Plates shown here are for reference only. Some are in my collection, but most are not. No plate imaged here is for sale. Please ask permission before using images elsewhere.
The State of South Carolina began issuing license plates in 1917 - the third to last state to start issuing plates. Prior to 1917, individual counties would issue a vehicle a registration number, and it was up to the owner to display it on the vehicle. See more on my Prestate page.
1917 (single) early "SC" diagonal; later "SC" straight
black/light yellow (yellow tended to vary medium to light) Type 1: "stairstep" S/C. Type 2: straight "SC". Type 3: tall "SC" with narrow "17"
white/green width varied with number of digits
1924 (single) script "SC" in circle
1926 (single) "SC" inside Palmetto Tree design
1927 (single) "SC" inside Palmetto Tree design
width variable depending on number of characters (A127-000 repainted shown)
1930 (pair) "IODINE" vertically on right side
1931 (pair) "THE IODINE STATE" bottom
1932 (pair) "THE IODINE STATE" bottom
1933 (pair) "THE IODINE PRODUCTS STATE" bottom
1934 (pair) introduction of 1/2 year plates "APRIL 30" top or "OCTOBER 31" bottom
1935 (pair) 1/2 year "APRIL 30" top or "OCTOBER 31" bottom
standard passenger: white/black(April), black/white(October)
"common carrier": red/white(April), white/red(October). short-lived type 35-37
1936 (pair) 1/2 year "APRIL 30" top or "OCTOBER 31" bottom
standard passenger: yellow/black(April); black/yellow(October)
"common carrier": blue/white and white/blue. short-lived type 35-37
1937 (pair) 1/2 year "APRIL 30" top or "OCTOBER 31" bottom
standard passenger: black/white(October). no April used for standard passenger
"common carrier": colors unknown. short-lived type 35-37
no letter, assumed "C" class
1940 (pair) no letter = overflow of "C" class; "OCTOBER 31"
1941 (pair) no letter = overflow of "C" class
1942 (pair) no letter = overflow of "C" class
1943 (single) restamped from collected plates - most '42; rare unstamped exist
no letter = overflow of "C" class
1944 (single) strip applied to existing 1943; weight class matched, plate number did not necessarily
new registrants received a 1943 with strip attachment
1945 (single) normal plate; no letter, assumed "C" class
some experimental reflective (some debossed in E and F series)*
begin 2-letter prefix, overflow from single letter
1968 (pair) begin reflective letters; "AUTO" bottom (passenger only)
1970 (pair) "1670 300 YEARS 1970"
1972 (pair) begin 3-letter, 3-number format, only numbers 101-250 used
1973 (pair) only numbers 101-250 used
1974 (pair) last year for pairs, only numbers 101-250 used
1975 (single) numbers 101-250 used
"Bicentennial" base issued c.October 1975 through December 1979.
month stickers began 1979. see GUIDE TO STICKERS
State Outline base issued January 1980-December 1984.
Replaced previous design through 1980. see GUIDE TO STICKERS
Palmetto base issued January 1985-December 1989.
Replaced previous design through 1985. see GUIDE TO STICKERS
Wren (state bird) base issued January 1990-December 1997.
Replaced previous design through 1990. see GUIDE TO STICKERS
1999-June, 2008 (single)*
"Smiling Faces, Beautiful Places" base issued January 1998-June 30, 2008.
Replaced previous design through 1998.
embossed serial number through Sept, 2007*; flat, debossed border, beginning Sept, 2007 (c.XBJ, XBK series). see GUIDE TO STICKERS
July, 2008 - mid-March 2016 (single)*
"Sunrise" base issued July 1, 2008 - mid-March 2016.
Replaced previous design by June 30, 2009. Issued while supplies lasted into March 2016. Renewed issues valid until 10th anniversary of issuance. Numbering began at AAA101 and ended at LZD799. Combined month sticker began late December 2016.
February 1, 2016 - present (single)"Hope" base
issued February 1, 2016 for replacements. New registration issues began in offices as each particular office exhausted supply of "Sunrise"
No replacement of previous issue set - "Sunrise" continues to be valid. Numbering began where "Sunrise" ended at LZD800.
Combined month sticker for new issues or replacements by mail. 2016 split sticker only for office-issued replacements.
1938-1945, all numeric, class "C" assumed as overflow after C-99-999
1962 reflective experimental. Debossed E and F class (only 20,000 made) Glass bead in white paint on letters in D and E class (10,000 made in each class)
1986 with old style month sticker - most likely a clerk error
"Wren" base plates issued from numbers AAA101 to AAA500, then AAB101... after YZZ500, then AAA501 to AAA900, then AAB501... after YZZ900, overflow to IAA101 rare 1999 sticker issued to January expirations only for very early renewals before new plates were in stock.
"Smiling Faces" base
(1) special character plates issued out of alphabetical order.
TGR, as in Clemson Tigers USC, as in University of South Carolina TAG, as in car tag USA, as in United States of America UGA, as in University of Georgia
UNC, as in University of North Carolina (not all letter combinations confirmed for State Outline & Palmetto bases)
(2) embossed plates issued numbers from 101 to 900 flat plates issued numbers from 101 to 999 except special-character plates mentioned above went to 999 (3) did not use letters I, O, Q, U "U" began use at NAU 101 series
"Sunrise" base (1) uses all letters except O (2) automatic renewals mailed directly from 3M (manufacturer). Since 3M does not have a stock of SC stickers, they printed their own month and year stickers. Month stickers are distinctive as black, in 2-digit format (08=August); Year stickers are distinctive with a much larger plate number printed on the sticker. (3) special character plates issued out of alphabetical order. Confirmed: TGR, as in Clemson Tigers USC, as in University of South Carolina USA, as in United States of America
JAN - Political/Judicial
OCT - Passenger, EMT, Retired National Guard
NOV - Amateur Radio, Disabled , Purple Heart, Motorcycle, House Trailer, Taxi, Rescue, National Guard, Volunteer Firefighter
DEC - Truck, Trailer, Dealer, M/R Dealer, Farm, Bus
Plates marked April 30 were 1/2 year plates to later receive October 31.
Existing registrations: with the October 1978 expiration, month stickers issued based on the 2nd digit
(ABC 123 = February, 1980); 1=Jan, 2=Feb, etc. to 0=Oct; Nov & Dec only to new registrations
New registrations beginning November 1, 1978 received sticker same month of initial registration.
Plates stay with the owner upon sale and may be transferred.
1994 - Biennial registration
Passed by Legislature 6/25/1993 (HB3610)
3. Added Code Section 56-3-253 to describe the schedule for conversion to the biennial registration.
This Act provides:
a. Generally, after June 30, 1994 vehicles will be registered and licensed for 24 consecutive months.
b. A phase in for vehicles with registrations expiring between July 1, 1993 and June 30, 1994 as follows:
(1) A vehicle having a license plate ending with an even number and expiring between July 1 and December 31, 1993 shall receive a biennial registration.
(2) A vehicle having a license plate ending with an even number and expiring between January 1 and June 30, 1994 shall receive a one year registration and thereafter, a biennial registration.
(3) A vehicle having a license plate ending with an odd number and expiring between July 1 and December 31, 1993 shall receive a one year registration and thereafter, a biennial registration.
(4) A vehicle having a license plate ending with an odd number and expiring between January 1 and June 30, 1994 shall receive a biennial registration.
c. All vehicles having a special license plate, other than an official plate, must receive a biennial registration. Official plates must be renewed annually at one-half the biennial rate.
d. All registrations are valid until the last day of the month of expiration.
Effective Date: The Act section takes effect July 1, 1993, but the provisions pertaining to counties mailing motor vehicle registration and licensing renewal notices do not take effect until July 1, 1994.
Act No. 164, Section 39.