. Regarding the Corvette...that is a shame! Sorry Night Owl.

    Regarding Utah...that is indeed a good looking plate!

    RE: Schruender - thanks Mark! You know I really hadn't noticed that I was singling out so many New England states. I will have to take a look at my landlocked bias :)


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