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Early 20th century plates varied in size and shape from one jurisdiction to the next, such that if someone moved, new holes would need to be drilled into the automobile (often on the bumper) to support the new plate.
Standardization of plates came in 1957, when automobile manufacturers came to agreement with governments and international standards organizations.
In the vast majority of jurisdictions, the government holds a monopoly on the manufacturing of vehicle registration plates for that jurisdiction.
It also recommended that a standard plate size of 6 inches by 14 inches be adopted through the United States to replace the earlier 6 inch x 12 inch size to allow longer registration numbers to be displayed without excessively tight spacing or excessively thin or narrow characters.
The Netherlands was the first country to introduce a nationally registered licence plate, called a "driving permit", in 1898.
Initially these plates were just sequentially numbered, starting at 1, but this was changed in 1906. S., where each state issues plates, New York State has required plates since 1903 (black numerals on a white background) after first requiring in 1901 that only the owner's initials be clearly visible on the back of the vehicle.
At first, plates were not government issued in most jurisdictions and motorists were obliged to make their own.