Blackout plates popular in Marshall County

T-R PHOTOS BY LANA BRADSTREAM Marshall County Treasurer employee Mary Jane Bethel hands a blackout license plate to Marshalltown resident Jose Abalos on Wednesday.

Since the “blackout” license plates were brought to Marshall County in September, it has been the latest popular vehicle accessory.

Marshall County Treasurer Jarret Heil said 2 percent of the registered 56,000 vehicles in the county have the blackout plates.

The blackout plates issued in Marshall County are:

• 781 non-personalized

• 297 personalized

The blackout license plate is a popular accessory for drivers in Marshall County. The numeric plates can be obtained at the Marshall County Treasurers Office. Personalized plates can be ordered from the Department of Transportation website.

• 1,078 total.

Because of the popularity, the county ranks 15th out of the 99 Iowa counties for the most blackout plates issued.

“It’s a very popular plate statewide,” Heil said.

So popular that it has brought in $2 million to the state. A numeric blackout license plate costs $35. Personalized plates carry a price tag of $60.

Rarely a day goes by that someone does not walk in to the county Treasurer’s office to get a blackout license plate. Heil has seen quite a few on the streets of Marshalltown.

“It seems to be one of the more popular ones out there,” he said. “People like the latest and greatest thing.”

The state trying to keep up with the demand has been interesting for Heil to watch, but luckily Marshall County ordered an ample supply and has yet to run out.

“We have plenty on hand,” he said. “The blackout plates have surpassed the University of Iowa license plates.”

The sleek, simple look is what Heil believes drivers are going for. It also looks like the blackout plate was inspired by the black Dordt University license plate. Dordt is a private Christian university in Sioux Center.

“The basic look is what is in right now,” he said.

It is what drew Mary Jane Bethel who got the plate in the first month it was available. She even got personalized plates — “Mary Jane.”

“I think they honestly look great on every vehicle,” Bethel said. “My car is black so it seamlessly blends in.”

At the same time the blackout license plate stands out. Bethel, who works in the Marshall County Treasurer’s Office said it is “bold, fun, a statement plate.”

She hopes for a hot pink license plate someday.

Whether or not that happens is up to the Iowa Department of Transportation and law enforcement agencies. Approval for new license plates designs needs to be handed out before they can be seen on vehicles.

To order a personalized blackout plate:

Orders can be made at the DOT website https://iowadot.gov/mvd/personalizedplates/home.aspx.

The initial fee is $60 with a $15 annual registration fee.

There can only be between two and seven characters. Punctuation marks are not allowed. The characters cannot denote a government agency or contain sexual innuendos, vulgarities, racial or discriminatory words, references to criminal activities or drugs or zeroes.


Contact Lana Bradstream

at 641-753-6611 or



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