These are America's 12 best license plates

Every year for the last 40 years the Automobile License Plate Collectors Association (ALPCA) selects America's best license plate. This year's 40th anniversary competition featured a record number of nominations from as far away as American Samoa. There's even a bear-shaped plate! Here are America's 12 best license plates.

ALPCA focuses on the designs of the plates, not the clever alphanumerical contents, and this year's nominations represent a pleasing mix of modern and classic looks. Some are extremely ornamental while others embrace simplicity.

Click through the gallery above to see the winning plate and the 11 nominees.

These are America's 12 best license plates

Virginia - The Northwest Neck
NOMINEE

Photo Credit:ALPCA.org

These are America's 12 best license plates

Rhode Island - Plum Beach Lighthouse
NOMINEE

Photo Credit:ALPCA.org

These are America's 12 best license plates

Oregon - Pacific Wonderland
NOMINEE

Photo Credit:ALPCA.org

These are America's 12 best license plates

New York - Empire State
NOMINEE

Photo Credit:ALPCA.org

These are America's 12 best license plates

Northwest Territories - Spectacular
NOMINEE

Photo Credit:ALPCA.org

These are America's 12 best license plates

Montana - Treasure State
NOMINEE

Photo Credit:ALPCA.org

These are America's 12 best license plates

Maryland - War of 1812
NOMINEE

Photo Credit:ALPCA.org

These are America's 12 best license plates

Chicago Blackhawks
NOMINEE

Photo Credit:ALPCA.org

These are America's 12 best license plates

Arizona - Conserving Wildlife
NOMINEE

Photo Credit:ALPCA.org

These are America's 12 best license plates

American Somoa - Motu O Fiafiaga
NOMINEE

Photo Credit:ALPCA.org

These are America's 12 best license plates

Alabama - Legacy
NOMINEE

Photo Credit:ALPCA.org

These are America's 12 best license plates

New Mexico - Land of Enchantment
WINNER

ALPCA on why it won

"While we strongly support using license plates for promotional and fundraising initiatives, their most important function is still law enforcement and public safety. We believe license plate design can be attractive and legible and we advocate uncluttered designs that be easily read and identified on a moving vehicle. New Mexico's Centennial plate is the only turquoise plate in the world today and the graphic design is simple but elegant."

Photo Credit:ALPCA.org

(Hat tip to 87CapriceEstate!)