What do the First Numbers on South Dakota License Plates Mean?

The first number on a South Dakota License Plate tells a story. It's similar to people sitting on a bench in a mall or in a busy area. You can actually watch the numbers on cars and do a little 'profiling.' Sioux Falls businesses do it all the time when they look in their parking lot. License plates tell the story of where people are from. License plates on our vehicles tell a story.

For instance, heading to work on any weekday morning here in Sioux Falls, you'll see mostly 1's and 44's. One (1) for Minnehaha County and 44 for Lincoln County. But weekends are a different story.

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How many county plate codes are there in South Dakota?

There are 67 different county codes on South Dakota license plates, one for each of South Dakota's counties. The codes are 1 through 67.
JD Collins/KIKN via Sprint Sioux Falls
JD Collins/KIKN via Sprint Sioux Falls
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South Dakota License Plate History

South Dakota has been requiring plates on cars since 1905. At the time you had to provide your own license plate for that new horseless carriage. In 1913 the state started to issue standardized plates.

When established in 1956 (and revised in 1987) the first nine counties were ordered by population.

How are South Dakota license plates numbered?

Starting with 10 they are in alphabetical order through Ziebach, with Oglala Lakota County (65) and Todd (67) rounding out the list.

Now, the top 10 plate numbers and populations don't correlate anymore. 1 and 2 are still 1 and 2, but Lincoln (44) is now 3rd in population.

Next time you're out shopping on the weekend take a look and you'll see what I mean. Take a look at the chart, then consider how far people travel to come to shop.

South Dakota License Plate County Numbers and Counties:

County #     County          County seat

      1          Minnehaha     Sioux Falls

      2          Pennington    Rapid City

      3          Brown           Aberdeen

      4          Beadle          Huron

      5          Codington      Watertown

      6          Brookings      Brookings

      7          Yankton        Yankton

      8          Davison         Mitchell

      9          Lawrence       Deadwood

     10         Aurora           Plankinton

     11         Bennett         Martin

     12         Bon Homme   Tyndall

     13         Brule             Chamberlain

     14         Buffalo          Gannvalley

     15         Butte            Belle Fourche

     16         Campbell       Mound City

     17         Charles Mix    Lake Andes

     18         Clark             Clark

     19         Clay              Vermillion

     20         Corson          McIntosh

     21         Custer           Custer

     22         Day               Webster

     23         Deuel            Clear Lake

     24         Dewey           Timber Lake

     25         Douglas         Armour

     26         Edmunds        Ipswich

     27         Fall River       Hot Springs

     28         Faulk             Faulkton

     29         Grant            Milbank

     30         Gregory         Burke

     31         Haakon         Philip

     32         Hamlin          Hayti

     33         Hand             Miller

     34         Hanson          Alexandria

     35         Harding          Buffalo

     36         Hughes          Pierre

     37         Hutchinson     Olivet

     38         Hyde              Highmore

     39         Jackson          Kadoka

     40         Jerauld           Wessington Springs

     41         Jones             Murdo

     42        Kingsbury       De Smet

     43         Lake              Madison

     44         Lincoln           Canton

     45         Lyman            Kennebec

     46         McCook           Salem

     47         McPherson       Leola

     48         Marshall          Britton

     49         Meade             Sturgis

     50         Mellette          White River

     51         Miner              Howard

     52         Moody             Flandreau

     53         Perkins            Bison

     54         Potter             Gettysburg

     55         Roberts           Sisseton

     56         Sanborn           Woonsocket

     57         Spink               Redfield

     58         Stanley            Fort Pierre

     59         Sully                Onida

     60         Tripp                Winner

     61         Turner              Parker

     62         Union               Elk Point

     63         Walworth          Selby

     64         Ziebach             Dupree

     65         Shannon            (none)

     66         Washabaugh (incorporated into Jackson County in 1976)

     67         Todd                 (none)

MORE: Where Do Some of South Dakota's Counties Get Their Names?

Source: WikipediaBR Licence Plates

What Did South Dakota's License Plate Look Like the Year You Were Born?

The first number on a South Dakota license plate is the county that the car is registered. For example, Pennington county where Rapid City is has a '2' starting its plates. In Sioux Falls you have either a '1' or a '44' depending on your relationship to 57th street.

When established in 1956 (and revised in 1987) the first nine counties were ordered by population. Starting with 10 they are in alphabetical order through Ziebach, with Oglala Lakota County (65) and Todd (67) rounding out the list.

Today the top 10 plate numbers and populations don't correlate anymore. 1 and 2 are still 1 and 2, but Lincoln (44) is now 3rd in population. Beadle is 4 but it's now 11th in population. See the list by population here.

On January 1, 2023, South Dakota started issuing a new license plate design for license plates.

So, let's take a look back at what South Dakota license plates looked like over the last 100 years.


Gallery Credit: Ben Kuhns

 

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