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Pennsylvania License Plate Images

John McDevitt, Walnutport, PA

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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.

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Posting 1/25/2015

Brendan Sherry points out the fact that PA still has millions of cars on the road with the state's website, WWW.STATE.PA.US across the bottom of the plates.  The website is DEAD.  Click the link and see for yourself.


Here's a photo of the number 1 Thomas Jefferson University plate.  The first plate of a series always carries with it some special significance.



Here's a very nice, low number Christian Homeschool Association of PA.  The image is courtesy of Jordan Irazabal and Tom Perri.



This pair of first generation organizational plates was provided by Brandon Sowers.  The Penn State plate program goes back to 1985: however, judging by the number the plate pictured here came along some years later.  The St. Vincent plate program dates back to 1992.  By comparison, in 2005, Penn State had 15,000 plates on the road, the most organizational plates of any group.  St. Vincent had 558 plates in use, while a number of organizations had well under 100 plates in use.


Here is a very nice pair of 1928 H-series Bus/Omnibus plates.  See last week's posting for a full explanation of the use of the H and O plates.  Note the low number H-93 plate uses a dash separator while the higher number plate does not.  The significance of the dash is not know but I suspect it was part of the formatting plan for that year.  Both plates appear to be on a 6" x 10" base.  It is likely that plates with 4 numeric characters were on a 6" x 13" base.  Many thanks to Jake Eckenrode for the fine images and the help with this plate type.


Here's another great pair of H-series Bus/Omnibus plates.  This pair is from 1929, the last year for the H-series plates.  This pair shows two sizes depending on the number of characters.  The shorter plates measures 6" x 10" while the longer one is 6" x 13".  Again Jake Eckenrode provided the great pictures.

Jerry McCoy's 1926 plate and Jake's contribution of images and history have provided great documentation of this very elusive piece of Pennsylvania's plate history.  The collaboration and sharing of many individuals are part of what makes this hobby enjoyable, and helps to establish this website as a recognized resource.


Dave Lincoln made this 1928 Legislative plate image available.  This appears to be the first year for Legislative plates and the formatting consisted of the prefix L followed by 1 to 3 numeric characters.  Plates with only 1 or 2 numeric characters also used a dash between the L and the number.  Click the link to see L-27.


Pictured here is a fine pair of 1932 Legislative plates is also from Dave Lincoln.  It is unknown how many of these plates were made or issued but for 1930 it was 500, and for 1935 up to 400 plates were authorized, and for what it's worth, I have never seen a plate with a number higher than 307.





Another addition this week is this 1929 Official plate courtesy of Jeff Francis.  Typically these plates were 1 to 3 digits in length, but some 4-digit plates were produced.  This caused the right-hand keystone to be dropped.



No, you're not seeing double, but you are looking at a very unusual pair of 1914 Tractor plates.  1914 was the first year for tractor plates and the only year to be issued in pairs. This is likely the 24th pair issued.  The E prefix stood for Engine and was used well into the 1920s.  These are the lowest number Tractor plates I have seen.  The images are courtesy of Matthew Lerch & Martha Kohl.  Trailer plates were also introduced in 1914 and unfortunately the number of tractors and trailers registered were combined for a total of about 1,332.  I have seen 1914 tractor plates as high as E1031 which would suggest that not nearly as many trailer plates were issued.



Posting 1/18/2015

When these Support Your Zoo plates first came out in their revised family of plates format it appeared that they started at 00101P/Z, making this the 18th plate issued. But a quick vanity number check of numbers below 00100P/Z shows that there is a two-tiered system with a bunch of the lower numbers in use, but don't bother asking the issuing agency why.  This plate image was provided by Brandon Sowers.


Brandon Sowers also sent a group of pictures of first generation of organizational plates.  Pictured here are an American Legion and a Blue Lodge plate.  These organizations were among the earliest in PA to have a plate program, dating back to 1984.  Watch for several more yellow on blue plates coming in the next week or so.


The Special Mobile Equipment plate on the far left was recently provided by Clayton Moore, the plate on the near left from Lee Madigan was posted last week as a newly identified format.  The 4403-SME plate helps to narrow down the point where the Pennsylvania font changeover took place.


This is a '58 base with a '64 sticker State House of Representatives plate.  The HR is the designator and can be used in both the prefix and suffix position.  Click the link to see both formats.  For now I'm going to assume that the 116 represents the state house district number as it does today.  The photo is courtesy of Lee Madigan.


This is believed to be a PA State Senator plate, also on the '58 base with a '60 sticker.  In this case the PA  is the designator when accompanied by a 1 or 2-digit serial number.  As in the HR plate above the PA can be used as a prefix or suffix.  I'm a little uncertain about the 57, as the number, at least today represents the senatorial district, and today there are 50 districts.   The photo is also thanks to Lee Madigan.

Ned Flynn suggests that those senatorial plates with numbers above 50 are for retires senators.  I did not realize this practice dated back to the late 50s/early 60s.  This practice has been seen in more recent plates until the introduction of actual Retired Senator plates in 2009.


Here is a 1926 H-prefix Bus (Omnibus) plate.  This image is from Jerry McCoy.  A lot has been learned this week about early bus plates.  And yes, from 1926 to 1929 PA issued both H-prefix and O-prefix bus plates.  Understanding and explaining the difference is the hard part, but thanks to plate experts like Jake Eckenrode and Eric Tanner, I'm going to attempt an explanation.  Omnibus plates with an O-prefix were first issued in 1924.  Then in 1926 a new category of Motor Bus plates was created.  From 1926 to 1929 omnibuses that carried passengers for hire and not required to have a certificate of convenience were designated by an "H" prefix.  This also included buses that were not registered for hire before 1/1/1914.  From 1926 to 1929 those vehicles required to have a certificate of convenience were designated by an "O" prefix.  In 1929 a new law was passed requiring all buses to have this certificate and thereby ending the need for the "H" prefix plate.  Subsequently all common carrier and for hire buses used the "O" prefix until 1968 when the "BA" prefix came into use.  School Buses were given their own designation in 1956.  Later several other bus categories emerged.

Much of the above information is from Jake Eckenrode with input from Eric Tanner.  Both of these gentleman have spent countless hours researching license plate history.  Thank you Jake and Eric.


Here is a 1927 Bus (Omnibus) plate with the H prefix..  This image is from the collection of Jake Eckenrode.  Note that this is a short version, as 2, 3 and 4-character plates measured 6" x 10", while 5-character plates were 6" x 13".  It is not known if plates above H999 used a dash separator such as H1-123, however, they would have used the 13" base.  Watch for additional H-prefix bus plates over the new few weeks. 


This 1924 Bus or Omnibus plate represents the first year of issue.  Before 1924 buses were registered as commercial vehicles.  Note the letter "O" prefix which is the same size as the numeric characters.  It was reduced in size in 1927 presumably to make it easier to distinguish letters from numbers.  This very nice specimen is courtesy of Eric Tanner.


I needed a 1956 Bus plate and eBay seller nickey2 was kind enough to give me the go-ahead to use this image.  Registration figures for that year indicate that some 12,500 plates were in use, so the series likely went well into the OC series.



Posting 1/11/2015

Jordan Irazabal spotted this vanity version of a Support Your Zoo plate recently.  This is the first personalized plate of this type seen so far.  Recent legislative action paved the way for the personalized option; however, the cost is a bit steep at $100 in addition to the cost of the plate.



Also among those plate types eligible to be personalized is this U.S. Army Veteran plate.  This plate was spotted by Nick Tsilakis and carries the same hefty $100 price tag.



Here's a nice low number Ringing Hill Fire Company plate picture courtesy of Brandon Sowers.




Arthur Levine passes along this Bronze Star for Valor plate.  Nice plate, unfortunately it's wearing a layer of Pennsylvania's favorite cold weather road condiment — salt.  These plates are not easy to come by as this is only the second image, so it makes a nice addition.  It's also a new high.



This variation of the Special Mobile Equipment plate on the far left, to my knowledge, has not been previously documented.  What makes this plate this plate different is the use of the "You've got a friend" font for "Pennsylvania" where the SME is in the suffix location.  Later plates with the SME suffix used the block style PENNSYLVANIA legend.  Click the link above to see all of the known variations of this plate type.  Thanks to Lee Madigan for the image of the far left plate.


Lee Madigan also provided this image of a first generation Millersville University plate, in fact, aside from a sample plate, this is the first image of this plate type on the yellow on blue base.  Nice number too.  Watch for a few more plates from Lee over the next few weeks.



Here is good example of a 1925 Bus plate on the far left, or could this be an early Taxi plate?  Click the thumbnail to see a better image.  Take notice to the letter O now being the same size as the the numbers.  Before 1927 the letter O and the number 0 were the same size which makes earlier plates appear to be all numeric.  As can bee seen on the '27 plate shown below, the letter O is smaller.  Another interesting find on the reverse of this plate is marked "Daniels Taxi Franklin PA".  Open the near left thumbnail image.  It is generally accepted that before modern taxi plates were issued, that taxi cabs used bus plates.  An internet search shows a Daniels Taxi & Transfer Co. Inc. in Franklin, PA, in operation in 1920s and '30s but it does not seem to exist today.  The writing on the plate suggests that the plate belonged to the Daniels Taxi Co., and may very well have been used on a taxi.  But isn't it also possible that the Daniels Taxi & Transfer Co. owned buses or limos that this plate could have been used on?  A search of early Bureau of Motor Vehicle records could resolve the matter.  These plate images were provided by Jerry McCoy.


Next we have this 'short' version of a 1927 Bus plate. Plates from O1 to O999 used a 6" by 10" base, while 5-character Bus plates used a 6" by 13" base.  This is the first year where the letter prefix O was smaller than the numbers.  The practice of letters being smaller than numbers continues to this day, at least on full size plates.  According to BMV records some 8,400 bus plates were registered in 1927, but that figure combines Bus and Omnibus.  I gather that this figure includes both H Bus plates and O Bus plates.  Yes, it is confusing, and no, I can't explain it further.  Unfortunately none of the O or H bus plates before 1934 used a legend that would identify them as a type of bus plate.


We end this week's plates with this 'long' version of a 1928 Bus. This plate measures a 6" by 13".  This plate, like the '25 Bus above, uses a dash after the first two characters, a feature not seen on the short plates.  Next week we will have some H prefix bus plates to further the mystery.




Posting 1/4/2015

Bill Stephens snapped this first image of a Severely Disabled Veteran plate in a vanity format.  Recent legislation authorized the personalization of many plate types.  In this case the D/V are required characters, then 1 to 5 characters can be requested.  One strange thing about the Disabled Veteran and Severely Disabled Veteran plates is that PennDOT lists them as Specialty Plates rather than Veteran Plates.  This Specialty Plate group also includes, Antique, Classic, Emergency Vehicle, Farm Truck and about a dozen others.  On this (my) website both Disabled Veteran types are grouped with Veteran Plates.


Very new, very nice number Passenger Vanity plate from Ryan Battin.  When these low numbers become open, one must act quickly.  If you can find a low number that is available, such plates are available to pretty much any passenger vehicle, motorcycle, trailer, motor home, or trucks with a registered gross weight of not more than 14,000 lbs for an additional fee of $76.00.  The recent increase in the cost of vanity plates will likely reduce the demand somewhat.


Here's another image of an In God We Trust plate, courtesy of Ryan Battin.  This plate is also considered the current high.




Here's a very nice image of the current high PA Association of Realtors plate.  This picture is courtesy of  Brendan Sherry.  Note that this plate is still on the www base and therefore not eligible to be personalized.  This plate type made it debut in 1995 on the yellow on blue base.



As we work our way back thru some of the earliest bus plates, there are fewer, and in some cases no examples from which to gather or verify data.  If anyone has a 1926, '28, '30, '32, '33, '34, '39, '41, '42, '47 or '56 bus plate they would be willing to share a photo of, it would be helpful to the hobby and to the preservation of PA plate history.

And to those individuals who have so generously given of their time and photographic talents to support this effort, I can't thank you enough.


Fortunately we have two good example of 1929 Bus plates. Both use the 'O' prefix which was the identifier of the bus series at the time, but the word BUS is not used in the early years between 1924 and 1933.  It first came into use in 1934.  Note the use of the dash separator on plates where the serial number exceeded O999.  The other notable difference is the size.  Plates from O1 to O999 were 6" by 10", and O1000 and above were 6" by 13".  There were some 8,682 bus plates issued in 1929; however, this figure likely included the 'H' bus plates.  I will have more on the H-series bus plates at a later date.  The plate image on the far left was from Clayton Moore and the one on the near left was from Jerry McCoy.


The next plate is this 1931 Bus.  Note that in 1931 the plate legend has been moved to the bottom, but still the word BUS does not appear, only the 'O' prefix.  The word BUS first appears on 1934 plates.  1931 bus plates were issued in two sizes, again depending on the number of characters.  There were 6" by 10" inch for 2 to 4-character plates and 6' by 12" for 5-character plates, such as the plate shown here.  For 1931 there were 8,020 bus plates issued; however, this figure likely included the 'H' bus plates.


I have not said much about Bus plates being issued in pairs but to the best of my knowledge they were always issued in pairs with the exception of 1943 when a single metal tab was issued, and 1944 thru '46 when a single plate was issued.  Beginning in 1952 all bus plates were singles.  The image on the far left show a group of plates with a pair of '35 Bus plates.  On the near left is a nice shot of a single '35 Bus plate.  Also of interest is the fact that these plates were issued in 6" by 10" inch for 2 to 4-character plates and 6' by 12" for 5-character plates.  For 1935 6000 plates were authorized, and 5621 buses were registered.



Posting 12/28/2014

The answer to the PA Plate Trivia question from last week.  Pennsylvania still issues 3 Motorcycle plate types with the state map outline.  These include Municipal, Classic and Collectible.  This is not to say that there are not other older issues still on the road such as Antique Motorcycle plates issued prior to May of 2013.  The Collectible M/C plate was provided thanks to Daniel Selin & Ryan Battin.  The CM plate is also due for an update, after which the map will be gone.





Spotted this a couple days before Christmas and wondered if Clark Grizwold was out doing his last minute shopping . . . at the beer store no less.

(Click image to see the plate.)





Three versions of the Expeditionary Forces Veteran plate in less than a year!  What's up with that?  The image on the near left is the latest edition of an Expeditionary Forces Veteran plate.  This plate type was first released in 1995, then for the last 14 years the version on the far left was in use, then earlier in 2014, the plate format went to the version in the center, and just recently the "family of plates" version was released.  From left to right these images came from Jordan Irazabal, next from Brendan Sherry, and finally from Ryan Battin.


Here's a new high number University of Pittsburgh Official plate.  This picture is courtesy of Brendan Sherry.  If anyone knows the year when these plates were first introduced I'd like to know.  They were in use on the previous yellow on blue base.



Also from Brendan Sherry is this Monroeville Volunteer Fire Department plate.




It may seem like a slow journey back thru the history of Bus plates, but we're now back to this pair of 1936 Bus plates with the short (6" x10"), 4-character O809 image from Mike at, and the longer (6"x12"), 5-character image from Clayton Moore.  This series started at O1 with some 58-hundred plates being issued.


The next plate is this 1937 Bus.  This is also on the shorter 6 by 10-inch base.  Previously a 5-character plate was posted on the 6 by 12-inch base.  A little more than 6-thousand plates were issued that year.  Jerry McCoy provided the image.



This '53 Bus plate picture is in addition to the O8031 plate previously posted.  In 1953 some 12,700 plates were issued requiring the serial format to extend into the OA and OB series.  This image is courtesy of Jerry McCoy.



And the final plate for the week is this '55 Bus.  This image is in addition to the OB205 plate that was previously posted.  Again plate registrations that year were in the 12,500 range.  This image is also courtesy of Jerry McCoy.




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Images and photos are always welcome.  Please send to:

John McDevitt, Walnutport, PA

ALPCA #4376