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Pennsylvania License Plate History & Images

John McDevitt, Walnutport, PA

ALPCA #4376


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The photos on this website, whether provided by me or other contributors, are intended for use solely on this website, and may not be otherwise used without permission.  This is a reference-only website, no plate sales..

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Posting 9/24/2017

Here are two recent updates from Tom Robillard.  As previously reported, the Penn State Alumni Association was in the process of giving their plates a new look with an up-close view of the Nittany Lion's head.  It appears that there was a short run of the plate version on the 29277 plate with the 1855 lion.  This was after the introduction of the map outline and before the change to the up-close lion.  There may be another Nittany Lion version looming sometime in the future, think Pozniak.  Go PSU.


Here a photo of a late Conserve Wild Resources - River Otter plate. Ironically this plate photo is on Tom Perri's PA PLATES website and I also got a traffic shot of the same plate from Colin M.  The consensus among some collector friends is that R/C9X99 will be the end of the road for the full color graphic plate.  Future plates are expected to be with the small 3" by 3" picture of the otter on the left side of the plate.  I just received a confirmation of the end of the full color graphic plates.  The new product will be released in October once any remaining stock is returned to PennDOT.

The River Otter plate section was also revamped by enlarging the thumbnails and also adding these 2-, 3- and 4-digit examples of the all-numeric format.  These images are thinks to Tom Perri, Eric Conner and Jeff Lawson, going left to right.


Late addition, I missed posting these plate with the other plate shown here.  Obviously these are not new plates but I have done a slight overhaul to the Conserve Wild Resources  - Owl plate section.  These plates have been added to provide more balance to the display.  The far left plate is from Jeff Lawson, the origin of the other plates is unknown.


Recent issue Dealer plate photographed by Jordan Irazabal.  This plate still has the sticker well and no state map outline.  Based on some limited research it appears likely that the change will be seen once the plate numbers reach K46-500K.


Here's a vanity edition of an Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc. plate.  Nice plate, not so nice frame — it totally covers the name of the organization and covers almost all of the state name.  Legal?  Thanks to Nick Tsilakis for the photograph.


This Fraternal Order of Police plate is a new high and also has the map outline.  Plate F/P21314 was previously spotted and still had the sticker well.  Thanks to Ryan Battin for sharing this photograph with us.  This organizational plate date back to 1987 when they were yellow on blue.


Steve Ondik spotted this vanity edition of a Fraternal Order of Police - Survivor plate.  I'm sure each of these plates has a sad story behind it.  There are some forty-four of the sequentially numbered plates that have been issued.


This LaSalle University plate was spotted on the move by Jeff Lawson.  It happens to be a new high for this plate type.  There is also a LaSalle College High School plate.  I'm not sure what the connection is between the university and the high school.


What's wrong with this 1930 Passenger plate?  It does have two extra holes which is not a big deal, but the colors are reversed.  It should be dark blue on yellow.  Can't blame PennDOT or the prison system for this one, since this plate was obviously repainted.


Here is a 1958 Passenger base with a 63 sticker.  It's a Format 6 plate which is part of the reserve issue, all of which were 4 or 5 character plates, without the keystone separator which was used on all the standard issue 6-  character plates.  It was spotted at a car show in use as a YOM plate.


A brief note to those who frequent this site.  This is a light week in terms of the number of plates being added.  I have many plate photos to add but am reconfiguring sections and pages on this site and have just run out of time.


Posting 9/17/2017

WEBSITE UPDATE - Several web pages and sections have been reformatted to allow for larger thumbnail images.  So far this includes the Bus Plates page and the Official Plates page, as well as the Classic Car / Vehicle section.  The Passenger and Truck History pages have always be formatted with the larger thumbnails.


Here's a recent personalized Classic Vehicle plate.  Note that this plate also has the map outline, a feature recently seen on the standard issue Classic Vehicle plate as well.  This plate also has the compressed PA CLASSIC VEHICLE legend on the left.  The image was provided by J. C. Sarge.


The far left street shot is the highest recorded KLE Passenger plate prior to the changeover.  In the center is lowest number photographed so far in the new series that began at KLF-0000.  On the near left is what may be the current high plate in the same series.  If you recall, this 'map' issue started at KLF-0000.  Thanks to Jeff Lawson  for the far left image and to C.R. Sweitzer for the near left plate.


Following the same message as the Passenger plate above, these recent Truck plates also show additional examples of the 'with map and without sticker well' formatting.  The plate on the far left provided by Steve Ondik, and by Jeff Lawson on the near left.


These Trevose Fire Company plate photos were provided by Jeff Lawson on the far left and by Jordan Irazabal on the near left.  Trevose is located in lower Bucks County and has had a plate program since 2011.


This first of it kind MV Business plate was provided by J.C. Sarge.  In 1966 PA began issuing Motor Vehicle Business plates.  This series has an illusive beginning and ending.  While the first plate with MV Business was issued in 1966, the C0000A formatting was used back to 1957, and C000A at least as far back as 1952, possibly further with the Dealer legend, and described as Transit Dealer by the state.  They were last issued on an undated 1979 base which continued into the 1980s before the Motor Vehicle Business was split into Repair/Service Towing, Salvage Yard, Transporter and Repossessor.  Read more by clicking the link above.


This 1934 Official plate is the first images of such a plate from 1934.  The image is from a display at the Boyertown Auto Museum and the photo was taken by Tim Gierschick.  It is likely that plate serial numbers extended beyond 999 in which a 4 digit number was used and the keystone on the right was eliminated.


The 1933 Passenger plate on the far left was provided by Jeff Hinkle and the near left plate is courtesy of Dennis Miglicio.  The 7962 plate is part of Formatting group 1 which runs from 1, (the governor at the time did not use the #1 plate) to 99999, including this 6" by 10" shorty.  5-digit plates went to a 12" width.  The 0055D plate is a Format 6 entry.  For 1933 2-digit and 3-digit plate photos are still needed along with 000A to 999Z9 and AA100 to ZZ999.


Next are these 1938 Passenger plates.  Note the 12" length on the far left 5-character plate and the 10" width on the near left 4-character plate.  The 12-06 validation sticker certainly looks out out of place.  My guess is that the owner wanted to use the '38 plate on the car, and the time period was before the YOM law came along, so the plate number was requested and got registered as a vanity, resulting in a current plate being issued and never used, but the validation sticker applied to the '38 plate. 


This group of 1954 Passenger plate photos provides nice examples of Formats 2, 3, 7 and 9.  With so many vehicles to register and plate being limited to 5 characters, it required at least 15 serial progression formats.  These plate images are courtesy of Chuck Sakryd.  Still need images for Formats 5, 7 and 11.


This 1920 Truck photo was taken at the Boyertown Auto Museum by Tim Gierschick.  The paint at the time did not hold up well as can be seen from several of the plates, which made repainting popular with some.  The original color were white on dark blue.  The other 1920 truck plates were all 7 inches high because there was plate legend on the top and bottom.  This plate being 16 inch wide allowed both legends to be along the bottom, thus allowing the height to be reduced from 7 to 6 inches.  I'm listing this plate as a Class 1, the lightest truckweight class, based on the first digit of the plate.


Next is this 1921 Truck plate.  The picture was also taken at the Boyertown Auto Museum and again thanks to Tim Gierschick.  The original colors were black on yellow.  This plate was also formatted much the same as the 1920 plate above; however, this plate is being listed as a Class 3 plate again bases on the first digit of the serial number.  For 1921 all truck plates are believed to measure 6" by 16" regardless of the number of characters.


Posting 9/10/2017

Here's a new high Emergency Vehicle plate along with the map outline and no sticker well.  Thanks to Nick Santiago for the image.  I'm going to say that this change took place at, or around, EV-71000.  Could there be plates without the sticker well and without the map outline?  Time will tell.  The change seen here is likely to occur in the lower tier of EV plates as well, but their rate of issue is much lower.


Tom Robillard recently received this new Penn State Alumni Association plate on the far left.  It arrived with the small map outline and without the sticker well, but he was expecting to receive a plate with the newer style Nittany Lion as shown on the near left prototype.


Steve Ondik sent this traffic shot along.  It may be the highest 2017 Passenger plate documented before the elimination of the sticker well and addition of the map outline in the KLF-series.  This plate would be best viewed in the plate gallery with more before and after plates.



It appears that in the middle of the Perm Trailer 'D'-series (possibly PT-500D0) that the sticker well was eliminated and the map outline was added.  These are street shots so the resolution is not ideal, but the plate on the far left still has the sticker well, while the center and right plates have the map outline.  This change was spotted in August of 2017.  Plate credits left to right: Jordan Irazabal; Steve Ondik; Jeff Lawson.


Jeff Hinkle recently acquired this Exeter Twp. Fire Department plate.  Exeter's plate program started in 2013, and so far thirty-some plates have been issued.  Exeter Township is in Berks County outside or Reading. 



Steve Ondik captured this street image of a Vietnam War Veteran vanity plate.  The plate also tells us what branch of the military he served in.



Jeff Hinkle provided these two very nice sequential 1932 Dealer plates.  These two 'shorty' (6" by 10") plates are nice examples of the first of three serial format progressions with this group running from X1 to X9999.  Of course once the serial progressions went to 5 characters, the plate size went to 6" by 12".  Other groupings include 0X to 9X999 and 00X to 89X93.  See additional examples at the link above.


Jeff Hinkle provided this 1942 Dealer plate with a 1943 Tab.  '43 tabs were used to revalidate '42 plates thus saving tons of steel in order to assist with the war effort.  I can read the 'X' of the serial number on the tab, the other numbers not so well.  The plate is part of the first formatting group which ran from X100 to X9999.  Four character plates were on 6" by 10" bases, while five character plates used a 12" base.


Spotted this 1937 Passenger plate at a recent car show.  Not a good photo but it does provide an example of a Format 4 plate from that year.  This format group includes the series of 10A0 to 99Z99, and used both 6" by 10" and 6" by 12" plates.  Still in need of Format 6, 7, 8 and 9 plate photos for that year.


Here's a 1940 passenger plate spotted at a recent car show.  It is the first example of a Format 8 plate which consists of the serial progression of AA100 to ZZ999, with all such plates being 6" by 12".  My use of the term 'format' may at times be arbitrary; however, the groupings are useful in indentifying the order and sequence of serial progressions, and are always subject to correction.  One of the objectives of this website is to provide a visual example of every format type.


Spotted this 1950 Passenger at a car show also.  This plate photo also helps provide an example of a Format 3 plate which includes 1A00 to 9Z999.  That progression means that both 4-character and 5-character plates were issued; however, all were 6" by 11" in size.  I wasn't until 1956 that all full- size plates were standardized at 6" by 12".


This pair of 1955 Passenger plates, shows a Format 4 with 5 characters and a Format 12.  The Format 4 series ran from 10A0 to 99Z99 and a Format 12 plate includes 000AA to 999ZZ.  A total of 15 formats was used during 1955 to register well over 3 million vehicles while keeping plates to a maximum of 5 characters.


This 1965 Passenger plates is part of the reserve issue group, for which an additional fee would have been charged.  This plate was spotted at a recent car show in Macungie, and was being used as a YOM / vintage registration plate.



This is an interesting pair of 1926 Trailer plates.  The TT-prefix was was used to designate Trailer plates beginning in 1924.  Previously T was used but in 1924 T was used as part of truck plate letter series to designate the weight class.  So from 1924 to 1933 TT was used.  The plates shown here use the TT prefix but bottom plate uses a letter die that is not as tall.  This was the beginning for Pennsylvania to use letter dies that are smaller than the accompanying numerals — a practice that continues to this day.  This change was seen on some other types of plates in 1926, but in 1927 was used throughout all full size plates.  Thanks to Eric Tanner for sharing this photograph.  These plates measure 6" by 15".  


For 1918 and 1919 truck plates used the prefix 'C' followed by a serial number of 1 to 5 digits.  The weight class was designated by the number of stars stacked on the right side of the plate, and could be 1 to 5 stars.  This 1919 Truck plate, having one star, is the lightest weight class.  There is some correlation between the serial number and the number of stars.  In general lower numbers would indicate fewer stars and vice-versa.  The size of the plate was also driven the length of the serial number, this plate being 6" x 13½".  Thanks to Jaska Börner for sharing this low number truck plate.


Moving from 1919 to this 1920 Truck plate, the C-prefix is gone, as are the stars.  In place is the word COMMERCIAL spelled out across the top and PENNA 1920 along the bottom.  This use of a top and bottom legend increased the height of the plate to 7 inches.  According to research done by Eric Tanner the connection between plate serial number and weight class may be related to the first digit in the serial number.  Thanks to Tim Gierschick for sharing this truck plate.  I'm listing this a s a Class 1 plate and measuring 7" x 13½".


The final plate for this week is this 1955 Truck plate.  From 1924 thru 1967 with the exception of 1930, the R thru Z, etc. (without X) series were used to designate truck weight classes.  The plate shown here is a V-class.  There were several serial progressions used that year for that weight class including V000A, V00A0 and V0A00.  In general lighter classes had more serial formats.


Posting 9/3/2017

For those of you who know me, or are familiar with this website, know that I try to track plate progressions and changes in the design of plates.  A while back PennDOT announced that as existing plate stock with sticker wells was depleted, new plates would have a small white map outline where the sticker well had been.  This changeover has taken place, with map outline plates starting at KLF-0000 on Passenger plates.  Now plate KLR-1647 has been spotted with no map outline and no sticker well.  Is this an error plate?  Is it part of a series?  The following plate prefixes have been spotted, all with the map outline: KLG, KLH, KLM, KLP, KLS, KLT, KLW, KMA, KMC, KMF, KMH, KMJ, and none without.  I'd like to see another KLR-series plate.  Plate KLR-3601 was recently spotted and it does have the map. 


This isn't exactly plate news, not yet at least.  Jaska Börner reported that Thomas Jefferson University and Philadelphia University have merged.  Both currently have organizational plates.  The new name will be Jefferson University.  This change will likely trickle down to plates sooner or later.


This street shot oddball was sent to me with the hope that I could explain it.  The sender, David Melendez, wondered if PA was offering such a black and white plate with the Philly skyline.  I assured him that the state was not offering anything like it.  The plate, as shown, has some kind of acrylic cover.  It's difficult to know if that cover adds to or changes the appearance of the plate.  A vanity check shows that the plate number is in use.  ONLY GOD knows.



Look close, the MC legend on this Motorcycle vanity is now flat screened, previously they were embossed.  Thanks to Kat Keegan for the first image showing this change.  Other changes recently have appeared first on vanities, so I would expect to see this update to carry over to standard issue Motorcycle, Moped and Dealer plates in the future.


I'm always amused by a vanity organizational plate with 1 character.  Maybe it's the contrast with the usual 5 numbers.  Whatever it is it applies to this Delaware Valley Chapter of the BMW Car Club of America.  This is also believed to be the longest plate legend with some 54 characters and spaces, on the other hand WHYY is the shortest.  Compressing so many characters on the above plate takes away from its readability.


Here's a Trailer Vanity plate.  These have been available for a while but are seldom spotted.  Most trailer owners couldn't care less about the tag on the rear, but this trailer was part of a car show.  The disappointing thing, at least to me, is that these plates have no legend indicating that they are trailer plates.  Pretty much the same situation for Truck and Motor Home vanities, although at least one Truck vanity has been photographed with TRUCK as the legend.



The new look of Street Rod plates is becoming a little more visible.  These were first seen in late November of 2016.  Soon I'm sure we can expect to see some of these appear in a personalized version.



Not a good image, but this is the first image of a personalized Expeditionary Forces plate.  Almost all military registration plates are now available as vanities with the exception of Pearl Harbor Survivor, World War II Veteran and Korean War Veteran.  I don't think these are likely to join the family of plates.


Jordan Irazabal came across this Severely Disabled Veteran photo on the far left and realized that it helps to narrow down the transition point where the plates switched from the fully embossed format to the partially screened layout on the near left.  You may also notice that even though the plate has moved to a new format, it retains the same color scheme.  This is because the colors of this plate were established by legislation, and not by someone's notion to bring it into the family of plates. 


Here the #1 2015 Governor's Inaugural plate.  These are ceremonial plates and have no official standing with the state.  I got the photo courtesy of Jordan Irazabal who got it thru eBay user jjscrapandmore.



Every now and then one of the earliest issued Antique Historic Car plates is spotted.  These date back to 1954 and the plate series actually started with the number 1 plate which is still in existence on a vehicle in the Sweigart Museum.  Many of today's antique vehicle owners lament the fact that these white-on-purple plates are no longer available.  This plate was spotted by Jordan Irazabal.


Here's a 1915 porcelain Passenger plate photo and also the reverse side showing the stenciling of the plate manufacturer's name, which at the time was Brilliant Manufacturing Co., 1035 Ridge Ave, Philadelphia, PA.  These images are thanks to Steve Ondik.


Here we have two plates photos that fill two 1924 Passenger format gaps.  The first is a 4-digit 'shorty' from Mike at stonewall-gold-mining-company.  This was an eBay plate that the seller was kind enough to let me use the image.  For 1924 plates started at 1, if you consider the governor's plate, or 2 if not, and progressed thru 2 and 3 digit plates, then into the 4-digit plates as shown here. And eventually reaching 999-999, and then for the first time moving  to a leading alpha character.  This new run started with A-1 and ended under A-50000.  This plate measures 6" x 15".  Thanks to Jaska Börner for provided this photo of a 1924 alpha format plate. 

I would appreciate any images of 1924 passenger plates with an A-prefix and followed by 4 or fewer numbers.


These two 1933 Passenger 'shorty' plates have been added to two formatt series.  The 19S plate is part of Format 4 which includes 00A to 99Z99.  Plates wit 5 characters would be longer.  This plate is courtesy of PA plate collector Paul Fry.  The JY3 'shorty' is part of Format 7 which includes AA to ZZ & AA1 to ZZ99.  This image was provided by Jeff Hinkle.


Here's a pair of 1936 Passenger plates.  Like the plates above these help to provide examples of two formatting groups that were previously empty.  The first plate is a Format 6 plate covering the serial range of 000A0 to 999Z9 and is thanks to James Andreucci.  The second plate is from Format 8 which covers AA10 to ZZ999.  Both plates are 6" by 12".


No question I don't like plate frames, but when the needed plate is within a frame, there isn't much choice.  Anyway I snapped these four plates at a recent car show.  They actually fill 4 gaps in the 1957 Passenger plate run.  I'm still working on what appears to be three different dies types used on '57 plates.



Posting 8/27/2017

This week's  posting will be a little shorter than usual due to some time away.

Here's a new School Bus high.  It was spotted among a line of new busses in transit.  It may not have been the highest plate in the group, but all were close, and it's the one I got a picture of.  Note it still has sticker well and no map, which may change at SC-80300.



It may look like a new high number, but this Bethlehem Township Volunteer Fire Company tag is actually a personalized plate.  Standard issue Bethlehem Township plates have a leading 3 in the serial number.  This plate belongs to Nick Santiago, and is brand new.  The serial number represents his radio call sign of 1791.  Nick points out that the plate does not have the small map outline, nor does it have the sticker well.


Here's a personalized version of a Mario Lemieux Foundation plate.  You probably already know my opinion on plate frames, so I'll refrain.  According to Tom Perri's PA highs website ( over 1,500 of these plates have been issued since 2006.



Here are two recent NRA Foundation plates.  The 0841 plate was taken by Steve Ondik.  It is the new high in the series but the plate still has the sticker well and no map outline.  These plates are unique in that they use a 3-character suffix.  Also note the difference in spacing between the NRA suffix the serial numbers.


I posted another photo of this same Pennsylvania Coal Alliance Inc. plate last week but that image was difficult to edit.  Steve Ondik had sent me a better plate photo.  I don't live far from the anthracite coal region in eastern PA but have yet to spot one of these.



Here's a 1931 Tractor plate with TE prefix.  At the time TE stood for Traction Engine, early terminology for tractor.  This plate has a 3-digit serial number.  The series ran from TE-1 to TE-999, then TE1-000, etc.  The actual high is unknown but I have seen a '29 plates with TE5-139.  All plates measured 6" by 15".  Thanks to Tim Gierschick for the photo.  Click the link to see additional images.


Like the plate above, this 1933 Tractor is also a 3-digit plate.  These plates are very similar except the plate legend was moved to the top of the plate.  The serial progression described above is believed to be the same, as was the size.  This was the last year for the TE prefix, beginning in 1934, plates used the word Tractor as part of the legend.  Many thanks go out to Tim Gierschick for these and so many other Tractor and low-number Passenger plates.


Would you know at first glance that this is a 1932 Trailer plate?  You can rule out Tractor from the above plates, but what about a T-weight class Truck?  All 1932 Truck plates were 6" by 15" and were 6 characters in length, while trailer plates were either 6" by 10" or 12".  Trailer serials ran from T1 to T9999, so no overlap with Trucks.  Eric Tanner has been very helpful in supplying this and a number of other rare plates.


This very low number 1917 Truck plate courtesy of Eric Tanner and Jeff Hinkle.  For 1917 Truck plates were issued with an S-prefix for solid rubber tires.  Five weight classes were used with each class displaying its weight by the number of stars.  This being a 1 star plate, it was for a light-weight truck.  In perusing the records for 1917 motor vehicles, the record shows this vehicle belonging to Dyer O. Clark, 305 York Ave., Towanda.  The first 13 Class 1 trucks were issued to the State Highway Department.  Wonder if any exist today . . .  


1930 Truck plates saw the first use of the a descriptive plate legend — COMMERCIAL.  The connection between plate serial number and weight class appears to be related to the first digit in the serial number.  Classes run from Class 1 or AA to Class 7 or F. The serial number can have 1 to 3 digits in the first grouping, then a dash or a space, then the second grouping which can have up to 3 digits. The first plate shown above is credited to Tiger Joe Sallmen, and the second plate, 4-181, is thanks to eBayer Lil-harle.


Here's a trio of 1924 Truck plates.  In 1924 the state began to use the more traditional R thru Z (minus the X) weight classes, but gone was the legend — COMMERCIAL   The R Class, the lightest of the series, went from R1 to R99-999, then as additional plates were needed the R was placed in the suffix position with 1R, etc., as shown in the first two plates.  Next is an example of a U Class plate.  Note that all three of these plates are different sizes.  The far left plate is 6" by 15" and is courtesy of James Andreucci, the center plates is a 6" by 12" size and is thanks to Eric Tanner, and finally the U594 plate is a 6" by 12" 'shorty' and is thanks to eBayer Rabbittman.


This R-class 1953 Truck plates has been shared by Steve Ondik.  In that year there were 6 serial formats used, including R000A, R00A0, R0A00, R00AA, R0AA0, R0A0A, with this plate being part of the 4th grouping.  The photo gallery also has a R0AA0 format plate.  These were also short plates measuring 6" by 10¼".


The final plate this week is this 1939 Passenger sample.  This plate image was provided by Eric Tanner.  Both 6" by 10" and 6" by 12" passenger plates were issued that year.  Most likely sample plates were only produced in this 6" by 10" size, or commonly referred to as a 'shorty'.



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John McDevitt, Walnutport, PA

ALPCA #4376