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The Minnesota State Highway Patrol was formed in 1929, as there was a need for an agency with statewide jurisdiction in traffic enforcement. The original force was comprised of 35 men at a salary of $120 per month.

These new troopers also had to furnish their own motorcycles for patrol. From 1929 to 1969, the MSHP was under the control of the Minnesota Department of Highways. 1931 saw the ranks of the Patrol increase to 70 officers and the second academy was held. Ford Model A's were used for patrolling in the winter months and motorcycles were used primarily at all other times in those early days.

The Patrol adopted the maroon and gold colors of the University of Minnesota, and the tradition has been maintained ever since. By 1941, the Patrol was up to 126 men, and by 1955 that number jumped to 255, and then 330 by 1957. In 1967, the MSHP became part of the newly created Minnesota Department of Public Safety, and the manpower was up to 458 officers.

Up until 1971, MSHP authority extended only to crimes committed on state trunk highways. That year, jurisdiction was given to the Patrol to arrest for crimes committed in their presence anywhere in the state.

In 1974, the name Minnesota State Patrol became the official by dropping the word "Highway" from the monicker. In 1986, District 4700 commenced operation which was the Commercial Vehicle Enforcement Division. Today, the Minnesota State Patrol is comprised of 11 patrol districts located in Rochester, Mankato, Marshall, Oakdale, Golden Valley, St. Cloud, Duluth, Brainerd, Detroit Lakes, Virginia, and Thief River Falls.

Each District is divided into geographic work areas referred to as "stations". There are a total of 61 stations throughout the state. The State Patrol has 810 total personnel, of which 522 are uniformed and 288 are civilian.





License Plates of the Minnesota State Patrol


Minnesota 1929 police car

The earliest record of license plate use by the MSP goes back to the early 1930's where Minnesota Tax Exempt plates were used on patrol cars. The plates were issued and valid for three year blocks. It can be surmised that the MSP ran these 3-year Tax Exempt plates since their formation in 1929, but there are currently no records or images to confirm such a belief.
It has also been stated that MSP cars were also outfitted with a large 4 to 5 inch, five-pointed brightly-colored metal star mounted above the front license plate.


Minnesota 1930 police car

The photo just above shows the confirmed use of the Tax Exempt license plate being run on the 1930 Ford patrol car of Patrolman Robert C. Newmann in 1934. The license plate run on this car would have been made of embossed steel and measuring 5 1/4" x 11 3/4". The top line would have read TAX EXEMPT-33-5 and the abbreviation MINN ran stacked down the right side of the plate. The registration number appears to be 526.
(Courtesy of J. Hansen via home.comcast.net/~sgtsletten/site/)

The known format and color scheme for the Tax Exempt license plates for this time frame are as follow:
1929: Embossed steel. 5 1/2" x 12". Yellow over dark green. MINN embossed vertical along left. TAX EXEMPT- 27-29 (over) number up to 3 digits.
1930-1932: Embossed steel. 5 1/2" x 12". Yellow over dark green. MINN embossed vertical along left. TAX EXEMPT- 30-32 (over) number up to 3 digits.
1933-1935: Embossed steel. 5 1/4" x 11 3/4". White over dark green. MINN embossed vertical along right. TAX EXEMPT- 33-35 (over) number up to 3 digits.

  • Minnesota 1936 police car1936-1938 issue: Embossed steel. 5 1/2" x 12".
    Yellow over olive green.
    MINN embossed vertical along right.
    TAX EXEMPT- 36-8 (over) number up to 4 digits.
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Minnesota 1940 police car (Photo above and next few below of MSP cars courtesy of home.comcast.net/~sgtsletten/site/)

1939-1941 issue: Embossed steel. 5 1/2" x 12". Yellow over dark green. MINN embossed vertical along right. TAX EXEMPT- 39-41 (over) number up to 4 digits.

  • Minnesota 1936 police car1942-1944: Embossed steel. 5 1/2" x 12". Yellow over olive green. TAX (over) EXEMPT left center followed by number up to 4 digits (over) MINNESOTA 42-44.

    (Courtesy Barefoot Jaime)
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1945-1947: Unconfirmed but likely followed same format as the 1942-1944 issue.


Minnesota 1948 police car and bike
  • Minnesota police license plate1948-1950 issue: Embossed steel. 5 1/2" x 12".
    Yellow over dark green. Number up to 4 digits.
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  • Minnesota police license plate1951-1953 issue: Embossed steel. 5 1/2" x 12".
    Yellow over dark green. Number up to 4 digits.

    First appearance of state slogan 10,000 LAKES
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  • Minnesota police license plate1951-1953 five digit issue: Embossed steel. 5 3/4" x 13".
    Yellow over medium green. Number up to 5 digits.
    Numbers from 11-500 used an olive green base and later phased to the medium green shade as seen above.
    Confirmed MSP use of number 11-743 which was used on the 1953 MSP Ford patrol car of Ptlm. Eugene Molitar of Winnona.

    First appearance of state slogan 10,000 LAKES
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  • Minnesota police car
  • Minnesota police car
  • Minnesota police license plate1954-1956: Embossed steel. 5 1/2" x 12".
    Yellow over dark green. Number up to 4 digits.
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  • Minnesota police license plate1957-1959 issue: Embossed galvanized steel.
    New standard 6" x 12" and four small round mounting holes. Black over reflective gold.
    Number up to 5 digits.
  • Minnesota police license plate
  • Minnesota police license plate
  • Minnesota police license plate
  • Minnesota police license plate1960-1962 issue: Embossed galvanized steel.
    Black over reflective yellow. Number up to 4 digits.
    Some with single letter prefix.
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  • Minnesota police license plate

In the early 1960's, the MSP began using more passenger series license plates concurrent with the Tax Exempt issues. This practice had commenced in the 1950's, but by the 1970's, it appears that the MSP deployed more passenger car plates than Tax Exempt ones.



Minnesota police license plate
  • Minnesota police license plate1963-1965 issue. Embossed galvanized steel.
    Black over reflective orange.
    Number up to 4 digits. Some with single letter prefix.
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  • Minnesota police license plate
  • Minnesota police license plate
  • Minnesota police license plate1966-1968 issue. Embossed galvanized steel.
    White over reflective orange.
    Number up to 4 digits. Some with single letter prefix.
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  • Minnesota police license plate1969-1971 issue. Embossed galvanized steel.
    Black over reflective orange.
    Number up to 4 digits. Some with single letter prefix.
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By the late 1960's/early 1970's, it appeared based on photographic evidence that the lion's share of MSP marked patrol cars were issued and ran passenger series license plates which were updated with annual validation decals. Most passenger version license plates used by the MSP appeared to be in the M series from 1968 until at least 1973.
Therefore, passenger plates in this series are showcased along with the Tax Exempt versions of this period.



Minnesota police license plate
  • Minnesota police license plate1968-1970 passenger issue. Blue over reflective white.
    Appears that M series versions of this plate were used by the MSP during the same time that contemporary Tax Exempt plates were used as well.
    Validated annually with decals for 1969 and 1970.
  • Minnesota police license plate(Courtesy of home.comcast.net/~sgtsletten/site/)
  • Minnesota police license plate
  • Minnesota police license plate
  • Minnesota police license plate1972-1974 issue. Embossed galvanized steel.
    Dark blue over reflective orange.
    Number up to 4 digits.
    Some with single and double letter prefix.
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  • Minnesota police license plate1971-1973 passenger issue. Green over reflective white.
    Appears that M series versions of this plate were used by the MSP during the same time that contemporary Tax Exempt plates were used as well.
    Validated annually with decals for 1972 and 1973.
  • Minnesota police license plate
  • Minnesota police license plate
  • Minnesota police license plate1975-circa 1977 issue. First undated Tax Exempt issue.
    Numbers from 800 000 to 880 000. Used by MSP until the release of the first agency-specific license plate in 1977.
    Other state government vehicles continued to use this base plate long after.
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  • Minnesota police license plate

An exact date is unknown so far, but around 1977, the Minnesota State Patrol introduced an attractive graphic license plate for use on the agency's marked patrol vehicles.
The plates were made of flat aluminum and silkscreened in maroon over reflective gold.
The plate featured a detailed image of the MSP breast badge situated on the left side of the plate centered between the upper and lower left mounting holes of the plate. To the right of the badge is the title STATE over TROOPER. The plate also has a maroon border outline.
Many of these plates have particulars of the assignment of the plate to the particular trooper's vehicle inscribed in black marker on the backside. The inscription usually appears as SP and the badge number of the trooper. A five digit "Squad number" beginning with the number 4 which is the state auditor's code for the MSP. The second digit is the year code- For example a Squad Number of 49235 would indicate an MSP vehicle of 1979 model year and 235 would be the 235th vehicle of the line.
These plates were used until approximately 1983.

  • Minnesota police license plateCirca 1977-1983 issue. First agency-specific issue. Silkscreened aluminum. Maroon over reflective gold.
    Known as the "Badge Plate".
    Some of these issues have the troopers badge number and five digit Squad Number inscribed on backside.
  • Minnesota police license plate
  • Minnesota police license plate
  • Minnesota police license plate
  • Minnesota police license plate

Around 1983, the MSP was issued with new license plates replacing the older "badge plates". The new plates were embossed galvanized steel and painted dark blue over reflective gold. The state name was situated between the upper mounting holes and the state slogan 10,000 LAKES was situated between the lower mounting holes. The center of the plate is occupied by the title STATE over TROOPER.
These license plates were displayed on marked MSP vehicles until 1987 and were run front and rear.

  • Minnesota police license plate1983-1987 issue. Embossed galvanized steel.
    Dark blue over reflective gold.
  • Minnesota police license plate
  • Minnesota police license plate

1987 saw the replacement of the 1983 galvanized steel MSP license plates with a flat silkscreened aluminum plate with a debossed step border. The plate is spartan in design with only STATE over PATROL in maroon screened over a reflective gold base.
This version was known as the "Plain Jane" version and only used for one year.
It has been stated that a legal issue required the words "State Patrol" to be displayed on the rear of marked MSP vehicles, and that this was the easiest/quickest solution at the time. Unissued stock of the plate were issued to be run on the front of MSP vehicles running the 1988 replacement issue on the rear.

  • Minnesota police license plate1987-1988 issue. Known as the "Plain Jane".
    Aluminum with debossed step border.
    Maroon over reflective gold.
    Run on rear only.
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  • Minnesota police license plate
  • Minnesota police license plateSee description to the right.

    (Courtesy Mike Morgan)
  • Special project license plate for Minnesota State Patrol and Minnesota Department of Transportation for highway speed reduction. Project 20 commenced on October 29th 1979 with one team of 10 Troopers and 1 Sergeant.

    The program expanded to double in size by March 11 1980 when the Project 20 license plates were issued.

    Plates were an flat all-screened version of the contemporary passenger plate used with PROJECT 20 inscribed along the center of the plate. Dark blue tape is placed in the bottom corners of the plate in lieu of validation decals.

    These plates were run on the rear of Project enforcement vehicles. The Project continued until September 22 1981, however one team continued as Project 10 until July 13 1982. The twenty participating troopers were allowed to retain their Project 20 license plates.
  • Minnesota police license plate

The unpopular "Plain Jane" license plate was phased out in favor of a more attractive replacement during the week before the Indianapolis 500 in 1988. The newly-launched plate was not only fastened, but RIVETTED to an MSP car that was sent to the event at the Brickyard. The new plates were reminiscent of the 1983-1987 issue using embossed galvanized steel and ALL were rivetted in place as an anti-theft measure.
This issue was painted maroon over reflective gold.
The state name is situated between the upper mounting holes and the state slogan 10,000 LAKES is situated between the lower mounting holes. The center of the plate is occupied by a small embossed silhouette of the state on the left portion of the plate followed by the title STATE over PATROL.
These license plates were issued to marked MSP vehicles until approximately 1991.

  • Minnesota police license plate1988-Circa 1991 issue. Embossed galvanized steel.
    Maroon over reflective gold.
    State silhouette with STATE over PATROL.
  • Minnesota police license plate
  • Minnesota police license plate
  • Minnesota police license plate
  • Minnesota police license plate

As the 1990's began, the MSP decided to introduce a license plate featuring the emblem of the MSP as seen on the uniform shoulder patch.
The initial layout was an embossed steel plate in maroon over reflective white.
A full color decal was applied and centered between the upper and lower left mounting holes.
The title STATE over PATROL was situated in the center right field of the plate.
This earliest of issues had the state name embossed between the lower mounting holes.
It is unknown if this issue went to full roll-out as so few of these examples are known in current existence.

  • Minnesota police license plateEarly 1990 issue. Embossed steel.
    Maroon over reflective white with full color MSP insignia decal.
    Early version in white and with state name.
    Unknown if fully rolled-out as so few have been documented.
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By 1991, the "Patch Plate" dropped the embossed state name and reverted to the reflective gold background. The layout utilizing the MSP shoulder path emblem decal was maintained as was the postioning of STATE over PATROL.
It's believed that the state name was dropped as it was redundant and made the plate appear too crowded. This newer issue provided a cleaner appearance and stayed true to the tradition of a gold colored background.

  • Minnesota police license plate1991-1999 issue. Embossed galvanized steel.
    Maroon over reflective gold.
    Applied MSP insignia decal to the left.
  • Minnesota police license plate
  • Minnesota police license plate
  • Minnesota police license plate

By 1999, the MSP switched to an embossed aluminum plate using the same layout with the exception of a step border instead of a painted raised border. These plates also featured subdued manufacturing holograms featuring the silhouette of a loon and the production number.

  • Minnesota police license plate1999-2010 issue. Embossed aluminum.
    Maroon over reflective gold.
    Step border instead of raised painted border.
  • Minnesota police license plate
  • Minnesota police license plate
  • Minnesota police license plate
  • Minnesota police license plate
  • Minnesota police license plate

The Minnesota State Patrol celebrated 75 years in 2004. As one of the agency's commemorative efforts for this milestone event, special license plates were issued for all marked MSP vehicles.
The plates were flat aluminum and once again reflective gold. The MSP shoulder patch insignia continued to occupy the left side of the plate. The right side of the plate is occupied by a large applied decal featuring the image of the MSP campaign hat emblazoned with 75 years. MINNESOTA STATE PATROL spans the curvature above the hat image and 1929-2004 is situated below the hat and above the lower right mounting hole.
These plates were used only for the anniversary year and replaced by the 1999 issue plates which were kept in storage during 2004.

  • Minnesota police license plate2004 75th Anniversary issue. Flat aluminum.
    Reflective gold. Decal applications.
    Used only for 2004 and replaced by 1999 issue license plates which had been placed in storage for the duration of the Anniversary license plate run.
  • Minnesota police license plateblablabla

Mid-way through 2006, the MSP decided to issue special license plates to be used on the front of marked MSP vehicles involved with DWI (Driving While Impaired) Enforcement. These front plates were embossed aluminum and colored in the traditional maroon over reflective gold. The plate features a raised border with DWI in large dies located in the field of the plate between the upper mounting holes and ENFORCEMENT embossed in smaller dies situated across the plate just above the lower mounting holes.
These plates were used concurrent to the 1999 MSP license plate which was also run on the front as well as the rear of the marked MSP vehicles through the early 2000's.

  • Minnesota police license plateCirca 2006 issue front plate. Maroon over reflective gold.
    Used concurrent with the 1999 "Patch plate".
  • Minnesota police license plate
  • Minnesota police license plate
  • Minnesota police license plate
  • Minnesota police license plate

  • Minnesota police license plate2010-Current issue. Screened aluminum.
    Black, reflective gold, maroon over white.
    MSP shoulder patch insignia silkscreened.
    Helix motif hologram down center of plate sheeting.
  • Minnesota police license plate
  • Minnesota police license plate




Motorcycle License Plates of the Minnesota State Patrol



Minnesota police license plate

Minnesota police license plate

Minnesota police license plate

License plates used by early MSP motocycles were never properly documented. Motorcycles were used on patrol from the MSP's inception in 1929 and phased-out by 1949 before their re-introduction in 2007.
The photographic proof for the front fender title plates on early MSP motorcycles shown is clear with such devices showing them marked as MINNESOTA over HIGHWAY PATROL. They were screen-painted gold over black and painted on both sides.
As for the license plates run on the rear of these vehicles: we don't know yet. The one photo shown earlier on this page displaying a 1948 motorcycle parked next to a 1948 MSP patrol car shows a plate with what appears to have a MC prefix followed by a 2 digit number.
It also appears to have a title along the top that says TAX EXEMPT and what is likely the state name along the bottom. This is the only clear example of what was run on MSP motorcycles before their disbandment in 1949.



Minnesota police license plate

The license plate shown below is a special-made plate for restored MSHP motorcycle seen above with former Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura. Dark blue over reflective gold on embossed aluminum with PATROL embossed in the center field of the plate with the state name along the top and 10000 LAKES embossed along the bottom.



Minnesota police license plate

In 2007, the Minnesota State Patrol re-launched motorcycles as part of their fleet. The new "motors" were outfitted with silkscreened vinyl license plates which were spearheaded by MSP Trooper Eddie Carroll. They measured roughly 4 inches high by 7 inches across. The plates were screened with a reflective gold background with a black border outline and numerals. The numerals are the 5 digit "Squad Number" reflecting the state auditor code number for the vehicle with the 4 prefix for MSP.
The state name is situated in maroon at the top of the plate and STATE PATROL is situated at the bottom of the plate in the same color.
The assignment number is prefaced by the "winged wheel and arrow" motif reminiscent of motorcycle patrols of yore in gold, red, white and black.

"On duty photos" shown below are thanks to Tpr. Eddie Carrol.

  • Minnesota police license plate2007-current motorcycle issue. Screened vinyl.
    Winged Wheel motif.
    4 = Minnesota State Patrol 7= 2007 year of issue
    505= Vehicle number
  • Minnesota police license plate
Minnesota police motorcyclesCourtesy Scott Reichel

Minnesota police license plate

Minnesota police license plate

Minnesota police license plate



Special Issues

This section is dedicated to special issue license plates related to the Minnesota State Patrol but not official duty issues.



Minnesota police license plate

Midwest Odometer and Title Fraud Enforcement Association conference souvenir license plate. The April 0f 2004 MOTFEA conference hosted by MSP issued these attractive souvenir license plates for delegates in attendance.

Gallery