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Pennsylvania License Plate History & Images

John McDevitt, Walnutport, PA

ALPCA #4376

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Posting 12/16/2018

The Mayflower Descendant plate was added in May of 2018, and a vanity was spotted at the end of June, but little else was known.  It's not even listed on the state's Approved Special Organizations list.  Recently Jordan Irazabal reached out to the organization and was provided with these images.  They indicated that only a small number of plates have been issued and they are scattered around the state.


Here's a recent photo of a Mario Lemieux Foundation plate from Bruce Bufalini, now sporting the map outline.  The previously reported high was 01520L/F which is believed not to have the map.  It is unknown if some plates in between were issued without the sticker well.


This is one of those plate types that seemed nearly impossible to find, but thanks to Jordan Irazabal's diligence and determination, we now have two great photos of Newtown Fire Association's plates.  I know Tom Perri and I have both been to Newtown but had no luck.  These plates hit the street around March of 2016, and there are currently about 17 serial numbered plates in use.


Here's a nice photo of a personalized Severely Disable Veteran plate.  I have always found it refreshing that the Disabled Veteran and Severely Disable Veteran series are not part of the family of plates, thus allowing them to have a distinct look.  The sticker well has been removed, but no map outline is expected.  Thanks to Jordan Irazabal for the photo.


Here is a pair of recently photographed NASCAR plates.  The far left plate is a #3 Dale Earnhardt tag.  These were issued for each racing season from 2004 through 2009, with about 485 plates being issued.  The near left plate is a #6 of Mark Martin.  These were issued for the 2004 through the 2006 seasons; however, there was a change to the '6' graphic for 2006.  Many low-issue NASCAR plates are still needed.


Check back next week to see news and photos of a new organizational plate.  In addition there will be information about two upcoming veterans' plates.


Here's an unused 1970 New Car Dealer plate.  In that series, the first alpha character, A, does not advance, and indicates New Car Dealer.  The final alpha character is the last to advance after the numbers.  This was the last year for 6 character Dealer plates after which they went to 7 characters.  This plate was provided by Tom Firth. 


Here are a couple additions to the 1957 and '58 Motorboat series.  The '57 display now shows a group of 3, 4 and 5 digit plates, while the '58 display has a 3 and 5 digit display.  These plates could have 1 to 5 digit serial numbers.  They were part of John Willard's display at the ALPCA Valley Forge Convention earlier this year.


This is not a new plate type, but Clayton Moore recently acquired these early Motorcycle with Handicapped / Person with Disability plates with stickers.  We have known at least since the tri-colored www Motorcycle plates were issued, that the owner could have the same rights as a Person with Disability auto plate by qualifying for this sticker.  Now we also know that such stickers were used on the 1977 to '85 base, and likely on the '84 base as well.  Clayton suggests that the Handicap stickers were added at a later date, possibly in the '90s, and not issued with the plate.  Note that in 2007 the state began issuing actual PD Motorcycle plates.  I've started a new section on in the history page to expand the history of these plates.  If anyone has additional information on this history, please share.


This is a 1939 Format 4 Passenger plate.  Format four included the serial progression of 10A0 to 99Z99, so both 4 and 5 character plates were issued; however, 4 character plates were 6 inches by 10 inches, and 5 character plates measured 6 inches by 12 inches.  Thanks to eBay user Wonderplumber for the use of the photo.


This is a 1948 Format 3 Passenger plate.  Format three included the serial progression of 1A00 to 9Z999, so both 4 and 5 character plates; however, all plates measured 6 inches by 11 inches.  This plate photo was made available by eBay user Aged2perfectionstore1.



Here is a 1936 S-Class Truck plate.  The S-Class that year used several serial progressions with this being part of S00A0 format.  Most truck plates that year were 5 characters and measured 6 inches by 12 inches; however, there were some R and S overflow plates that used 6 characters and therefore went to 6 inches by 15 inches.  Thanks to eBay user Bccollects for the use of the plate photo.


Here are two more additions to the '58 to '63 Truck plate series.  On the far left is the addition of '58 W Class.  The photo is from Teepee301, after which I bought the plate.  The next photo is a VZ Class which is a mid-weight 3-axle truck.  The '58 series now appears to be complete with at least one photo of each of the 21 classes, with some additional images coming.


Posting 12/9/2018

Here's a new high School Bus plate.  The sticker well is gone, as it was on the previous high of SC-81789, but still no map outline.  School Bus plates date back to 1956, but, the first letter prefix, SA, did not come along until 1958.  Since then the SB prefix started in 1977, and the current series started at SC-00000 in June of 2000 on the www base.


This is only the second image of a Eureka Volunteer Fire and Ambulance plate.  They first hit the street around March of this year.  All plates are believed to have the map outline.  The photo is thanks to Tom Perri.  I appreciate his efforts to get a photo even under poor lighting conditions.  Eureka Fire is located in York County.


Here's the first photo of a Fairview Township Fire Dept. plate, another York County fire station.  Like the plate above these are both 2018 arrivals.  All plate will have the map outline.  Thanks to Arthur Levine for this photograph.  A plate check suggest that there are only 2 plates in use.


Recently (11/25) a couple other PA Breast Cancer Coalition plates were posted that have helped to narrow down the transition point from the sticker well to the map.  This plate still has the sticker well, B/C04749 had no sticker but not able to clearly see the area of the sticker well, B/C04771 has the map.  We may never know for certain, but such is the current climate for those who take an interest in such matters.  Thanks to Tom Perri for this photo.


Here's the latest reported high University of Pittsburgh plate.  It would appear that Pitt plates added the map outline around the U/P05200 mark.  Thanks to Bruce Bufalini for the photo.  This plate series dates back to 1988 with yellow on blue plates.  Do you recall the original plate legend? Answer: Pitt Bicentennial, which was changed to the current legend when the www plates were issued.  The logo has also gone thru a few changes.


Here is a pair of recent photos of Persian Gulf War Veteran plates.  The plate on the far left, courtesy of Jonathan Ortman, still has a sticker well.  The near left plate, from John Fedorchak, is sporting the map outline.  These plates are only 37 numbers apart.  So far it is unknown if there were plates without the sticker well and without the map.


This nice-looking plate is a 1926 Format 3 Dealer tag which was part of the series X1-000 to X9-999 and measured 6 inches by 13 inches.  Other formats included X1 to X99 which were 6" x 10", X100 to X999 which were 6" x 12", and X10-000 to X26-986 or above which measured 6" x 15".  Thanks to Rob Baran.


For many years Motorboat Dealer plates are a tough find.  I still need photos for about 16 different years.  On the plus side, Jordan Irazabal found these on eBay and Carman121 gave the go-ahead to use them.  The far left plate is a 1946 Motorboat Dealer, color was blue on white.  The '47 Motorboat Dealer plate color was white on dark blue.  Both plates measure 5⅛ inches by 9½ inches.


Here is a 1922 Format 2 Motorcycle plate.  These were made in 2 sizes depending on the length of the serial number.  Format 1 plates went from 1 to 999 and were 4½ inches by 6 inches.  Format 2 plates, as shown here, ran from 1000 to 19316 and were 4½ inches by 8 inches.  Colors were brown on cream.  Thanks to Drewski for the use of this photo.


Here is a nice example of a 1942 Format 4 Passenger plate.  Format 4 includes the serial progression of 10A0 to 99Z99.  4 digit plates measured 6 inches by 10 inches, while 5 character plates were 6 inches by x 12 inches.  Again my thanks to Tim Gierschick for the opportunity to photograph some of his plates. 


Next up is this 1945 Format 2 Passenger plate.  Format 2 includes the serial progression of A100 to Z9999.  So for this year, both 4 character and 5 character plates were 6 inches by x 11 inches.  Thanks again to Tim Gierschick for the opportunity to photograph some of his plates. 



Here is a pair of 1935 S-Class Truck plates.  The plate on the far left is a beautifully refinished edition of the first serial progression, S000A, and measures 6 inches by 12 inches.  This photo was made available by Finishyourplates.  The other plate is an overflow plate where the serial number was increased from 5 to 6 characters, and the size went to 6 inches by 15 inches.  The photo was made available by eBay member Douggoneit.


Here is a 1952 V-Class Truck plate.  For 1952 the V-Class had only 1 serial progression, that being V000A.  All plates measured 6 inches by 11 inches.  Thanks to eBay member Jonflstf for the use of this photo.



This is a 1958-62 TZ-Class Truck plate.  That means it falls within the RZ to ZZ range of lightest to heaviest 3-axle trucks.  This would have been only the 7th or 8th plate issued.  I previously posted an image of a similar plate but the image quality of this plate is much better.  I owe a big thank you to Sal Dodd for sharing a group of high quality plate images.  More to come.


Posting 12/2/2018

For those who use the PLATE LOOKUP feature above.  The drop-down menu has been in need of updating, which I have attempted to do.  If you use it and find any broken or missing links, please let me know.


This is a Bronze Star for Valor vanity plate.  The 'for Valor' or the 'V' is an additional distinction.  As a result fewer Bronze Star for Valor plates have been issued.  Note that this plate no longer has sticker well, and also does not have the map outline, which has been seen on some of the newest serial numbered plates.  Thanks to Tom Perri for the photo.


Here's a low number Mario Lemieux Foundation plate recently spotted by Jordan Irazabal.  This plate had its start back in 2006.  The current high is around 01776L/F, suggesting these plates have sold well.



Here is a recent photo of a Juniata College plate photo from Jordan Irazabal.  This is one of the organizational plates that remained on the original fully embossed base, and dates back to 2001.  It appears that these plates are still available.  Juniata College is located in Huntingdon, PA.


Here's the latest reported high Official Use commercial (truck) plate.  This was spotted on what is believed to be a DCNR truck.  So far the plates for automobiles are still the older white on blue type.  This particular series of what I describe as the generic Official Use plates was first spotted in July of 2018.  Remember, there are also Dept of Transportation Official Use plates and PA Turnpike Official Use plates with their own logo.  The contributor wished to remain anonymous.


Here's what is believed to be the new Teen Driver high.  I doubt that many teen drivers are hounding their parents to get one of these.  Similarly, I doubt that many parents want to advertise the Teen Driver label.  It's kind of understandable that plate sales average about 15 plates per year. The first batch of plates produced in 2013 was 200 plates, so don't expect the map to appear any time soon.  Plate image is thanks to Bruce S.


The Transporter plate is part of the Miscellaneous Motor Vehicle Business (MMVB) series.  The plate shown here was provided by Heather Embee, and has helped to better establish the changeover point between Format 3 and Format 4.  The other members of the MMVB series includes Repair Towing (RT), Salvage Yard (WL), Repossessor (RE) and Watercraft Trailer Dealer (WD).


This 90-year old 1928 Passenger Sample plate was provided courtesy of Jeff Francis.  It appears that the earliest samples used the all-numeric format shown here, and at least by 1932 they had gone to the more familiar PA00 format.  This plates measures 6 inches by 10 inches.


Next up is this 1945 Passenger Sample photo which came from Bob Connison.  This plate measures 6 inches by 11 inches.  Samples were made in the same colors as used on other plates for the year; however, there were also test plates and paint shop plates that have found their way into the hobby.


Finally a photo of a 1947 Format 9 Passenger plate.  Format 9 includes the series of 1AA00 to 9ZZ99.  Some Passenger plates also used 4 character serial numbers; however, all plates were 6 inches by 11 inches.  Thanks to Tim Gierschick for the opportunity to photograph some of his plates. 


Here's the first example of a 1955 Format 10 Passenger plate.  Format 10 includes the series of 00AA to 99ZZ.  Some Passenger plates also used 5 character serial numbers; however, all plates were 6 inches by 10¼ inches.  Thanks to ebay user Samakimpata for the use of the photo. 


This is a 1924 Class T Truck plate.  The original colors were dark blue on yellow.  Class T for that year ran from T1 to T6117.  2 to 4 character plates were 6 inches by 10 inches, while 5 character plates, like the one shown here were 6 inches by 12 inches.  Some R and S Class plates were 6 inches by 15 inches.  Thanks to Samakimpata for the use of the photo. 


Here is a pair of 1958-62 Truck plates.  What makes these unusual is that they represent the RZ and SZ classes which are the lightest weight classes of 3-axle trucks.  These are also much better photos than what was previously posted.  The 3-axle series also included TZ to ZZ but not XZ.  Thank you Sal Dodd for these and more images to come.


Posting 11/25/2018

With Thanksgiving this past week, I want to express my thanks and appreciation to the many members of the license plate community and others who have contributed so much to help move this website forward over the past 16 years.


Of course the plate on the far left was on a BMW.  This number 1 Delaware Valley Chapter of the BMW Car Club of America plate was spotted by Jordan Irazabal.  The sample is shown for reference.  The name of the organization, as it is printed on the plate, is believed to be the longest of any PA plate.  AMVETS is likely the shortest.


Which is the fake plate?  The number on the far left plate is a valid Fraternal Order of Police number, but that's where the legitimacy ends.  There are companies out there that produce lookalike plates.  It was spotted by Tom Perri.  The near left plate is a personalized Fraternal Order of Police and is completely legitimate.  This plate was spotted by Bruce Bufalini.


This Harleysville Community Fire Co. plate was recently photographed by Jordan Irazabal.  This plate type dates back to 2009.  Plate check suggests that only 5 have been issued, which kind of explains why these have been so hard to come by.  Only plates 2 and 4 have been photographed.


This is the lowest number Lion Member photo I have.  This came from a traffic shot provided by Jeff Lawson.  Lions Club plates date back to 1988 on the yellow on blue base.  So far there is no indication that this group has updated their plate to the flat screened plate.


These are all recent photos of PA Breast Cancer Coalition plates; however, what we see is a transition from a plate with a sticker to one with a map outline within the span of 200 plates.  The center plate was a tough traffic shot and was not able to capture full details, but it does not have a sticker.  Organizational plates are especially tough to track such changes.  Thanks to Jordan Irazabal for the left and right images, and to Bruce Bufalini for the center photo.


This is a 1941 Format 2 Dealer plate, which in this case means the X is in the second position.  The X could also be in the 1st, 3rd or 4th position, and the plates could be 4 or 5 characters in length which would determine whether the plate is 10 inches or 12 inches in length.  Thanks to Shawn Bergan for the use of the photo.


Next is this 1950 Used Car Dealer plate.  Beginning in 1946 Dealer plates were divided into New Car (A prefix), Used Car (B prefix) and Miscellaneous Dealer (X prefix).  It is not known when the Transit Dealer (C prefix) was introduced but they were believed to be in use by 1951, if not sooner.  All plates were 5-character and measured 6 inches by 11 inches.  Thanks to Shawn Bergan for the use of the photo.


Here on the far left is a 1958 - '59 Motorcycle Sample plate.  Next to it is a standard '58 Motorcycle plate for comparison.  Note MC - 58 along the bottom of the sample, while the issued plate has 58 stacked in the lower left corner.  The issued plate also has MC stacked on the right side.  The sample is thanks to Drewski and the issued plate is thanks to Chuck Sakryd.


Last week we added several 1903 Pre-State Philadelphia plates, this week a 1904 and a 1905 are being added.  As mentioned then, these plates were equivalent to drivers' licenses rather than vehicle registration plates.  Again they measure 4-inch by 7-inch black on white porcelain for 1904, and white on red for 1905.  Serial numbers could be 3 or 4 digits.  Thanks to Ned Flynn for allowing me to photograph his plates.


These very nice 1933, 1941 and 1953 Passenger Sample plates are from Jeff Hinkle's collection.  While some may consider Samples a distinct plate type, I will associate them with the type of plates they represent, such as Passenger, Motorcycle, etc.  Next week I will have a 1928 Sample.  Samples from other years are welcome.


Here are three new additions to the 1937 Passenger plate series.  One of the goals of this website is to provide photo-documentation of each serial formatting variation.  The far left photo shows a 4-character variation of a Format 4 plate (10A0 to 99Z99) from Tim Giershick's collection.  While the center and right photos are the first images of a Format 7 (0000A to 9999Z) from Pinkocolot, and a Format 9 (1AA0 to 9ZZ99) from MG00000, respectively.  The far left plate measures 6" by 10", while the other plates are 6" by 12".


We also added this 1938 Format 9 Passenger plate.  This serial progression went from 1AA0 to 9ZZ99, so both 4-character 10 inch plates were produced, as well as 12 inch plates for 5-character plates as shown here.  Thanks to Pl8source for the use of this photograph.



Here are two very welcome additions to the 1932 Truck series.  The far left photo being an S-Weight Class plate, while the other is a Y-Weight Class plate.  These actually complete the R to Z run, without the X which was not used.  The RZ to ZZ 3-axle truck series continues to be a somewhat gray area for me.  Classes RZ to TZ may have been authorized but never issued.


Posting 11/18/2018

This Dealer Vanity plate was recently spotted by Bruce Bufalini.  The plate represents Cerra Automotive which is located in Greensburg.  Note the plate has the map outline.  While this feature has not been seen on standard issue Dealer tags, it's not unusual for vanity tags to be ahead of standard issue plates.


This Vertical Motorcycle may be the highest reported plate in the series.  A check of plate records shows that the series has reached M9Z9C, which was the end of the original M0A0C series.  The new series started at MA0AC with an actual current high around MA0LC.  The initial M and final C are static non-advancing characters, leaving the 3 characters in the center to form the serial progression.  The initial series used 0A0, and has now moved to A0A, but so far none of the new plate series have been photographed.  This plate was part of a group photo that was sent to me by Gary Walker from Australia.  The photo may have come from Facebook originally.


Here is a Persian Gulf War Veteran vanity plate.  This is the first of this series to display the map outline, although it is not uncommon to see that feature appear on personalized plates before seeing it on serial numbered plates.  This plate photo was sent to me by Arthur Levine.


More military plates.  These are both U.S. Marine Corps Veteran plates.  The far left plate is a vanity courtesy of Bruce Bufalini.  The near left is a new high, on a base without the sticker well.  Can't see if there is a map outline with the upper left corner bearing the Thin Blue Line American Flag.  This plate is courtesy of Clayton Moore.


Here's the first image of a Bloomsburg University vanity plate, and based on the appearance of the map outline, it is likely a fairly recent issue.  Thanks to Jordan Irazabal for the photo.  At this point it is unknown if the regular issue Bloom U. plates have progressed to the map feature.  The highest plate spotted was B/U01874 but that plates dates back to 2016.


Here is the first image of a Presque Isle Partnership plate in a vanity format.  The plate also has the small map outline first seen on this plate type during November of 2017.  Presque Isle plates date back to late 2006, with the current high exceeding 01142P/I.  Thanks to Jaska Börner for the use of the plate photo.


Bus plates have been issued from 1924 to the present, there gap in my Bus section where a 1939 Bus plate was needed.  Thanks to Herb Fisher for providing a plate photo for that year.  The first character is the letter O — note the smaller size.  This plate measures 6" by 12".  Plates with fewer characters were 6" by 10" inches.


Here are two more low-number additions to the Motorboat License section.  The far left image being a 1954 plate, the other being a '55.  While the serial numbers are the same as well as the plate size at 4½" by 8", the MBL has been reduced to MB, and the 4-digit date has been reduced to 2 digits.  The state map outline has been added to the '55.  This was part of a John Willard display at the ALPCA Valley Forge Convention.


Here is a trio of 1903 Pre-State Philadelphia plates.  Pre-state meaning they were issued before the state began to issued plates in 1906.  These plates were also considered drivers' licenses rather than vehicle registration plates.  Philadelphia began to issue these 4-inch by 7-inch white on blue porcelain plates to drivers, as shown in the 766 and 1171 plates.  The 215 plate was embossed metal.  Only a couple of the embossed metal types are known to exist, with the reason for them unclear.  They may have been replacements, or served some other purpose.  The 215 and 1161 plates were part of a ALPCA Valley Forge display by Greg Gibson.  The 766 plate was part of John Anshant's display.


This is a 1951 Format 4 Passenger plate.  That group includes the progression of 10A0 to 99Z99, so both 4 and 5 character plates were produced, of course the 4 character plates are usually tougher to find.  All plates measured 6 inches by 11 inches.  Thanks to Scott Filis for the use of this photograph.


Here is a 1953 Passenger Sample plate.  Samples are sought after by some collectors, while others not so much.  Passenger Samples were likely produced back into the mid-1920s, and non-passenger samples were produced for many other plate types over the years.  Thanks to Platedog for the use of this image.


As unlikely as it may seem, this pair of 1941 S - Weight Class Truck plates was never used, and was kept in its original condition and luster.  This pair also represents the fourth of four serial progressions used for the S-Class.  These progressions included: S000A, S00A0, S0A00 and S00AA as shown here.  All plates were 5 characters and all measured 6 inches by 12 inches.  1941 was also the first year for the expiration date to be embossed into the top map border.  Thank you to Ton Firth for the use of this photo.



This is an encore appearance of this 1954 Truck plate from last week.  Eric Tanner points out that there was a group of unused letters, I, O, Q, T, W and X that were not used except for the weight class prefix letters; however, beginning in 1953 the use T and W came into use.  Some data was gleaned from Eric's website.  The photo is from Tom Firth.




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Images and photos are always welcome.  Please send to:

John McDevitt, Walnutport, PA

ALPCA #4376