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On June 24, 1921, the 52nd General Assembly of the State of Illinois authorized the Department of Public Works and Buildings to hire a "sufficient number of State Highway Patrol Officers to enforce the provisions of the Motor Vehicle Laws." This new group of law enforcement officers were known as the State Highway Maintenance Police.

The Illinois State Police was officially created in 1922 and the primary function of the agency was the protection of the roads from damage by overweight vehicles. In 1927, the first patrol cars (Chrysler coupes) were purchased and issued only to Sergeants as they were deemed to be District Commanders.

Troopers patrolled on motorcycle. In 1930, the Chryslers were replaced by Ford Model A's. 1948 saw a temporary end to the use of motorcycles for patrol. In 1967, the black and white patrol cars were replaced with a basic beige color scheme. In 1977, a reorganization took place within the ISP and left it with 5 Divisions: State Police, Criminal Investigation, Internal Investigation, Support Services and Administration Additionally, each division within the Illinois State Police provides specific services.

The Division of Operations' services entail: aircraft support for enforcement and public assistance; vehicle investigations; underwater search and recovery operations; K-9 support for tracking and drug detection; presentations to the public on traffic safety and crime prevention; criminal investigations to detect and suppress the traffic of illicit drugs; develop strategic and tactical criminal intelligence data; investigate serious offenses; and apprehend fugitives.

Operations also provides support to many county, municipal and federal law enforcement agencies. Today, the ISP is comprised of sworn personnel and civilians totaling more than 3,000, and is one of the most modern and efficient police organizations in the USA.

License plates used on Illinois State Police vehicles have transcended from regular passenger car license plates, to municipal coded plates, to state coded plates to titled plates from the earliest years until the late 1960's. Titled plates have been used on marked and some unmarked ISP vehicles since 1968.





License Plates of the Illinois State Police

From the early days of patrol car and motorcycle use, the Illinois State Highway Patrol and Illinois State Highway Maintenance Police used standard passenger car and motorcycle license plates from 1921 and at least until 1939 as pictured on the car below. There were no known reserved number blocs on those types.

Illinois early police license plate Illinois early police license plate Illinois early police license plate Illinois early police license plate
Illinois early police license plate Illinois early police license plate Illinois early police license plate Illinois early police license plate
Illinois early police license plate Illinois early police license plate Illinois early police license plate Illinois early police license plate
Illinois early police license plate Illinois early police license plate Illinois early police license plate Illinois early police license plate
  • Illinois state police license plateStandard 1938 Illinois passenger car license plate.
    White over green embossed steel. 11 1/4”x 5 5/8”
    Type used on ISP patrol cars of the day.
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  • Illinois state police license plateStandard 1939 Illinois passenger car license plate.
    Yellow over black embossed steel. 11 1/4”x 5 5/8”
    Type used on ISP patrol cars of the day.
  • Illinois state police license plate on car
  • Illinois state police car and officer

Although there is no solid confirmation, it is believed that in 1940, the ISP fleet began registering their patrol vehicles with M-prefixed municipal exempt license plates in lieu of the standard passenger car license plates which had been used on ISP vehicles since the 1920's.
The M prefix plates were used on ISP patrol vehicles as well as municipal government vehicles such as those registered to Chicago PD.
These M-prefixed plates were issued in no particular reserved bloc, however photographic records seem to indicate that the higher number blocs (M 7000 to M 10000 blocs) were seen used on ISP vehicles of that period.



  • Illinois state police license plate1940 issue. Embossed steel. 5 1/2”x 11 1/4”
    Cream over marron. M prefix followed by four numbers mostly in the 7000 to 9000 number bloc.
    Believed to be the first year that ISP used M prefixed license plates.
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  • Illinois state police license plate1941 issue. Embossed steel. 5 1/2”x 11 1/4”
    Black over deep yellow. M prefix followed by four numbers mostly in the 7000 to 9000 number bloc.
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  • Illinois state police license plate1942 issue. Embossed steel. 5 1/2”x 11 1/4”
    Yellow over black. M prefix followed by four numbers mostly in the 7000 to 9000 number bloc.
  • Illinois state police license plate on car
  • Illinois state police bus
    (Photo Courtesy Greg Reynolds/copcar.com)
  • Illinois state police license plate1943 issue. Embossed steel. 5 1/2”x 11 1/4”
    White over green. M prefix followed by four numbers mostly in the 7000 to 9000 number bloc. All other 1943 license plates for cars in Illinois at the time were made of fiberboard.
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From 1943 until 1948, general issue license plates in Illinois were made of fiberboard known as "soybean". This material was used to help conserve metal for the war effort despite the war ending in 1945.
The 1943 M-prefixed license plates however were made of embossed steel as with previous issues instead of using the weaker fiberboard material. It is believed that steel was used as the plate would be kept in service beyond 1943 and needed to be durable. As there are no known surviving specimens, photos or documents to indicate annual M-prefixed license plate issues for 1944, 1945 and 1946, it is likely that this belief was true.



  • Illinois state police license plate1947 "soybean" fiberboard issue. 5 1/2”x 11 1/4”
    White over green. M prefix followed by four to five numbers mostly in the 9000 to 10000 number bloc.
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  • Illinois state police license plate1943 issue. Embossed steel. 5 1/2”x 11 1/4”
    Black over deep orange. M prefix followed by four to five numbers mostly in the 9000 to 10000 number bloc. All other 1948 license plates for cars in Illinois at the time were made of fiberboard.
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  • Illinois state police license plate1949 issue. Embossed steel. 5 1/2”x 11 1/4”
    Cream over blue. M prefix followed by four numbers mostly in the 7000 to 9000 number bloc.
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Illinois state police car
(Photo Courtesy Greg Reynolds/copcar.com)
  • Illinois state police license plate1950 issue. Embossed steel. 5 1/2”x 11 1/4”
    Dark green over white. M prefix followed by four numbers mostly in the 7000 to 9000 number bloc.
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Illinois state police cars and officers
(Photo Courtesy Greg Reynolds/copcar.com)
  • Illinois state police license plate1951 issue. Embossed aluminum. 5 1/2”x 11 1/4”
    Maroon over aluminum. M prefix followed by four to five numbers mostly in the 9000 to 10000 number bloc.
    The early aluminum plates had strengthening indentations along the top and bottom of the plate.
  • Illinois license plate image
  • Illinois state police license plate1952 issue. Embossed thin steel. 5 1/2”x 11 1/4”
    Navy blue over orange. M prefix followed by four to five numbers mostly in the 9000 to 10000 number bloc.
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  • Illinois state police license plate1953 issue. Embossed thin steel. 5 5/8”x 12 1/2” Maroon over cream. M prefix followed by four to five numbers mostly in the 9000 to 10000 number bloc.
    The early aluminum plates had strengthening indentations along the top and bottom of the plate.
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  • Illinois state police license plate1954 issue. Embossed thin steel. 5 5/8”x 12 1/2”
    White over green. M prefix followed by four to five numbers mostly in the 9000 to 11000 number bloc.
    1954 was the first year for the famed slogan Land of Lincoln on Illinois license plates.
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  • Illinois state police license plate1955 issue. Embossed thin steel. 5 1/2”x 11 1/4”
    Orange over navy blue. M prefix followed by four to five numbers mostly in the 9000 to 10000 number bloc.
    From 1955 until 1961, Illinois license plate colors honored a different state college. This one was for University of Illinois.
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Illinois state police car and helicopter
(Photo Courtesy Greg Reynolds/copcar.com)
  • Illinois state police license plate1956 issue. Embossed thin steel. 5 1/2”x 11 1/4”
    Dark green white. M prefix followed by four to five numbers mostly in the 9000 to 10000 number bloc.
    From 1955 until 1961, Illinois license plate colors honored a different state college. This one was for Illinois Wesleyan.
  • Illinois state police carISP Ford with plate number M 9085
    (Photo Courtesy Greg Reynolds/copcar.com)

Illinois state police cars

Illinois state police car
(Photo Courtesy Greg Reynolds/copcar.com)
  • Illinois state police license plate1957 issue. Embossed thin steel. 5 1/2”x 11 1/4”
    White over red. M prefix followed by four to five numbers mostly in the 9000 to 10000 number bloc.
    From 1955 until 1961, Illinois license plate colors honored a different state college. This one was for Northwestern.
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  • Illinois state police car
  • Illinois state police car
  • Illinois state police car
    (Photo Courtesy Greg Reynolds/copcar.com)
  • Illinois state police license plate1958 issue. Embossed thin steel.
    Purple over white. M prefix followed by four to five numbers mostly in the 9000 to 10000 number bloc.
    From 1955 until 1961, Illinois license plate colors honored a different state college. This one was for Quincy College.
  • Illinois state police carISP Ford with plate number M 9010
    (Photo Courtesy Greg Reynolds/copcar.com)
  • Illinois state police license plate1959 issue. Embossed thin steel.
    White over brown. M prefix followed by four to five numbers mostly in the 9000 to 10000 number bloc.
    From 1955 until 1961, Illinois license plate colors honored a different state college. This one was for Wheaton College.
  • Illinois state police car

Illinois state police car(Photo Courtesy Tom Sheehy)

Illinois state police car

  • Illinois state police license plate1960 issue. Embossed thin steel.
    Orange over Blue. M prefix followed by four to five numbers mostly in the 9000 to 10000 number bloc.
    From 1955 until 1961, Illinois license plate colors honored a different state college. This one was for Augustana College.
  • Illinois state police car
  • Illinois state police car
    (Photo Courtesy Greg Reynolds/copcar.com)
  • Illinois state police license plate1961 issue. Embossed thin steel.
    White over red.
    U prefix (State Exempt code) followed by four to five numbers mostly in the 9000 to 10000 number bloc.
    From 1955 until 1961, Illinois license plate colors honored a different state college.
    This one was for North Central College.
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  • Illinois state police car
    (Photo Courtesy Greg Reynolds/copcar.com)
  • Illinois state police license plate1962 issue. Embossed thin steel.
    White over orange.
    U prefix (State Exempt code) followed by four to five numbers mostly in the 9000 to 10000 number bloc.
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  • Illinois state police car
    (Photo Courtesy Greg Reynolds/copcar.com)
  • Illinois state police license plate1963 issue. Embossed thin steel.
    Yellow over green.
    U prefix (State Exempt code) followed by four to five numbers mostly in the 9000 to 11000 number bloc.
    Colors honored the 125th Anniversary of John Deere Co.
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  • Illinois state police car


  • Illinois state police car
    (Photo Courtesy Greg Reynolds/copcar.com)
  • Illinois state police license plate1964 issue. Embossed thin steel.
    White over lavender.
    U prefix (State Exempt code) followed by four to five numbers mostly in the 9000 to 11000 number bloc.
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  • Illinois state police license plate1965 issue. Embossed thin steel.
    Dark green over white.
    U prefix (State Exempt code) followed by four to five numbers mostly in the 9000 to 11000 number bloc.
  • Illinois state police license plate(Photo Courtesy Greg Reynolds/copcar.com)
  • Illinois state police license plate1966 issue. Embossed thin steel.
    Red over reflective white.
    U prefix (State Exempt code) followed by four to five numbers mostly in the 9000 to 11000 number bloc.
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  • (Photo Courtesy Greg Reynolds/copcar.com)Illinois state police car
  • Illinois state police license plate1967 issue. Embossed thin steel.
    Black over reflective white.
    U prefix (State Exempt code) followed by four to five numbers mostly in the 9000 to 11000 number bloc.
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In 1968, the Illinois State Police began issuing ISP-titled license plates for its fleet. The plate was deemed to be used for two years at a time. The 1968/1969 issue was made of aluminum and all others until the 1980/1981 issue were made of thin and later thicker steel.
The plate had the embossed word STATE running as a vertical stack down the left side of the plate and POLICE running as a vertical stack down the right side of the plate.
The first issue has 68 ILLINOIS 69 embossed along the top of the plate and LAND OF LINCOLN embossed along the bottom.
All subsequent issues had the state motto embossed along the top and the state name and years embossed along the bottom.
The colors used were brown over reflective white.
The numbering system used was based on patrol districts and special sections within the ISP followed by a hyphen and assignment numbers. The lower the assignment number, the higher the rank.
The initial district numbers at this time are as follows: 1: STERLING 2: ELGIN 3: DES PLAINES (now district C: Cook/Chicago) 4: BLUE ISLAND (no longer a District 4 for ISP) 5: JOLIET (now Lockport) 6: PONTIAC 7: ROCK ISLAND (now East Moline) 8: PEORIA (now Metamora) 9: SPRINGFIELD 10: (appears on plate as X as not to be confused with radio 10 codes) PESOTUM 11: MARYVILLE (now Collinsville)12: EFFINGHAM 13: DUQUOIM 14 MACOMB 15: OAK BROOK (now Downers Grove/Tollway)16:PECATONICA 17: LASALLE 18: LITCHFIELD 19: CARMI 20: PITTSFIELD 21: ASHKUM 22: ULLIN
District number 25 is for the Criminal Investigation District out of Springfield.
Some ISP vehicles use a special section prefix letter based on the vehicle assignment followed by a dash and the vehicle or district number. Some known types are:
A (Administration)
B (Equipment/Quartermaster)
D (District Command personnel)
E (Executive Security/Governor's Office)
O (Operations Section- Air/K-9 etc)
R (Radio/Communications personnel)
S (Information and Education officers)
T (Training/Academy personnel)
V (Auto Theft Investigators)

These "biennial" plates as they were known, were highly-prone to rust and cracking in the reflective sheeting. Most of these plates found today are not in good condition if they had been in use.



  • Illinois state police car
    (Photo Courtesy Greg Reynolds/copcar.com)
  • Illinois map
  • Illinois state police license plate1968-1969 issue. District 2 (Elgin) Car 54.
    Received this plate personally from the trooper this plate was assigned to; Ron Kokes. Plate was fastened to his marked 1966 Chevy Big Block that he and his partner, Trooper Mike Bly called their rolling home and office for 2 years.
  • Illinois state police carISP Dodge with 1968/69 plate number 9 (Springfield) car 63
    (Photo Courtesy Greg Reynolds/copcar.com)
  • Illinois state police license plate1968-1969 issue. Operations.
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  • Illinois state police cars and officers
    (Photo Courtesy Greg Reynolds/copcar.com)
  • Illinois state police license plate1970-1971 issue. District 7 (Rock Island) Car 7.
  • Illinois state police officers (Photo Courtesy Greg Reynolds/copcar.com)
  • Illinois state police car
    (Photo Courtesy Greg Reynolds/copcar.com)
  • Illinois state police license plate1972-1973 issue. District 7 (Rock Island) Car 8.
  • Illinois state police license plate1972-1973 issue. Administration Car 12
    (Photo Courtesy Greg Reynolds/copcar.com)
  • Illinois state police car
    (Photo Courtesy Greg Reynolds/copcar.com)
  • Illinois state police license plate1974-1975 issue. District 4 (Blue Island) Car 21.
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  • Illinois state police license plate1974-1975 issue. Administration.
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  • Illinois state police license plate1976-1977 issue.
    District 25 (Criminal Investigation Section) Car 97.
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  • Illinois state police car
    (Photo Courtesy Greg Reynolds/copcar.com)
  • Illinois state police car
  • Illinois state police license plate1978-1979 issue. District 3 (Des Plaines) Car 4.
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  • Illinois state police license plate1978-1979 issue. District 9 (Springfield) Car 40.
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  • Illinois state police license plate1978-1979 issue. Administration.
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  • Illinois state police license plate1978-1979 issue. Quartermaster/Equipment.
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  • Illinois state police car
    (Photo Courtesy Greg Reynolds/copcar.com)
  • Illinois state police license plate1980-1981 issue. District 14 (Macomb) Car 69.
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  • Illinois state police cars
    (Photo Courtesy Greg Reynolds/copcar.com)

In January of 1982, the Illinois State Police put an end to the biennial license plates and began to issue embossed aluminum Permanent license plates.
These plates had the same layout and color as the previous biennial plates, however a letter P was situated to the right of the state name along the bottom of the plate.
In the Fall of 1987, the ISP license plates were made of steel to provide more service longevity, as the aluminum plates were prone to fading and discoloration. Later issues utilized a more square die for the state name as can be seen in the comparative photo shown further below.



  • Illinois state police license plate1982-1987 issue- District 5 (Joliet) Car 1 (Commander).
    This is the early issue "Permanent" plate which featured the rounder, softer dies as seen on the state name, and made of embossed aluminum.
  • Illinois state police car (Photo Courtesy Greg Reynolds/copcar.com)
  • Illinois state police cars
  • Illinois state police plates display
  • Illinois state police car
  • Illinois state police license plateCirca 1987 issue- District 8 (Metamora) Car 22.
    Same as the 1982-1987 "Permanent" issue, however made of embossed steel using same rounder, softer dies on state name.
  • Illinois state police license plateDistrict 2 (Elgin) Car 88
  • Illinois state police license plateCirca 1987 issue- District 5 (Joliet) Car 36.
    Same as the 1982-1987 "Permanent" issue, however made of embossed steel using same rounder, softer dies on state name. Seen on duty in photo at right.
  • Illinois state police license plate District 5 (Joliet/Lockport) Car 36
  • Illinois state police license plate
  • This shows the difference in die type used between the earlier version of the permanent ISP license plate and the later version. The letter S is the most obvious distinction.

  • Illinois state police license plateCirca 1987-Current issue.
    Similar to earlier type, however different die-type used for the state name.
    District 19 (Carmi) Car 20.
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  • Illinois state police license plateCirca 1987-Current issue.
    Radio/Communications personnel.
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  • Illinois state police car
    (Photo Courtesy Greg Reynolds/copcar.com)
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  • Illinois state police license plateUnmanned, radar-equipped State Police squad cars are positioned at locations with a high incidence of personal injury accidents or in construction zones. The drones are positioned in these areas to influence traffic to slow down.
    (Photo Courtesy Greg Reynolds/copcar.com)
  • Illinois state police car
  • Illinois state police carDistrict 15 (Downers Grove/Tollway) Car 50
  • Illinois state police car District 15 (Downers Grove/Tollway) Commander
  • Illinois state police carOperations prefix for K-9 Unit
  • Illinois state police license plate
  • Illinois state police car
    (Photo Courtesy Dominik Fiszer)





Illinois State Police Special Type Plates

Provided here are images of different Special Section and other types of license plates issued and used by the Illinois State Police

  • Illinois state police car1968-1969 Safety (Information/Education) Officer
  • Illinois state police license plate1978-1979 Safety (Information/Education) Officer
  • Illinois state police car
  • Illinois police license plate1974-1975 District 10 (Pesotum) Car 2 (Deputy Commander). It was decided early on to ensure that District 10 cars did not use the number 10 on their plates as to not cause confusion with radio 10 codes. Thus Unit 78 would broadcast as “X-Ray 78” as opposed to 10-78 which is the “Emergency Assistance Required” distress code.
  • Illinois police license plate1976-1977 issue Sample

Illinois police license plate Illinois police license plate
Illinois police license plate
A prefix (Administration)
Illinois police license plate


In the late 1980's to early 1990's, the Illinois State Police commenced a recognition program for ISP troopers who recovered stolen motor vehicles. The program was similar to the ACE (Aggressive Criminal Enforcement)/ Blue Max programs spearheaded by the Ohio State Highway Patrol and the Louisiana State Police.

An ISP trooper would earn a star decal to affix to his patrol car for every stolen vehicle he/she would recover. The trooper with the highest recovery rate for the calendar year would become the recipient of the Golden Eagle Award.

Part of the esteem that went with this achievement was to receive the Golden Eagle Award license plate which the trooper would be allowed to run on his/her patrol vehicle into the next year.

The plate was similar in layout to a contemporary passenger license plate with the state name in blue silkscreened lower case letters in the upper left corner situated just below the upper left mounting hole. The state motto Land of Lincoln was also in blue silkscreened letters in both upper and lower case font situated just below the upper right mounting hole. The state name and state motto rested on three blue silkscreened lines which traveresed the span of the plate from left to right. The center of the plate was dominated by a silkscreened gold and black circular seal. The center of the seal was silkscreened in red with a white silhouette of the state. A bald eagle in gold white and black occupies the middle of the seal with wings and talons outstretched. The words GOLDEN EAGLE AWARD occupy the lower circumference of the inner portion of the seal in black. The word STATE is silkscreened in red and stacked vertical on the left side of the plate and the word POLICE is also silkscreened in red and stacked vertical on the right side of the plate.
It is believed that this award is no longer issued.

  • Illinois police license plateGolden Eagle Award issue. Presented to ISP trooper who recovered the highest number of stolen motor vehicles within the calendar year.
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  • Illinois police license platePossible prototype Golden Eagle Award. Dated 1984.
    Has proper Illinois graphics, however black trim on the emblem is very bold compared to regular issue.
    Not manufactured on an Illinois DMV blank: no step border, no reflective background, round mounting holes instead of squat ovals.
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Motorcycle License Plates used by Illinois State Police


As stated in the introduction, the earliest patrol activity conducted by the IHP and the ISP was on motorcycle. There were no special issue license plates known to have been issued for IHP/ISP motorcycles.
More recently, ISP motorcycle plates have been miniature versions of the larger permanent plates used on larger vehicles.
The plates are the current standard motorcycle size, and brown over reflective white. The state motto LAND OF LINCOLN is embossed on the top line and ILLNOIS P is embossed on the bottom line of the plate. The center of the plate is occupied by the prefix MP (Motor Patrol) followed by the assignment number. The vertically-stacked STATE and POLICE on the left and right margins of the plate are silkscreened, not embossed.

  • Illinois police motorcycle
  • Illinois police license plateMotor Patrol 1
  • Illinois police license plate
  • Illinois police motorcycle





Illinois State Police Frames and Other Types


  • Illinois police license plateStandard ISP plastic frame
  • Illinois police license plateISP license plate frame used during 75th Anniversary
  • Illinois police license plateStandard ISP platic frame with cut-out at bottom for state name.
  • Illinois police license plateISP Heritage Foundation frame
  • Illinois police license plateNational Troopers Coalition souvenir plate.
    Embossed thin aluminum.
  • Illinois police license plate1999 Personalized license plate for a former ISP patrol car.


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