The plates for 1988 and 1981 are lighter steel than the 1985–1990 series, painted white with green lettering. The backs of the plates are painted white. Most plates have short, oval slots although some have round mounting holes instead. The plates with the goldpanner have a "nugget" of gold paint in the gold pan; the goldpanner is embossed.
Coloured year validation stickers (white on brown) were issued for 1981.
The first letter on these plates indicated the location where the plate was issued, using the same letters as in 1976.
There were several varieties of commercial plates for this year:
- 1C·nnnn-series for commercial vehicles not covered by some specialized type of plate
- 1L·nnnn-series for livery (taxi) vehicles
- 1P·nnnn-series for public service vehicles (PSVs). What are PSVs?
- 1R·nnnn-series for restricted vehicles.
Yukon government: Gnnnn
The Yukon government black-on-orange plates (long slots) were used from 1965 until they were superceded by the Gxx·n series in 1982 and the YTGnnn series in 1985.
Federal government: Xn Xnn Xnnn Xnnnn Xn·nnn
Federal (dominion) government vehicles carried dark grey plates with green lettering from 1951 to 1982. Some lettering is turquoise due to a bad paint batch. Some with four-digit numbers had a dot between the first and second digits.