Motor Vehicle License Plate Refurbishing / Before and After

Many of you probably already know that my husband, Michael, letters company trucks, does vehicle graphics and makes business signs. If you’re curious to see some of the kind of work he does, you can click on ‘Photography & Lettering’ in the menu above, and look to the bottom of that drop down menu, for ‘Truck Lettering’ and ‘Vehicle Graphics.’

Well, an interesting sideline that he has gotten into over the years, is refurbishing older Massachusetts license plates.

Our own state of Massachusetts here, is actually the very first state in the United States, to issue motor vehicle license plates.  It used to be that the plates only needed to be displayed on the back of the vehicle. Over the years, the state has been proactive in enacting laws regarding the registration and inspection of motor vehicles.  The vehicle’s license plate(s) are assessed as part of the required vehicle inspections, and if the plates are old and/or damaged and are deemed unreadable by at least 60 feet, the vehicle owner is required to get new plates, before it receives a passed inspection sticker.

If a motor vehicle has been issued front and rear license plates, which is typical, the vehicle must display both license plates issued by the Registry of Motor Vehicles on the front and rear of the vehicle.  Older plates that have the green lettering, which were the former standard and issued as a single plate, must only be displayed as that one plate on the back of the vehicles.  In 1988, Massachusetts began issuing red-lettered plates, which are issued as a set of two. If the newer red-letter plates are issued to the vehicle registrar, both must be displayed on both the front and back of the vehicle.  However, the single green-lettered plate is acceptable by law, for as long as it is readable.

It is for this reason, that Michael has refurbished an increasing amount of green-lettered plates. There are a host of reasons why some vehicle owners want to keep their older plate, for as long as possible. For some, it is just a somewhat sentimental reason. One 50-something year old man told Michael that he has had the same license plate since he was 18 years old, and he just doesn’t want to give it up.  Others own hot rods, antique vehicles, or other show cars, and there is no place for a front plate, nor do they want it to ‘blemish’ the look of their car.  Whatever the reason, if the plate is indeed salvageable, Michael is happy and capable of restoring them to their former beauty, if hired to do so.

Because it is a service he provides to aid in providing income for his family, he asked that I not show the whole step-by-step process.  Still, I thought it might be an interesting little post, to share with you all the before and after of just one of his green-lettered Massachusetts license plate restoration jobs.


The condition of this particular plate when he received it, was a hot mess. 

So the first thing he needs to do is clean it off and start from scratch.

Here it is, stripped down to the bare metal. It’s still a little beat up and whatnot, but a good new place to start.

All restored.  It is reflective as needed as well, just as they were originally. 

What do you think?

I am aware and amused, that he is often needing to clean things up and make them look like new, while I spend some of my days working to make things look old, beaten up and quite used.


Have you ever had license plates that meant something to you? Have you ever been sad for the to need to get new ones, or was it exciting? And what I’d really love to know, is do you like the look of your state’s plates?  I’m not going to name names (of states, that is), but I’ve seen some ugly ones!  I can’t much complain about ours.  You?
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UPDATE: Since the creation of this post, and as a direct result of it on the internet, we been contacted by numerous people seeking this service from Michael, and Michael in turn has refurbished many, many more plates since.  Every one has expressed great satisfaction with their finished plate, upon return.
If you are looking to have your license plate refurbished, please contact Michael at his e-mail address: