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Illinois Special Event License Plates — an Introduction to Collecting

Updated: Apr 12, 2021

Special Event license plates are actual license plates issued by a state or country in connection with an event celebration such as a festival, county fair or significant national event such as a presidential inauguration. In many cases, they are used as fundraisers for causes such as the Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) or the Shriners.

Special event plates are colorful, have fun graphics and have entertaining messages. They are usually in very good or like new condition because their use on a car was limited to 60 or 90 days. For these reasons, they are excellent collectables for display.

While many states and countries have issued special event plates, Illinois has, by far and away, issued the most, hundreds over the years. This blog series focuses on Illinois Special Event license plates. They are actual license plates issued by the Secretary of State's office.

Among the first ones issued were the license plates for the Western Open Golf Tournament in the 1960s. The Village of Riverside, IL, commemorated the town’s centennial birthday in 1975 with a special event plate. However, it wasn’t until the 1980’s that they became popular. Their popularity continues to today.

For an organization to get a special event license plate, it needed to get approval from the state. To qualify for these plates, the event had to be open to the public and be an activity that promoted the interest of Illinois citizens. Upon approval by the Secretary of State's office, they could be displayed on vehicles for 60 days prior to midnight on the last day of the event.

We have compiled Collector Checklists of Illinois Special Event License Plates by year. The sources for these lists are other collectors, as we don’t think the state has an official list. For this reason, the lists may be incomplete. We welcome additions and corrections and will update the lists as we can. If you have a license plate for an event we don’t have listed, please send us a photo and we will update the lists. Also, we do not have every year. If you know of a source with other years, we would love to hear about it.

You are free to download our lists and use them for hunting or to keep records of your own collection. You also welcome to share them but please keep our name and copyright notice on them. Tip: Check our online store to see if your tag is available there.

Happy Collecting!

Barb Sistak and Tom Baur

The License Plate Gal and The License Plate Guy

at License Plate Garage



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