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gallery of police cars

The West Virginia State Police was established in 1919 by an act of the West Virginia Legislature. The WVSP operated under the Department of Public Safety. Like the state which it serves, the WVSP was born in an era of political unrest and domestic violence.

Labor strikes in the coal industry, political activism, cultural intolerance were at a peak just after World War 1, and a solid and organized force was needed to prevent the Mountain State from descending into anarchy. The initial recruitment of the first WVSP candidates leaned heavily on honorably discharged war veterans.

Each new trooper was initially required to bring his World War I uniform when he reported for enlistment hence the historical similarity between the WVSP uniform and the U.S. Marine Corps uniform and the U.S. Army campaign hat of the Great War.

Troop names were titled "Companies" as well, and the rank structure, including the rank of "private" was used by the WVSP. The mandate of the WVSP was to also address motor vehicle and traffic law.A state roads bureau report of 1914 alleged that West Virginia had "the worst roads in the United States." The WVSP therefore relied heavily on horses with most of its mobility matters in these early days.

Each company headquarters was allocated a touring car, to be used for transporting bulky supplies and for quick dispatch of troopers where suitable roads did exist. But during this same period (1920-1921), 36 prize horses were also added to the department's inventory.

By 1921, the WVSP had a 47% increase in its ranks with 286 officers. The "Mine Wars" of the 1920's kept WVSP troopers busy with so much deadly violence taking place between disenfranchised miners and their employers. Patrol vehicle safety was enhanced in 1966 by retrofit of padded dash and visors, seat belts, high speed tires, and non-glare mirrors.

Specifications for a heavy duty, air conditioned patrol vehicle were drawn up the following year. At the end of June 1969, the WVSP stood at 341 members, By 1972, the WVSP had received a new Bell 206/B helicopter to create the new Aviation Division for traffic and criminal enforcement matters, search and rescue and transportation in medical emergencies.

In 1995, the WVSP became a "stand alone" state police force, away and apart from the West Virginia DPS. More recently, the WVSP has been comprised of 630 sworn officers operating from five companies and 61 detachments.

The WVSP is recognized as the 4th oldest state police agency in the U.S..




License plates of the West Virginia State Police

The earliest example of license plate usage by the West Virginia State Police so far is from the photo seen below, taken in 1932. The photo shows the front of a WVSP patrol car bearing a standard West Virginia passenger car license plate number 858. The plate would have been made of embossed steel, measuring approximately 5 1/2" x 11" and colored yellow over black. Attached to the top of the license plate is a strip with STATE POLICE inscribed on it which is longer than the license plate itself, possibly about 14 inches long by about 3 inches tall. The attachment appears to have white lettering and a surrounding border over a medium shade color, possibly red or blue. It is unknown if a similar attachment strip was affixed to the rear license plate as well.
The second photo below shows an open coupe bearing West Virginia passenger car license plate number 10-054, but with no attachment indicating state police, so it can be assumed that the STATE POLICE attachment strip was discontinued by then.



West Virginia  police license plate imageWest Virginia  police license plate image


As mentioned on the Virginia State Police page of this website, by 1936, the West Virginia State Police apparently obtained black over white license plates that were formerly used by the Virginia State Police in the early 1930's for use on their patrol cars and motorcycles. The patrol car plates were made of embossed steel and measured 5 3/8" x 11 3/4" with a debossed border. The plate featured four round mounting holes in each corner and four mounting slots midway to the center of the plate. STATE over POLICE was embossed in black over white. These plates were apparently run in conjunction with standard passenger license plates on the patrol car. It appears from period photographs including those seen below, that the regular West Virginia passenger car license plates registered to the patrol cars were issued numbers in the 25-### series. Passenger car license plates in West Virginia issued between 1934 and 1941 were two year plates. The 1936-1937 license plates seen on the six WVSP patrol cars below were made of embossed steel and measured 5 1/2" x 12" and colored black over yellow with an embossed border. W.VA.-36-37 was embossed at the top of the license plate over a five digit number in the ##-### format. Confirmed numbers used by WVSP on this base are numbers 25-065, 25-049, 25-051, 25-149. It is not known if the 25-### prefix was a reserved series for WVSP or just a random assignment, but the same numbers were observed on WVSP cars for 1937-1938 as well.



West Virginia  police license plate image
  • West Virginia  police license plate image1936-c.1939 issue. Embossed steel.
    Approx. 5 3/8" x 11 3/4". Black over white.
    These plates were provided by the Virginia State Police to the WVSP around 1936 after a brief use on the VSP fleet from around 1934 to the changeover.

    (Courtesy Wayne Tyler)
  • West Virginia  police license plate image1937-1938 West Virginia passenger car license plate number 25-047 mounted at base of right front fender and STATE POLICE title plate mounted at base of front left fender.
  • West Virginia  police license plate image

Around 1939, the West Virginia State Police decided to issue their first agency-specific license plate. The plate would be made of embossed steel with two long mounting slots at the top of the plate and two long mounting slots at the bottom and measuring 5 3/8" x 12". The color scheme is actually unknown, but was guessed to be white over black. The only known surviving example from this first issue is the plate seen below at left number 137. The plate was originally discovered in 2004 with all of its original paint rusted-off. A search of sources for color verification came up with no confirmed results, but the consensus was that white over black was a definite possibility, so the plate was professionally re-painted in those colors. Then, in April of 2014 a period photo was discovered by Sgt. Michael Dickerson of the WVSP showing a West Virginia State trooper from circa 1939 standing next to a car with WVSP license plate number 136, just one number off from the example found by Norm Ratcliffe 10 years earlier! Although the photo is in black and white, it can be determined that the raised characters on the license plate appear to be a darker shade than white over a dark background. The fascination does not end there. When information was being gathered for the license plate history of the Virginia State Police, the plate used by the VSP in the mid-1930's was an orange over blue embossed steel license plate with not only the identical dies used on the first issue West Virginia State Police license plate, but the EXACT SAME NUMBER: 137 !! The odds of this discovery made years apart from different sources are staggering.
So it can be hypothesized that the first issue agency-specific West Virginia State Police license plate was manufactured in Virginia using Virginia number dies. It also can be hypothesized that the numbering system for WVSP and VSP cars began at number 100, as neither agency in the 1930's had a fleet with over 100 patrol cars.
Later versions of this WVSP license plate emerged but using West Virginia number dies instead as seen further below.

  • West Virginia  police license plate imageCirca 1939-1943. Embossed steel.
    Approx. 5 3/8" x 12". Repainted colors may be incorrect.
    A recently discovered photo from this era seen below shows this version of license plate appearing to have a darker colored embossing. Notice too that the plate seen on the car is number 136 (one number off!). Also take note that the Virginia State Police license plate from the mid 1930's seen to the right bears the same number in the same dies!
  • West Virginia  police license plate imageMid-1930's license plate used by Virginia State Police.
    Shows that not only were the same dies used for the numbers on the West Virginia counterpart to the left, but the same number 137 ! This indicates that the early version of the WVSP license plate seen to the left had the numbers embossed in Virginia for reasons unknown.
  • West Virginia  police license plate imageCirca 1939-1943. WVSP license plate # 136 on car in same number dies as the 137 license plate seen above.
    (Courtesy Michael Dickerson)
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  • West Virginia  police license plate image
  • These photos show the change to West Virginia number dies. You can tell by the style of the number 1 compared to the earlier serifed version made in Virginia. This also gives credence to the theory that WVSP license plate numbers at this time began at number 100.

  • West Virginia  police license plate image

Around 1948, the West Virginia State Police went to a black over yellow license plate in the same size and format as the previous issue. The only other difference aside from the color scheme, is that these license plates were numbered from 1 through over 100.



West Virginia  police license plate image
Courtesy Michael L. Dickerson

West Virginia  police license plate image

  • West Virginia  police license plate imageCirca 1948-1955 issue. Embossed steel.
    Approx. 5 3/8" x 12". Black over yellow.
    Sequential numbers from 1 with no known specific assignment. Note the die font style for the number 1 compared to the photo of number 12 seen above.
  • West Virginia  police license plate imageCourtesy Michael L. Dickerson
  • West Virginia  police license plate image

West Virginia  police license plate imageCourtesy Michael L. Dickerson

In 1956, West Virginia had to comply with the new continent-wide license plate size standard of 6" x 12". As a result, license plates used by the State Police also had to comply with the new standard using embossed steel plates colored black over white on the new size. The new plates had an embossed painted border in black like its predecessor. STATE over POLICE was embossed at the top left of the plate, and a number up to three digits was embossed to the right. WEST VIRGINIA was embossed across the lower span of the plate just above the lower mounting holes.
These plates were used by the WSP through the 1960's. The earlier ones were made of galvanized steel and had short oval mounting holes with the state name in larger font. The later ones were made of aluminum and had circular mounting holes with the state name in a smaller font. It had been speculated that the three digit numbers on this type indicated Company (Troop) assignment which would have been 100 series for Company A (Shinnston) 200 series for Company B (South Charleston) 300 series for Company C (Elkins), 400 series for Company D (Beckley) but this is not confirmed.



West Virginia  police license plate image
Courtesy Michael L. Dickerson

West Virginia  police license plate image
Courtesy Michael L. Dickerson (Notice titled front license plate in office window of garage. This type discussed further down the page.)
  • West Virginia  police license plate image1960-circa 1966 issue. Embossed aluminum.
    Black over reflective white. Same layout as the 1956-1960 issue which was made of embossed steel with short oval mounting holes and the state name in larger font.
    Possibly a Company A assignment (100 series) for Car 9.
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  • West Virginia  police license plate image

In 1966, the state of West Virginia issued license plates with the slogan MOUNTAIN STATE embossed at the top center of the plate (they were debossed in 1965). License plates of the West Virginia State Police followed suit with a similar layout but colored black over reflective white.

  • West Virginia  police license plate image1966-c.1971 issue. Embossed aluminum.
    Black over reflective white. Used concurrent with 1960 issue until cars with the older issue were miled-out and this type affixed to new replacement vehicle. Run on rear only.
    Possibly a Company A assignment (100 series) for Car 6.
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In the early 1970's, the West Virginia State Police introduced a new license plate for display on the rear of their marked cars. The plates were made of sign grade aluminum and completely flat-screened. The reflective white plate had a black border line and thick black numerals up to three digits for the assignment number. The shoulder patch emblem of the WVSP was screened on the left side of the plate between the upper and lower left mounting holes. It had been speculated that the three digit numbers on this type indicated Company (Troop) assignment which would have been 100 series for Company A (Shinnston) 200 series for Company B (South Charleston) 300 series for Company C (Elkins), 400 series for Company D (Beckley) but this is not confirmed.



  • West Virginia  police license plate image
    • West Virginia  police license plate imageCirca 1971-Circa 1980 issue. Screened sign grade aluminum.
      Black over reflective white with WVSP shoulder patch emblem. Possibly issued to Company D (Beckley HQ) Car 4.
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    Around 1980, the West Virginia State Police continued using a silkscreened sign grade aluminum license for the rear of their marked vehicles. Different front license plates were used, but will be outlined separately further down the page. The new rear plates were black over reflective white and had a black border outline. The state name was screened at the top center of the plate in small font. A letter prefix followed by a dash and three numerals were for vehicles assigned to a given Company (Troop).
    Company A: Shinnston
    Company B: South Charleston
    Company C: Elkins
    Company D: Beckley
    Company E: Turnpike Section (Port Amherst)
    Headquarters and WVSP vehicles not assigned to a Company had the same license plates, but with only a numeral with no letter prefix.
    STATE POLICE was inscribed in large black font along the bottom of the license plate just above the lower mounting holes.
    These license plates were used by the WVSP into the early 1990's.
    It has been also speculated that the first number indicated the Patrol District within the Company, but this has not been confirmed.

    • West Virginia  police license plate imageCirca 1980-Early 1990's issue.
      Screened sign grade aluminum.
      Company A (Shinnston Company HQ)
      Believed to be District 2 Car 24.
    • West Virginia  police license plate imageCompany A (Shinnston HQ) District 1-car 25 Circa 1991.
    • West Virginia  police license plate image
    • West Virginia  police license plate image1980-Early 1990's issue.
      Screened sign grade aluminum.
      Headquarters/ Non-Company assigned vehicle.
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    Around the mid to late 1980's while the Company-prefixed license plates were still being used, the WVSP re-introduced the "patch plate" to some of the fleet. This time, the plate was made of embossed aluminum and had an embossed border and numerals up to three digits. The WVSP shoulder patch emblem was silkscreened to the left of the number. All examples of this type during the period prior to the mid-1990's appear to have three numerals and no Company letter. It is also not known if these plate numbers were issued in numerical sequence or if the first number represented the Company designation as with other recent examples.
    Later versions of this type which appeared to have come out in the mid 1990's had the Company letter prefix followed by a dash and the car number.

    • West Virginia  police license plate image
    • West Virginia  police license plate imageMid-late 1980's "patch plate" issue.
      Embossed aluminum. Run concurrent to non-patch emblem Company prefixed license plates at the time.
    • West Virginia  police license plate image
    • West Virginia  police license plate imageCirca 1991-1996 "Company letter patch plate" issue.
      Embossed aluminum. Black over reflective white.
      Company letter followed by dash and unit number.

      Company A (Shinnston HQ) Car 4.
    • West Virginia  police license plate image

    In 1996, the state of West Virginia underwent another general re-issue of license plates for all motor vehicles. The WVSP adopted the new design for use on their marked fleet while the "Company letter patch plates" were still in use. The new embossed aluminum license plates had a step border, and the only embossing was the letters S over P stacked vertically in the left center of the plate positioned between the upper and lower left mounting holes. A number up to three digits was embossed in the right center field of the plate. A silkscreened dark blue band occupied the top horizontal span of the plate with a thin yellow line just below the gap beneath the blue band. Centered in the blue band was the state name silkscreened in yellow. At the bottom center of the plate was the state's tourism slogan of "Wild, Wonderful" silkscreened in dark blue and "96" screened just to the right of the lower right mounting hole. Thin blue horizontal stripes spanned either side of the script with a thicker yellow horizontal stripe in the center between the blue stripes.
    It became apparent soon enough that the West Virginia State Police did not want themselves viewed as "Wild, Wonderful", so in short order, a dark blue decal was applied over the bottom graphics and slogan of the plate with "State Police" inscribed in yellow at the center.
    Later versions had the font size increased for STATE POLICE, where the shade of the horizontal blue band at the top and bottom of the license plate was lightened.
    With the popularity of the internet increasing dramatically by the turn of the millenium, the state of West Virginia decided to add the state's website address "www.callwva.com" onto the state's license plates in 2001, and silkscreened it in dark blue and situated it in the center break of the thin yellow horizontal band below the state name.
    These plates were issued until approximately late 2005, but were still being run on some WVSP vehicles until 2010.

    • West Virginia  police license plate image1996 "Wild, Wonderful" issue. Embossed aluminum.
      Dark blue over reflective white.
      Stacked SP prefix followed by number up to three digits.
      This is the earliest type without the State Police decal to cover-up the slogan line.
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    • West Virginia  police license plate image1996-2005 Superintendent's issue. Embossed aluminum.
      This version has the first generation "State Police" decal that covered the slogan line. Noted for being a darker shade of blue with non-bold upper and lower case font.
      This license plate was assigned to Colonel Howard E. Hill Jr.
    • West Virginia  police license plate image
    • West Virginia  police license plate image2001-2005 "website issue". Embossed aluminum.
      Same as 1996 issue, but with state's website address silkscreened in dark blue below state name.
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    • looking image2005-2006 issue. Embossed aluminum.
      Same as 2001-2005 issue, but with larger STATE POLICE font for the bottom span decal. Shade of blue on horizontal bands was lighter than previous issue.
    • West Virginia  police license plate image

    Somewhere around 2006, the West Virginia State Police seemed to quietly phase-in a re-introduction of the "patch plate". The newest generation of this type was made of embossed aluminum but with no border outline of any kind. Black embossed numerals took place at the right center field of the plate over a reflective white background. The WVSP shoulder patch emblem once again occupied the left center field of the plate positioned between the upper and lower left mounting holes.
    It was also during this time that the term Company was changed to Troop and numbers used instead of letters to denote one from the other. The Troops essentially followed the same pattern as the Companies for designation with some changes as per the Troop map seen below:
    Troop 1 Command (Shinnston)
    Troop 2 Command (Charles Town/Kearneysville)
    Troop 3 Command (Elkins/Beverly)
    Troop 4 Command (South Charleston)
    Troop 5 Command (Logan/Chapmanville)
    Troop 6 Command (Beckley)
    Troop 7 Command (Parkways Authority)
    Troop 8 Bureau of Criminal Investigation

    West Virginia  police license plate image The earlier versions of these borderless patch plates used up to three digit numbers which may have been issued in random sequence.
    Current license plate numbers of the West Virginia State Police reflect this new assignment designation by having a number prefix followed by a dash followed by the vehicle designation number. WVSP vehicles not assigned to a particular troop use a non-prefixed number up to three digits.

    • West Virginia  police license plate imageCirca 2006-Current issue. Embossed aluminum.
      Black over reflective white. No border.
      Headquarters assignment.

      (Courtesy Robert Ward)
    • West Virginia  police license plate image
    • West Virginia  police license plate image
    • Courtesy Joseph Sallmen
    • West Virginia  police license plate image
    • West Virginia  police license plate imageCirca 2012-Current issue. Embossed aluminum.
      Black over reflective white. No border.
      Troop 1 (Shinnston HQ) Car 4.

      (Courtesy Joseph Sallmen)
    • West Virginia  police license plate imageCirca 2012-Current issue. Embossed aluminum.
      Black over reflective white. No border.
      Troop 1 (Shinnston HQ) Car 13.

      (Courtesy Joseph Sallmen)
    • West Virginia  police license plate image



    Front License Plates of the West Virginia State Police

    The West Virginia State Police is one of the few state police/highway patrol agencies that sometimes ran front license plates on their patrol vehicles that differed from the rear plates throughout their history. This is why a separate section focusing only on "non numbered" front license plates is presented here.
    Prior to agency-specific license plates being used by the WVSP, regular passenger car license plates with numbers matching front and back were used.

    The 1948-1956 black over yellow WVSP numbered license plates were issued in pairs, but it appears that in the period up to 1956, some WVSP cars ran black-over white flat-painted license plates with STATE over POLICE in large font but with no other markings on them. The flat steel plates measured approximately 6" x 12" and had two long mounting slots on the top, and two long mounting slots on the bottom. It appears that these plates were used until the early 1960's.

    • West Virginia  police license plate image
    • West Virginia  police license plate image
    • West Virginia  police license plate image1960's-C.1970 front issue. Embossed aluminum.
      Black over reflective white.
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    • West Virginia  police license plate imageC.1970-C.1980 front issue. Screened sign grade aluminum.
      WVSP shoulder patch graphic.
    • West Virginia  police license plate image1971
    • West Virginia  police license plate image
    • West Virginia  police license plate imageC.1980- C. 1990 front issue. Screened sign grade aluminum.
      State name in small font similar to the Company prefix-lettered rear license plate of the same era.
      Seen run on the rear of a WVSP Dodge Daytona as well.
      (See below)
    • West Virginia  police license plate image1988
    • West Virginia  police license plate image
    • West Virginia  police license plate image

    Around 1989/1990, the West Virginia State Police re-introduced the "front patch plate". The plate was made of embossed aluminum with a black raised border over a reflective white background. A full-color silkscreened WVSP shoulder patch emblem occupied the center field of the plate. These plates were used until approximately 2004.
    By 1996, the West Virginia State Police also issued a front license plate similar to the rear plate used during that time, but with the word TROOPER embossed across the center of the plate. Both TROOPER and patch plates with the black border were used on the front of WVSP cars during that period.
    By 2005, the WVSP went back to the front "patch plate", but this time, the reflective white plate had no border of any kind.

    • West Virginia  police license plate imageCirca 1989-1996 front issue.
      Embossed aluminum.
    • West Virginia  police license plate image1989
    • West Virginia  police license plate image
    • West Virginia  police license plate image1996-2005 TROOPER front issue. Embossed aluminum.
      Dark blue over reflective white.
    • West Virginia  police license plate image
    • West Virginia  police license plate image1996-2005 TROOPER front issue. Embossed aluminum.
      Issued closer to 2000 with the bolder STATE POLICE font.
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    • West Virginia  police license plate image1996-2005 TROOPER front issue. Embossed aluminum.
      Issued from 2001 onward with state website address under state name.
    • West Virginia  police license plate image
    • West Virginia  police license plate imageUnofficial USA flag front plate.
      Silkscreened vinyl composite material.
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    • West Virginia  police license plate image
    • West Virginia  police license plate imageAll-flat borderless front plate used on rear of WVSP K-9 Unit.
      (Courtesy Robert Ward)
    • West Virginia  police license plate image



    Motorcycle License Plates of the West Virginia State Police

    Motorcycles were an integral part of the West Virginia State Police fleet from its first days. The license plates used on motorcycles of the WVSP prior to the mid to late 1930's is unknown, but assumed to have been standard West Virginia annual motorcycle license plates up to that point. In addition, marked front fender signs were usually affixed with W.VA State Police inscribed in gold lettering over a black background. Some of those fender signs were numbered such as the number 36 example seen further below.
    As mentioned further up the page, in around 1936, the West Virginia State Police were given titled STATE POLICE license plates by the Virginia State Police that they had used for years earlier on their own fleet. The motorcycle version of this plate was made of embossed steel and colored black over white. The plate had a raised border and measured approximately 4" x 7". STATE over POLICE was embossed in the center. It's not known how long these plates were used, but assumed until motorcycles were phased-out from the fleet by the mid 1940's.
    The motorcycle for patrol for the WVSP made a resurgence in the early to mid 1970's. The license plate used for these motorcycles were made of sign grade aluminum and colored reflective yellow over reflective blue. The entire perimeter of the plate was outliined in yellow with a number in yellow at the right center field of the plate. The left center field of the plate displayed a full-color decal of the WVSP. The plates had only two mounting holes in the bottom corners of the plate.
    The motorcycle was once again disbanded from the WVSP fleet some years later.

    • West Virginia  police license plate image
    • West Virginia  police license plate image
    • West Virginia  police license plate image1930's Front fender sign number 36.
      Gold lettering outlined in red over a black background.

      (Photo from WVSP Museum Courtesy Robert Ward)
    • West Virginia  police license plate image
    • West Virginia  police license plate imageCirca 1936-1940's motorcycle issue. Embossed steel.
      Black over white. Formerly used by Virginia State Police in the years prior to 1936 and donated to WVSP.

      (Courtesy Wayne Tyler)
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    • West Virginia  police license plate image
    • West Virginia  police license plate imageMid-1970's motorcycle issue.
      Screened sign grade aluminum.
      Reflective yellow over reflective blue.
      Full color state seal.
      (Photo from WVSP Museum Courtesy Robert Ward)
    • West Virginia  police license plate imageCirca 1975
    • West Virginia  police license plate image



    Specialty Issues

    The following are other types of license plates related to the West Virginia State Police.

    • West Virginia  police license plate imageEarly 1960's-? State Car issue. Debossed aluminum.
      Reflective white over reflective green.
      Type used on front of some state vehicles. Speculation that these were sometimes used on WVSP cars tasked with security detail for governor's office. No confirmation.
    • West Virginia  police license plate image1980's Department of Public Safety issue.
      Embossed aluminum. Unknown usage.

      (Courtesy of Micheal L. Dickerson)
    • West Virginia  police license plate image1985 National Troopers Coalition souvenir issue.
      Earlier type with bolder dark blue lettering.
    • West Virginia  police license plate image1985 National Troopers Coalition souvenir issue.
      Later type with thinner dark blue lettering.
    • West Virginia  police license plate imageNot certain if this was a National Trooper's Coalition souvenir issue or a WVSP front license plate from 1996.
    • West Virginia  police license plate imageC.1980- 1990's-possible replacement issue or movie prop.
      Thin aluminum. Black over reflective white.
      Painted yellow on backside.
    • West Virginia  police license plate imageWVSP Motor Vehicle Inspector. District 4 Unit 1.
      (Courtesy Travis Castle).
    • West Virginia  police license plate image2016- WVSP Motor Vehicle Inspector. District 1 Unit 3.

      (Courtesy Joseph Sallmen).




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