Color History of Illinois Vintage License Plates

Updated: Jul 12, 2019

Do you ever wonder why the Illinois 1964 license plate is purple? Or, why the 1975 plate is yellow? Illinois has some of the brightest and most varied colors in its license plate past.


Unlike many other states, throughout the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, the colors of the Illinois license plates changed each year. It fell to the Secretary of the State to select the colors. For many of those years, the colors were purposeful and significant. They include the colors of universities or renowned Illinois institutions.

For example, in 1952, the University of Illinois was honored because the football team won the championship the previous season. The license plates for 1952 were the university colors — blue on orange.


We’ve compiled a list here of the other years that Illinois used significant color combinations.(There is also a video at the end of this post runs through the colors and plates which you might find fun to watch.)

In 1955, the colors were reversed for the University of Illinois, orange on blue.

In 1956, the colors were green on white for Illinois Wesleyan University.

In 1957, the colors were white on red for Illinois State University.

In 1958, the colors were purple on white for Northwestern University.

In 1959, the colors were white on brown for Quincy College.

In 1960, the colors were gold on blue for the Augustana and Wheaton Colleges.

In 1961, the colors were white on red for North Central College.

In 1963, the colors were yellow on green for the 125th Anniversary of the John Deere company.

In 1964, the colors were white on purple for McKendee and Rockford Colleges.


In 1965, the colors were green on white in honor of Secretary of State Charles Carpentier who died in office.


In 1969, the colors were blue on orange for the University of Illinois, once again.


In 1975, the colors were black on yellow for the Caterpillar Tractor Co.


In 1979, the colors were blue on white honor of the 150 years of existence of Illinois College in Jacksonville.

Packages with all 14 color plates are available. Learn more on eBay.




Happy Collecting!

Barb Sistak and Tom Baur

The License Plate Gal and The License Plate Guy

at License Plate Garage


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