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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.

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Posting 3/18/2018

This the first U.S. Marine Corps (Active Duty) plate photographed.  While this may seem like the 14th plate issued, plates 60001A/D and 60002A/D have been issued but then none until 60011A/D.  It appears that this may be another 2-tiered numbering system, but I can't confirm this.  This and other active duty plate types were announced in February of last year.  This photo is thanks to Jordan Irazabal.


Here's another first-of-its-kind photo.  This is the newest plate version from Saint Francis University, now on the visitPA base with a color graphic, and apparently the new series started at S/F00800.  Thanks to Tom Perri's diligent efforts in getting this image.  These may have been on the road for a while but a check indicates that there are only about 25 of the newer plates in use.  Still need a photo of the first generation yellow on blue plate if anyone has one.


Here's another western PA organizational plate, this one from Point Park University, located in downtown Pittsburgh.  Their plate program goes back to 2008.  This low number photo is thanks to Tom Perri who indicated that these plates are in use on many of the college's own vehicles.  There are about 40 or so plates in use.


Here's a new high Fraternal Order of Police plate.  Somewhere between F/P21314 and F/P21420 this plate type made the transition to the small map base.  These plates made their debut in 1987 on the yellow on blue base, and after being reissued in 2001 on the www base, they have made several minor changes.  Thanks to Jordan Irazabal for sharing this photo.


I have to give a lot of credit to Tom Perri for his diligence and persistence in spotting these recent issue fire department plates now with the small map outline.  From left to right these include Berwyn Fire Company, Brookhaven Fire Co. No. 1, and Tinicum Township Fire Company.  As new plates are ordered, they are coming thru with the map.  For all the latest in Pennsylvania highs, check out Tom's website .


This is a 1930 Format 2 Dealer plate.  Starting in 1924, plates had no legend identifying them as a Dealer plates, the X in the serial number became the identifier.  This format had the X in the second position with the serial progression as follows — 0X to 9X999.  This also means that 4-character plate were 6" by 10", as shown here.  5 character plates measured 6" by 12".  This plate is courtesy of ebay user oldies_museum.


Here is a 1930 Format 6 Passenger plate.  This serial format consisted of plates from 0000A to 9999Z and was 1 of 10 formats.  Plates with 4 or fewer characters were 6" by 10" and 5 character plates measured 6" by 12".  This plate was part of a pair on ebay and was provided courtesy of contorakes1234.


This is a 1931 Format 3 Passenger plate.  The serial numbers for this format ran from 0A to 9Z999, which would include 2, 3, 4 and 5-character plates on both 6" by 10" for 2 to 4 characters, and 6" by 12" for 5 characters as shown here.  Thanks to ebay user 1bidder for allowing the use of this photo which was a part of a pair.


Here are two nice additions to the 1933 Passenger plate section.  The first is a 4 character Format 4 plate which included serial numbers from 00A to 99Z99.  As can be seen, plates can be 3, 4 or 5 characters.  The 3 and 4-charater plate measured 6" by 10" as shown here.  This plate is thanks to ebay user carstuffstore.  The KV444 plate is a Format 8 plate with the serial progression from AA100 to ZZ999, all plates being the larger 6" by 12".  Credit for this plate goes to ebay seller licenseplatekingcompany.


Here is a nice example of a 1932 R-Class Truck plate.  The legend Truck or Commercial was not used at the time; the alpha-numeric formatting was the clue.  For 1932 truck plate weight classes went from R to Z, excluding X, for single rear axle vehicles and RZ to ZZ for duel rear axle trucks.  All truck plates had 6-characters and measured 6" by 15".  Thanks to Troy E. Payson, fellow ALPCA member #8766 from New York who was offering this plate on ebay.


This is a 1936 R-Class Truck plate.  For that year, there were five serial progressions for the R-class including R000A, R00A0, R0A00, RA000 all of which were 5 characters and measured 6" by 12".  Then there was an overflow series of R00-00A, which because of the 6 characters were on 6" by 15" plates.  The plate shown here is part of that overflow series.  The photo was provided by ebay user ustho-dffvjx. 


This is a 1954 Y-Class Truck.  For that year, there were two serial progressions for the Y-class including Y000A to Y999Z and Y00A0 to Y99Z9.  The Y was the weight class, see description under the 1932 plate above.  All truck plates in 1954 measured 6" x 10¼", and all were 5 characters.  The photo was provided by ebay user allmdona.


Posting 3/11/2018

This is definitely not one you see in your everyday travels — especially the #1 plate.  The Retired Legislator plate type was first seen back in 2004.  It is believed that the numbers are issued, where possible, to correspond with the legislative district of which there are currently 203 districts in PA.  Thanks to Eric Conner for this great plate find.


Another PennDOT anomaly.  Beginning in 2005 Antique Vehicle plates went to the 'Family of Plates' format with a sticker well that was never used, then more recently several vanities were seen with no sticker well and no map outline, then regular issue Antique Vehicle plates were seen without the sticker well and with the map outline.  Now as the progression continues, we see plates, like the one shown here, without the sticker well and without the map outline.  At this point it is unknown if this is an error plate or another formatting variation.  Thanks to Ryan Battin for the plate photo.


Here's a recent traffic shot of a Share the Road high number plate.  These are part of the Special Fund plate series.  Plate sales are intended to fund the position of Bicycle and Pedestrian Coordinator as well as funding highway bicycle signage.  The program dates back to August of 2016.  Thanks to Bruce Bufalini for the plate photo.


Here's the latest Expeditionary Forces Veteran high number plate.  As can be seen, this series still has the sticker well.  Removal of that feature and the addition of the small map is expected at E/F3100.  While I'm not a fan of the 'family of plates' look, I do like the the use of a 4-digit serial number over the more common 5-digit format on most other plate types.  Thanks to Steve Ondik for sharing this traffic shot.


Added these very nice Motorcycle Dealer plates from the 70s.  They are not the first of such plates on display here but they do add some variety and depth to the displays.  The far left is a 1970, in the center is a 1974, which is followed by a stickered 1976.  All of these images came from Dave Lincoln some time ago.


Here is a pair of Temporary tags from 1960 on the far left and likely 1961 on the near left.  Unlike regular registration plates of the time, these were issued as needed and were not likely directly associated with an annual registration period.



Last week we featured a group of 11 plates from 1916 to 1935 all with the same 3000 serial number.  This week we have a another group of 10 plates from 1923 to 1935, not all inclusive, but all with 3001 as the serial number.  These were  part of the same Guy W. Moore estate sale.  See last week's article for more details.  This week's 3001 plates consist of 1923, 1924, 1926, 1927, 1928, 1929, 1930, 1932, 1934 and 1935.  Or to view all the plates on the same page click here.   Many thanks to Bongocruiser2 for allowing the use of these images.





A pair of 3002 passenger plates from 1934 and 1935 have also been added.  They are also part of the groups shown above and last week, and are also thanks to Bongocruiser2.  To view all the plates on the same page click here.


Here is a 1940 Format 4 Passenger plate.  Format 4 is made up of the series 10A0 to 99Z99, with 4 character plates measuring 6" x 10", and 5-character being 6" x 12".  The plate gallery also shows a 5 character plate from this series.  Thanks to ebay-er timelesscollections for the use of this photo.


This is a 1951 Format 9 Passenger plate.  Format 9 consists of the series from 1AA0 to 9ZZ99.  There were both 4 and 5-character versions of this series.    In 1951 all plates were 6" by 11".  Still need a Format 6 — 000A0 to 999Z9, and a Format 10 — 00AA to 99ZZ for '51.  Thanks to hpr4661 for the use of this image.  This was on ebay as part of a 3 plate series.


Posting 3/4/2018

At long last the PA National Guard gets it own plate for current members of the Guard.  Yes, there is another National Guard plate also shown here.  That plate has been around for many years but has always been listed as an organizational plate rather then a military plate.  None of the newer plates are on the road yet, but they are available.  It is unknown if the vintage version of this plate will continue to be available.  The new plate requires form MV-150AD and $21.


Here's another new organizational plate in the works — Associated Alumni of the Central High School.  This refers to the Central High School of Philadelphia.  This school has a long history, and very stringent admissions and academic standards.  As of now, there are no plates registered.



Here's a hot-off-the-press 2018 Passenger vanity plate showing the new map.  This plate is definitely an eye-catcher with its unique serial number.  Thanks to Nick Tsilakis for sharing this plate photo.



A photo of this plate type has been a long time coming.  These U.S. Merchant Marine plates first hit the streets around June of 2013 but for some reason have managed to avoid the camera lens until now, but thanks to Ed Pfaeffle we now have a photo.  This is also the highest number plate registered.


Here's a very nice shot of the latest high Classic Vehicle plate from Bill Stephens.  Classic plates have been popular for many years.  They date back to 1976 with a starting serial number of 10000 using what I call the antique font.  After hitting 99999, The letter 'C' was added as a prefix and the number series started again.  Then after reaching C27899, the traditional appearance was replaced with the family of plates look and the redundant use of Classic Vehicle twice on the plate.


Recently I saw a unique group of passenger plates on ebay and contacted the owner about using some of the plate images to fill gaps.  Then I thought, why not show them all.  After all this was a run of the same number plate starting with 1916 and going to 1935, with a few years missing.  The owner, Bongocruiser2, was good with the idea.  Obviously there had to be a story behind this long succession of like-numbered plates. The 1917 plate registry indicated that the number 3000 plate was registered to Guy W. Moore, 296 Wyoming Ave., Kingston, PA. A census search showed that he was 72 years old on the 1940 census, making him 49 in 1917.  He was a successful figure in the newspaper and banking business in the area.  He also owned a unique Spanish-style home that was built in 1912, and torn down in 2016.  Here is a link to a Citizens' Voice article which tells more about his life and home.  The plates came from an estate sale which suggested that they had been owned by the same person.  The 1917 Passenger plate shown above is the first Format 3, 4-digit plate on this website.


Next in this series are these 1918 Passenger and 1921 Passenger plates.  The highlight of this pair is the 1918 plate, which is the first Format 2, 4-digit plate photo on this website.  Format 2 is the second of three plate sizes used that year.  Also the 1921 plate used a dash separator.  


Here is a trio of even numbered year passenger plates including 1924, 1926 and 1928.  The odd years in between would have had the colors reversed.  The '24 and '28 plates measure 6" by 10", while the '26 plate with the dash is 6" by 12".  The '28 also has the legend moved to the top of the plate.


This last group of four #3000 plates shows a 1930, 1932, 1934 and a 1935.  Note the 1934 plates uses a new font with a flat top 3.  This change actually took place in 1934.  The 1934 plate is also the first 4-character numeric plate on this website.

Check back next week for a similar run of 3001 and a couple 3002 plates between 1923 and 1935.


Click the thumbnail for a better image.  This is a 1939 Format 7 Passenger plate.  This is from the progression 0000A to 9999Z, and measures 6" by 12".  For 1939 there were also some 4-character formats that measured 6" by 10".  Thanks to ebay user avintagefind for the use of this and other photos.  This plate was being sold as part of a pair.


Next up is this 1951 Format 11 Passenger plate, which included the series of 00AA0 to 99ZZ9.  In '51 all passenger plates measured 6" by 11", even 4-character plates.  There were also 13 format progressions used that year.  Thanks to ebay user avintagefind for the use of this and other photos.  This plate was being sold as part of a pair.


This is a 1956 Format 6 Passenger plate representing the serial progression from 000A0 to 999Z9.  In 1956 all full-size plates were standardized at 6" by 12".  Even with the wider plates, no more than 5 characters were used.  Toward the end of the '56 run, narrower serial dies (fonts) came into use, all of which helped set the stage for the start of 6-character plates in 1957.


Posting 2/25/2018

The Barren Hill Volunteer Fire Company is also in the process of establishing their own organizational license plate program.  They are located in Lafayette Hill, Montgomery County, a little northwest of Philadelphia.  They have no plates on the street yet.



Here's another of the seemingly endless variations of Flyer Wives Charities/Charity plates.  So far we've had Charities plural, then Charity singular, then plates with no sticker well and no small map outline, and finally with the addition of small map outline.  Each of these variations also came with the standard serial number and as an optional vanity.  Matt Ciecka spotted this latest iteration.


Here's a new high number Mount St. Mary's University plate.  This plate program dates back to 2010.  The facility is a small private Catholic college located in Emmitsburg, MD, just south of the Mason-Dixon Line, not far from Gettysburg, PA.



A recent check now shows that the following facilities, which initially had no plates on the street, now have plates in use: Mount Aloysius College — 2 plates; Eureka Volunteer Fire and Ambulance — 5 plates; Fairview Township Fire Dept. — 2 plates.  With so few plates in use, it will be a challenge to find and photograph any of these.


Here's a very recent photo of the latest high Operation Iraqi Freedom plate.  This veteran plate type dates back to 2005.  This plate still has the sticker well.  Bases on some research data, I believe that 04900I/F will have the small map outline.  Thanks to Jordan Irazabal for sharing this photo.



Here are a couple pictures I dug out of my photo archives.  The far left is a 1947 Motorcycle Dealer plate, near left is a '49 MCD.  Their designs are essentially the same with the serial numbers starting at 1 each year and going to at least 367 in '47 and to at least 459 in '49.  The 218 is from Dave Lincoln, the source of the 42 plate is unknown.  If this is your plate let me know so I can credit you.


We jump ahead to this low-number 1964 Motorcycle Dealer plate.  Note the 2-digit stacked year and the MCD designator are the same as above but the PA has been changed to PENNA and moved to the space where the expiration date had been.  The source of this plate is unknown.  If this is your plate let me know so I can credit you.


Here's a 1968 Motorcycle Dealer plate.  Backing up a year to 1967 the MCD was changed to DLR and the word MOTORCYCLE was added to the bottom border.  It is also believed that in 1968 the numeric sequence started at 1000 instead of the traditional 1.



This is a 1937 Format 6 Passenger plate.  That progression went from 000A0 to 999Z9, and all measured 6" by 12", although some 4-character plates from other formats measured 6" by 10".  1937 was also the year where a short run of plates used a keystone on either side of the plate legend.  The most striking 1937 feature, however, was the use of the state map outline to form the plate border.  This plate is courtesy of Pl8source.


Here is a very nice 1948 Format 2 Passenger plate with the series running from A100 to Z9999.  So both 4- and 5-character plates were used in some progressions.  From 1944 until mid-1952 plate size was kept at 6" by 11" regardless of the number of characters.  This plate is also thanks to Pl8source.


Here's another 4-character plate, this being a 1952 Format 4 Passenger.  Format 4 went from 10A0 to 99Z99.  So again 1952 plates used both 4- and 5-character displays.  It was also the year of the shrinking plate.  Part-way thru the year the plate size was reduced from 6" by 11" to 6" x 10¼".  Again thanks to Pl8source for the use of the image.  Many of Pl8source plates are available on ebay.


Next we add this 1946 V-Class Truck plate.  The truck letter prefixes designated the weight class and number of axles starting with R and going to Z for 2-axle, and from RZ to ZZ for 3-axle trucks.  No X class as the X is reserved for Dealer plates.  All truck plates that year measured 6" by 11".  This plate is thanks to Chuck Sakryd.


Posting 2/18/2018

We knew that this plate was somewhere in the pipeline.  Now we have a plate to put with the name, that being North Strabane Fire Department, and only a prototype so far.  As of now there are no active plates.  They are located in Strabane Township, adjacent to Canonsburg Borough in Washington County, Pennsylvania, 18 miles southwest of Pittsburgh.  Watch for a couple more new plates in the next couple weeks.


This Honoring Our Veterans vanity plate was recently spotted.  While this plate benefits the Veterans Trust Fund, it is not a veterans' plate, rather it's part of the Special Fund plate series.  This plate type dates back to late 2012 with current serial numbers around 02695H/V.  The small map outline has not been seen yet.  This is the only Special Fund plate available in a Motorcycle format.


Here is a pair of Bronze Star for Valor plates.  Noteworthy here is the presence of a validation sticker on the 00147B/V plate, while the 00167B/V plate has the small map outline.  These originally came out in 2012, and so far only about 170 of these plates have been issued.  The far left plate is courtesy of Jaska Börner, and other image, which is a recent photo, is from Ryan Battin.


Next is this pair of U.S. Marine Corps Veteran plates.  The 13407M/C plate is considered a new high, and was recently spotted by Steve Ondik.  This series started at the 10000 mark back in 2009.  The SMOKEM/C plate is an older photo of a vanity.  That photo is courtesy of Arthur Levine.


This very low number 1927 Motorcycle Dealer plate.  There appears to be different opinions as to the size of low numbered M/C Dealer plates.  This X+2-digit plate measures 4½" by 8".  One thought is that X+1 digit plates measure 4½" by 6".  If this were true, it doesn't seem logical that the 6-inch size would be used for only 9 plates — X1 to X9.  On the other hand, 4½" by 6" Motorcycle plates were issued that year for 1 to 3-digit plates.  Anyone wish to weigh in on this?  This plate is courtesy of ebay user sree5440.


You don't see 'em any nicer than this.  This 1927 Format 6 Passenger plate was a needed image.  Format 6 means the plate is within the series of A10-000 to D99-999, and the 6-characters also means that the plate will measure 6" x 15".  There were also 10" and 13" plates where fewer characters were used.  A plate photo in the A to D999 range is still needed.  The plate is courtesy of Jake Eckenrode.


Here's a 1946 Format 6 Passenger plate.  Format 6 plates ran from 000A0 to 999Z9, with the letter advancing last as always.  All plates for that year were 6 inches by 11 inches, most were 5-character plates but some were 4-character.  This plate and a few others belong to Ray Liller.  If anyone is interested in any of his plates, let me know and I can provide contact information.


This is a 1951 Format 13 passenger plate.  Format 13 plates included the series D000A to P999Z.  It is my belief that the reason this series started at the letter 'D' was because the 'C' series (C123A) would have been reserved for Transit Dealer plates.  1951 is the first year where the series was above 'D' was reserved, meaning A, B and C.  It then continued thru 1956, after which dealer plates went to 6 characters.  This plate is also courtesy of Ray Liller.


Here's a 1955 Format 7 Passenger plate.  Format 7 included plates from 0000A to 9999Z.  All plates measured 6" by 10¼".  There were some 16 formats that year which were probably pushing the limits of what could be done with only 4 and 5 character combinations.  Thanks to Pl8source for the use of this image.


This 1955 Format 3 Trailer plate is actually one of 6 different serial progressions used that year.  That may seem like a lot, but all except one of the formats were limited to only 4 characters.  The last of the formats is a 5-digit all numeric arrangement.  All '55 plates measured 6" x 10¼", this being the last year for these short plates.  This very nice plate photo was provided by Steve Ondik.




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Images and photos are always welcome.  Please send to:

John McDevitt, Walnutport, PA

ALPCA #4376