The earliest plate frames we have come across were pressed out of a sheet of steel and chrome plated. The following picture is an example of this kind of frame which came off a 1950's Morris 1000. The frame has the addition of the moulded name Whangarei which is the New Zealand city the frame originally came from.
Moulded steel NZ number plate frame from 1950s
This is not a true number plate frame but is an example of the kind of advertising some car dealers put on number plates in the 50's. It is made of cast steel in a mould made specially for each dealer. It simply bolts to the bottom of the number plate.
Moulded steel attachment to NZ number plate frames
This next number plate frame is from the same company as above but came off a car registered in 1967. It features a cheaper addition to the pressed plate. The car dealer's name is printed on a small flat plate which is soldered to the larger pressed number plate surround.
1967 New Zealand metal number plate frame
This next example is a frame made either by or for Mazda cars in the 1970's and again is a pressed plate that sits behind the number plate. The rounded edges of the plate would form a frame around the registration plate. The metal in this example is aluminium.
Pressed aluminium Mazda number plate frame
In about 1978 a business was started in Hamilton NZ that became Pacesetter Automotive. This business introduced chromed plastic number plate frames to NZ. Below is an example of one of these early chromed plastic frames made in 1979. This is the first "frame" that did not have a plate going behind the license plate. This frame simply bolted to the licence plate. The advertising material for the car dealer was moulded into two spaces in the frame so mould inserts had to be made for each customer. We are told that these frames sold for over $5 each in the late 70's and early 80's. When you take into account inflation since that time, that was a lot to pay for a plastic frame! But it was very difficult to buy a brand new car back then when Rob Muldoon was Prime Minister. Cars were very expensive in comparison to the average wage at the time.
Moulded plastic number plate frame 1979
At this time we also find the first number plate frames in New Zealand with fun messages on them instead of car dealer's advertising. The frame below has the skiing design moulded into it like the car dealer one above. On the left is a picture of a snow skier and on the right is a water skier giving the frame year-round appeal.
First fun NZ number plate frame - Skiing
Around 1982 the first clip-on number plate frame in Australia and New Zealand was made by the partnership that became Pacesetter Automotive in Hamilton NZ. The Pacesetter "A", "B" and "C" style frames were born. The following diagram illustrates the shape of the "A" and "B" designs which are no longer made. The "A" design had no space for advertising and the "B" design had a small flat area which could be at the top or bottom. A sticker was put on ths area to promote the car dealership. Stickers were used as a way of minimising the Sales Tax. Stickers had no sales tax but the frames did so the stickers were sold seperately at the highest justifiable price and the frames were sold at the lowest justifiable price, thus the minimum amount of sales tax was paid. Poorly designed tax systems inevitably lead to this kind of tax minimisation behaviour.
Pacesetter number plate frame designs A and B
The Pacesetter "C" design is still in use today but we understand it is to be phased out and replaced with a frame that looks like ours accross the top and bottom (the sides are different). The advertising space is much larger than the "B" frame but still only on one side of the frame. The frame can be used with this space at the top or more commonly, at the bottom. The following is an example of a screen printed "C" frame.
Accent Gifts number plate frame - pacesetter C
It is believed that the "D" design followed fairly soon after the "C". This is a design that is still in use today for screen printing but it originally had the advertising put on by way of a decal or sticker. The reason for using stickers was to minimise the sales tax the dealership would be charged. As we understand it, the sales tax was levied as a percentage of the value of the number plate frame but advertising stickers were exempt. The frames were therefore sold blank at the lowest price that could be justified and the stickers sold seperately at the highest price that could be justified. Staff in the dealership then put the stickers on the frames when they put the frames on the car. This is an example of a screen printed "D" frame.
Accent Gifts number plate frame - pacesetter D
The clip-on frame was such a sucessful idea other companies in Australia and one in the South Island of NZ got into the market with clip on frames. Now nearly all number plate frames made in NZ and Australia are a clip-on design. An example of the South Island company's frame from the mid 80's is below. This frame is chrome plated plastic with a sticker on it.
chrome plastic number plate frame with sticker
There seems to have been only minor changes to the frame designs in NZ over
the next 20 years. Screen printing of the frames seems to have been the only
significant product change. Companies were formed, one we are told, went into
receivership and was reborn under changed ownership. Another company got into
number plate frames from the flags and bunting business.
We at Automotive Graphics Products Ltd entered the market in 2005 with
what we believe was the first significant design enhancement to the shape of
NZ number plate frames since the 80's. Our design maximises the print area on
the frame allowing for printing all the way to the top and bottom edges of the
top and bottom sides of the frame and all the way to each end. People say the
most sincere form of flattery is imitation. Since we introduced our design
others have been changing their designs making them closer and closer to ours.
In 2006 we modified our mould to make the clips even stronger.
Back of Automotive Graphics number plate frame
We are the only manufacturer of number plate frames in New Zealand that
uses predominantly recycled plastic to make our frames. We are also the only
manufacturer to enable our frames to be recycled. We do this by including the recycling code and
description of the type of plastic the frames are made of on the back of the frame moulded right into the plastic with our contact details (see picture below). Currently this
type of plastic (ABS) is not recyled in New Zealand but it is in Europe where our recycled
plastic is sourced from. Since the frames are often still in use 10 or 15 years
after they were made all our frames will be able to be recycled as soon as facilities are
available in future.
Recycling details on back of Automotive graphics frames
The following is an example of our design which was first produced in 2005.
Automotive Graphics Products innovative new number plate frame
This design has proven to be very strong and versitile so we have used it as the basis for our motorcycle plate frames which we launched in 2010.