Circle stickers on cars – gettin’ hip with ISO

Sometime after moving to the east coast, I started noticing a few cars driving around with these black and white oval-shaped stickers bearing a random 3-letter code. At first I figured they were some kind of east-coast thing, maybe parking stickers identifying membership in a particular school district, etc. I didn’t think much of it at first, but then they started to multiply. It wasn’t just a “thing”, it was a phenomenon, and I was living under a rock. Was it a new secret society? The Medford Mafia broadcasting their next hits? The movement appeared to be growing so fast, there were even parody stickers of these stickers popping up. This one says ((EARTH))…this one says ((BEER)). This one I ((CAN’T REPEAT IN POLITE COMPANY)). Today I turned to the all-knowing one for an answer. Sooo…

In 1949, the Convention on Road Traffic (Geneva, 1949) came to be. Article 20 calls for “distinguishing signs of the place of registration” of vehicles. Yep, it’s a European thing. The letter code (not necessarily 3 letters) is an ISO country code (more info/pointers/rantables here). In other words, these things Over There are about on par with an emissions sticker; in the US, they mainly represent American suburbanites trying to look Euro. A few municipalities (strangely, many in Connecticut) have adopted this trend wholesale, making up their own fake ISO “country codes” representing their town and handing them out. Naturally, a cottage industry has sprung up to generate fake fake country stickers; odes to sports teams and Jesus Fish and pictures of mooses meece moosii animals.

This research jaunt is kind of a let-down. I want my secret societies, dammit! In the meantime, now I want an oval sticker of my own…

One Response to “Circle stickers on cars – gettin’ hip with ISO”

  1. I once ran across a car that had several of these two-letter ovals arranged in a line across the bumper to spell out “MEGADETH”: Maine (ME), Georgia (GA), Delaware (DE) and whatever country/state/city/religion/sports team/etc. uses “TH”.

    Also, it’s actually not just a Euro thing, the US was also a ratifying party to the 1949 Convention on Road Traffic. However, it’s very rare that you would encounter a foreign registered car which is actually required to use one of these stickers because most (all?) states waive the requirement of an identification sticker for cars registered in Canada in Mexico.

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