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Pennsylvania License Plate History & Images

John McDevitt, Walnutport, PA

ALPCA #4376

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Posting 11/11/2018

Here are two recently spotted plates, and are the first plates spotted in the KXA series.  So the KXA-5448 is believed to be the current high Passenger plate.  The KXA-3042 plate photograph was forwarded to me by Tylar Scavello, and the KXA-5448 image was taken at night by Jordan Irazabal.


As you may know, I'm not a huge fan of passenger vanities, but I couldn't pass by this one without a picture.  I'm going to guess that there is some kind of "tongue in cheek" humor going on here.  The vehicle was driven by a woman.  Anyway it's a Passenger vanity with an 11-17 validation sticker.


Here's a nice low number Gettysburg 1863 plate, sometimes called Pennsylvania Monuments plate.  The photo was recently taken by Nick Tsilakis.  These plates were introduced toward the end of 2014.  The actual high is around 00688G/B.  A variety of vanities have also been spotted.  Proceeds of the sale of this plate are intended to support the cleaning, repair and restoration of Pennsylvania's monuments.


While this is a current type, this particular plate was a very early issue when Permanent Trailer plates were reissued in April 2001.  The starting point would have been PT-0000A.  This is actually an unused plate and the photo was provided by Tom Firth.  This plate type was first issued in 1997 on the yellow on blue base.  To see more on the history of this plate type click here.


Here's the latest high Trailer plate.  The current run with the map outline was first spotted in January of this year.  That change is believed to have come about at XKY-0000.  Thanks to Vern Kreckel for sharing this photo.



Here is a beautiful 1925 Auto Wheel plate from Ned Flynn.  You may recall that Auto Wheel plates were issued by the Auto Wheel Coaster Co. of Tonawanda, NY. for small 4-wheeled vehicles. The company made children's wagons, scooters, sleds etc.  These were not official plates and not issued by PA in spite of PA shown above the date.  Ned did quite a bit of research to help remove much of the mystery surrounding these plates.  His efforts culminated in an article in the August issue of the ALPCA 2012 Plates Magazine.


This is the first image of a 1942 Format 6 Passenger plate.  This format ran from 000A0 to 999Z9, and all such plates measured 6 inches by 12 inches.  There were ten serial progressions needed for 1942 with some likely issued in 1943.  Thanks to eBay user Lizsaysboo for the use of this photo.


Here is a 1946 Format 4 Passenger plate.  Format 4 ran from 10A0 to 99Z99, so both 4 and 5 character plates were issued; however, regardless of the number of digits the plate size remained the same at 6 inches by 11 inches.  My thanks to eBay seller Shesellsplates1 for the use of this photo.


A couple weeks ago I had the opportunity, along with Jordan Irazabal, to visit Tim Gierschick at his barn party.  Tim is an avid and long time collector of low number plates and especially tractor plates.  He recently added this 1929 TE1-841 Tractor plate to his collection.  TE means Traction Engine, an old term for Tractor. Plate is a wide format 6" by 15" in size.  Finding an elusive 1929 Tractor plate was a big challenge, but after years of trying Tim succeeded in acquiring this one, which I believe completes his tractor collection.  A big thank you to Tim and Sue for their hospitality and the opportunity to go through some of Tim's other plates and grab some photos.


Here's another of Tim Gierschick's plates, this one being a 1937 Tractor.  Beginning in 1934 the word TRACTOR appeared on the plate once again, and eliminated the need for the TE prefix.  This shortened the serial number to 4 digits, allowing the plate size to be reduced to 6 inches by 12 inches. 


Here is a pair of ultra-nice 1953 Trailer plates.  All plates that year measured 6 inches by 10 inches. There were six serial formats for 1953 including A000 as used on the far left plate from Jeff Hinkle, and 000A serial format as used on the near left plate from Tom Firth.


Moving forward to this 1954 Trailer plate, all such plates again measured 6 inches by 10 inches.  These shorties came in 6 different serial  progressions.  The first 5 were all 4-character plates, while the sixth format used went to a 5 character all-numeric serial.  Thank you to eBay user Carstuffstore for the use of the photo.


Here's another well preserved 1955 Trailer plate.  This plate is part of Format 1 that ran from 0001 to 9999.  There was also a 5-character format toward the end of the run.  Like the trailer plates above these also measure 6" x 10" prior to the 1956 standardization at 6" by 12".  Thanks to Clayton Moore for the use of this photo.


Here's a like-new 1954 R-Class Truck plate.  The R class represents the lightest weight group, with the greatest number of registrations which required 6 serial formats that year.  This plate is part of the R000A to R999Z, which is the first format.  Thanks to Tom Firth for sharing this photo.



This is a 1958 T-Class Truck plate with a '61 renewal sticker.  The plate is fairly unremarkable however it does not have a tab slot.  A plate previously posted — T33-68E, did have the tab slot.  Generally plates with the tab slots were produced earlier than those without, as the plan to utilize tabs was then discontinued.  Thanks to Mike at Platesource for the use of this photo.  


How often do you see a 1958 UZ-Class Truck plate?  How about two such plates in unused condition?  UZ class plates were part of the 3-axle truck series that went from RZ for the lightest trucks to ZZ for the heaviest.  These images were provided by Peter Cohen for the far left plate and Sal Dodd for the plate with the '62 validation sticker.


Posting 11/4/2018

Who would think that the first photo of a new plate type would be a vanity, but here is one that Tom Perri snapped of a Barren Hill Volunteer Fire Company plate.  This is not the first time this has happened.  Barren Hill serves Whitemarsh Township, Montgomery County and has a mailing address of Lafayette Hill, PA.


This is a recent night shot of a PA State Corrections Officers Association plate by Jordan Irazabal.  The photo is the first image of this plate type without the sticker well.  C/O00493 still has the sticker well and a sticker.  Tom Perri's website shows C/O00518 which does not appear to have the map outline.


This is a Fraternal Order of Police - Survivor plate.  I don't like plate frames, but in this case I understand the message.  These plates date back to 2012.  There are currently about 47 sequentially numbered plates registered, and an unknown number of personalized plates in use.  Thanks to Bruce Bufalini for the plate picture.


This is a new high, but only by a few numbers.  The U.S. Army Veteran plate type has been around since 2009, with a starting number of 10001A/R.  So more than 4000 serial numbered plates have been issued along with an unknown number of personalized plates.  There are also a much smaller number of U.S. Army Reserve plates, and U.S. Army (active duty) plates.  No active duty plates have been photographed yet.


"ZONK" says the owner of this Combat Infantryman Badge plate.  This plate type is one of a series of 5 combat action related plates that came about in 2014.  Note that this one has the small map outline.  Thanks to Jeff Lawson for the use of this photo.


This is a U.S. Submarine Veterans Inc. plate in a vanity format.  It also appears not to have a sticker well.  The absence of the sticker well was also noted on the most recent high 00167S/V back in September.  This plate was spotted by Jordan Irazabal.


The Registration Exemption sticker on the far left is used in place of a Farm Truck registration plate for certain qualifying vehicles.  They are issued by PennDOT and placed on the side of the vehicle near the driver’s door, and are limited to trucks that are used exclusively on and between certain prescribed distances or radii of farms.  There are 4 classes, each with different weight ratings, rules and restrictions. The yellow on red plate shown here is not an official plate, but something the owner made up, or had made up, to avoid being stopped for not having a plate.


This is a 1965 Miscellaneous Dealer plate in like-new condition.  None were dated that year.  1965 was the last year for the X-prefix Dealer plate, as well as the C-prefix Transit Dealer.  In 1966 it appears that both of these were combined into a new plate type called Motor Vehicle Business.  Thanks to Jeff Hinkle for sharing this photo.    


This 1978 Motor Vehicle Business plate has never been used, and is in near mint condition.  The short history on Motor Vehicle Business plates is that they were introduced in 1966, and continued until about 1984, when it was split into four groups, the largest of which was Repair/Service Towing. The others included Salvage Yard, Transporter and Repossessor.  Thanks to Tom Firth for the use of this photo.


This is a 1935 Format 2 Passenger plate.  That group consisted of plates from A to Z999 which measured 6" by 10", and A1000 to Z9999 which measured 6" by 12".  So it might appear that all of the 10" inch plates would have been issued before going to the 12" base, but this was not the case.  Each letter series was used in its entirety before the next letter.  For example the series progressed from A, A1 to A9, A10 to A99, A100 to A999, A1000 to A9999, then repeated the process with the letter B.  Thanks to Tim Gierschick for allowing me to go through his collection.


This is a 1940 Format 2 Passenger plate.  This group consisted of the series from A100 to Z9999.  This meant that 6 inch by 10 inch plates were issued for 4-character serials, and 6 inch by 12 inch plates were issued for 5-character plates as shown here.  This plate is thanks to eBay user MG0000.


Here is a 1954 non-standard issue Passenger plate.  Ned Flynn was offering this plate at a recent plate show, and proffered that this plate had been made for James Duff, Governor of PA from 1947 to 1951, then served as a U.S. Senator.  While combinations like this are common on today's plates, they were anything but at the time.


This is a rare 1928 Z-Class Truck plate.  For that year truck plates used R through Z weight classes, but without any identifying legend some plates could be confused with Passenger plates.  The difference was that most passenger plates were all-numeric, and those with an alpha prefix only went from A to E.  Thanks to Rob Baran for the use of this plate photo.


Here is a pair of 1953 Truck plates.  The far left plate is from the second of six groupings of R-weight class plates which includes the serial progression of R00A0 to R99Z9.  The V-class plate has a unique number and is part of the first of two serial progressions.  Both measure 6" x 10".  Thanks to Clayton Moore for the photos.


Here are three very welcome additions to the 1964 to '67 Truck plate series.  Beginning with the 1958 - '63 Truck series, there was a major expansion in truck plate classes.  These additional classes continued through the 1964 - '67 issue.  In addition to the 2 and 3-axle trucks, there were now 3 classes for 3-axle truck tractors, and 2 classes for 4-axle trucks.  Plates shown here include a U-Class 2-axle truck on the left from Platedog, a WT-class 3-axle truck tractor in the center from Drewski, and a ZX-class 4-axle truck on the right from Sal Dodd.


Posting 10/28/2018

It now appears that both the Barren Hill Volunteer Fire Company and the Philadelphia Centurions Motorcycle Club have a very small number of plates on the street.  So far no images have surfaced, and with so few plate in use, it may take a while.



This is a new Bus high that was spotted recently.  This plate is now without the sticker well, but no map outline yet.  Why this transition is done in stages is beyond me.  The use of the BA prefix dates back to 1968, but the numerical progression has been reused a few times when the series was reissued in 1972 and 1978.


Here is the most recent reported high Moped (MP) plate, yet it still has a 10-16 sticker.  You may wonder how can this be?  A plate availability check indicates the actual high is around CE796, suggesting that the rate of issue on Moped plates is very low.  According to the 2017 Report of Registrations, there were only 2,007 Mopeds registered in PA.  And yes, there are actually Moped Dealer (MPD) plates as well.  Thanks to Tom Firth for the use of this photo.


Here is another new high Repair Towing plate.  This series is believed to have started using the small map outline since RT-71900.  Those who have been around this hobby for a while may remember when this series started back around 1984 with REP / SER TOWING plates with the RS prefix.  Click here to see history. 


Here's a new high PA Breast Cancer Coalition plate photo taken by Jordan Irazabal.  Notice the plate now has the small map outline in the upper left corner.  This plate type was added back in July of 2005.  The previous high of B/C04749 did not appear to have the map.  It is unknown if there was a series of plates without the sticker well.


This U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary plate photo dates back to the end of 2016.  The picture was taken by Jordan Irazabal but never got posted. 



This may be a 1944 Governor plate.  It has been up for grabs on eBay by Pinkocolot.  This plate differs from other 1944 Governor plates which have 1944 PENNA across the top, whereas this has the legend stacked left and right on either side of the raised loaf.  This plate also appears to measure 6" by 11" whereas the other version of the Governor plates were 6" by 12".


This pair of low-number 1943 Motorboat and 1945 Motorboat plate photos was taken at the ALPCA Valley Forge Convention.  These were part John Willard's display.  These both measure 5⅛" by 9".  Motorboat plates are known for their ever-changing palette of colors.  Some collectors view such plates as not quite the real thing, but others find them very collectible.


This very nice 1922 Passenger plate was provided by Rob Baran.  This plate was previously shown on this website but at the time it had almost no paint and was tough to read.  Rob acquired the plate and gave it a nice facelift.  These plates are brown on cream, and plates with 1 to 3 digits measure 6 inches by 10 inches.


Next up is this 1928 Format 5 Passenger plate.  First image of this format which includes A1-000 to E9-999.  Since all are 5-character plates, they all measure 6 inches by 13 inches.  The use of alpha-prefix passenger plates began in 1924 and only extended to 'E'.  Thanks to eBay user Jeopardyboy1 for the use of this photo.


This is a 1926 Tractor plate from Tim Gierschick.  From 1924 through 1933 Tractor plates did not have any identifying plate legend, just the use of the prefix 'E' or 'TE', so likely some Tractor plates slipped through collectors' hands not realizing what they had.  Anyway, for 1926, plates could be E+1 digit to E+4 digits as shown here.  The size of the plate was determined by the length of the serial number ranging from 6" by 10", 6" by 12", and finally 6" by 13" as displayed here.  Check back next week for some additional plates from Tim.


One of the plates at Jake Eckenrode's outstanding display at the ALPCA Convention was this 1916 3-Star Truck tag.  The serial number, which would normally have been in the 24000 thru the 26000 range for 3-star plates has a leading zero (0).  This use of odd serial numbers has been seen on some other 3-star plates in the 03500 to 04299 range.  The reason for this is unclear to me — possibly overflow or replacement plates.


Next is this 1923 Commercial plate.  The term commercial was used to designate truck plates from 1920 through 1923.  It appears that the weight classes were indicated by the first digit of the serial number, in this case Class 3.  Eric Tanner theorizes that in the following year, 1924, that the numerical prefix system was replaced by the more familiar R thru Z prefix system which lasted through 1967.  Hopefully time and additional research will remove some of the uncertainty surrounding these early commercial plates.  Thanks to Clayton Moore for the use of this plate photo.


This is a 1928 S-Weight Class Truck plate.  From 1924 through 1933 truck plates were devoid of an identifying legend.  The R through Z in the first position said it was a truck.  The S-series ran from S-1 to around S6-500.  Click the link to see examples of the full S-series.  Passenger plates were mostly all numeric with some alpha-numeric tags using only A through E.  Thanks to Tim Gierschick for very enjoyable visit and a chance to photo some of his collection.


Here is a 1941 U-Weight Class Truck plate.  There were enough U-class trucks that year that these three serial progressions were needed — U000A, U00A0, U0A00, with this plate being part of the last.  All plates were 5 characters, measured 6" x 12", and were issued in pairs.  Thanks to Drewski for the use of this photo.


Posting 10/21/2018

First thing this week I want to apologize to Brandon Sowers and those who visit this website.  Last week I went out on a limb about this being a reserve issue Conserve Wild Resources - Otter plate.  After some discussion with Jordan Irazabal, I agree the under 01000 plates are not part of a reserve issue.  Brandon Sowers' plate was picked up at the counter.  What I still have trouble understanding is how a plate variation that began to be issued 11 months ago, and yet we have not seen any under 01000 plates until now.


Here's the latest high photo of a Fire Fighter plate.  The picture was taken by Bruce Bufalini in traffic.  He indicates that the plate still retains the sticker well.  It appears that the plate version shown here, with the flat screening of the Maltese Cross and the words FIRE FIGHTER started at FF38700.  A recent inventory sheet suggests the next batch of plate would start at FF39200, and could possibly usher in the map or and/or usher out the sticker box.


The far left photo is a recent Norwin Band Aides low number plate from Bruce Bufalini.  Next to it is a high number plate that was taken some years ago by Tom Perri.  The Norwin Band Aides is a parents and friends support group of the Norwin High School Band in Irwin, PA.


Here's another new high Person with Disability plate — this one recently spotted by Bruce Bufalini.  The small map outline was added to this series at 72000PD, and was first seen back in December of 2017.



Here's a recent Teen Driver vanity plate on a driver-training vehicle.  These plates have been available since late 2013; however plate sales have been sluggish.  It appears that a little over 70 serial-numbered plates have been issued in almost 5 years.  There is no way to estimate the number of vanities.  Speaking of vanities, this plate appears to read T/DJ0HNS, with the number zero (0) substituting for the letter 'O' in JOHN.  I'm fairly certain that a number of the Teen Driver plates went right in plate collections, and a few made it onto the street.  Thanks to Jeff Lawson for the photos.


The NASCAR 99 Carl Edwards story.  At first glance one would wonder what's the deal with three N99 plates, especially since they are all for the same driver.  It's not like the perspective plate buyer had a choice of colors, it's just different sponsors for different years.  Anyway the green N99 sample on the left has been added.  For now it's the closest thing to an actual plate.  A issued green 99 plate photo is still needed.  Thanks to Clayton Moore for the 99 Sample, and to Tom Perri for the red 99.  The white 99 in in my own collection.


Here's a new high Temporary Intransit cardboard plate.  These are issued to non-PA residents who are purchasing a vehicle in PA.  These have gone through a number of facelifts over the years.  The earliest history on these plates is very sketchy, but they may go back as far as 1941.  Click here for history.


These 1940 and 1941 Motorboat (MBL) plates are a continuation of posting of some of John Willard's display at the recent ALPCA Convention.  On the far left is a very nice 3-digit 1940 black on white plate.  Next is a 2-digits 1941 yellow on red plate.  These both measure 5⅛" by 9".  These were issued in pairs.


It ain't pretty, but it is considered the highest number 1915 Passenger plate.  This plate was part of a display by Ned Flynn at the ALPCA Valley Convention in July.  Ned put together a very comprehensive display of the many variations of the '15 Passenger series.  The plate shown here came up on eBay, and shattered the long-held belief that the series went to 165000.  Who would think that a new high would be discovered more that 100 years after it was issued, but such is the hobby.  Thanks Ned.


Next up is this 1930 Format 8 Passenger plate.  Format 8, which started at 0AA, is likely the final group produced that year.  This is the first plate photo I have from that series.  This plate was professionally refinished, and was made available thanks to eBay seller Tudor32.



This is a 1932 Format 7 Passenger plate.  Format 7 consisted of the progression of AA to ZZ999.  Plates could be as short as 2 characters and as long as 5.  Plates with 4 or fewer character measured 6 inches by 10 inches, while 5 characters required 12 inch plates.  This plates was spotted at a recent car show, and appears to be a YOM registration.


This 1919 5-Star Truck plate completes the truck series for that year.  1919 was also the final year where truck weight classes were identified with a system of 1 to 5 stars.  All truck plates used a C prefix plus 1 to 5 digits.  This plate measures 6 inches by 16 inches.  This photo came from Jake Eckenrode's early truck plate display at the ALPCA Convention.


Next up is this 1935 R-Weight Class Truck overflow plate.  In the original 1935 Design of Registration Plates document, there was no mention of 6-character, 15-inch plates.  All truck plates were planned around 5 characters and 12 inches in size.  Additional registrations required the use of 6 characters and a need for the longer plates.  This is also believed to have applied to S-class registrations.  Thanks to Drewski for the use of this photo.


This is a 1952 T-Weight Class Truck plate.  1952 used the long-established R through Z, and RZ through ZZ weight classes.  That year the T-class used 2 serial formats, T000A and T00A0.  All plates were 5 characters and measured 6 inches by 11 inches.  This was also the first year for plates to be issued as singles.  Thanks to Clayton Moore for the use of this plate photo.


Posting 10/14/2018

This recent Boy Scouts of America plate photo was made available by Brandon Sowers.  This plate is considered a new high and it is also the first plate identified without the sticker recess.  That sticker box was last seen on 00155B/S.  Unless additional plates in that range are spotted there is no way to know at what point the change took place.  The same can be said for future plates, when the map outline makes its appearance.


Here's another very nice plate photo, also from Brandon Sowers.  This Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation plate is the first to be identified with the small map outline.  The previous high with the sticker well was E/F00400.  Like the plate above, there is no way to know at what point the change took place.  This plate type dates back to 2005.  PA does have an elk herd.  The native herd had been extirpated by the 1870s, and they were reintroduced to PA in the early 1900s.  The reintroduced elk came from the Rocky Mountains, and today reside in and around Elk County.


I do believe that this is the lowest number Conserve Wild Resources - Otter plate spotted with this scaled down otter graphic.  From what I can gather, this current series started at R/C01001 for regular issue; however, that does not explain this under 1000 plate.  As we have seen with a number of other plates, there is group of plates held in reserve.  These are generally made available to those involved in the plate program or some other distinction.  A big thank you to Brandon Sowers for the photo.  See correction on 10/21.


Here's a recent photo of Severely Disabled Veteran plate.  It's the lowest number spotted without the sticker well in this latest series.  While the sticker wells may have gone, it seems unlikely that this plate or the Disabled Veteran plate will ever see the small map outline.  The formatting of these plates was established by legislation which specified colors and fonts, etc., and therefore not likely to switch to the 'family of plates' look.  Thanks to Jordan Irazabal for the photo.


This is a NASCAR 42 Jamie McMurray sample plate from Clayton Moore.  This plate type was issued only for the 2004 and 2005 racing seasons, with only 15 plates being issued.  So far no issued plates have been photographed.  While the sample is close in many respects, issued plates would have started at N/4/20101.


Here's another Auto Wheel plate in this series added a few weeks ago.  As mentioned previously, there are still unanswered questions about this strange plates type, but again thanks to Ned Flynn for unveiling so much of the cloak of mystery surrounding this plate.  There are still a number of years for which I don't have photos.


At the recent ALPCA Convention in Valley Forge, John Willard displayed a very nice collection of Motorboat plates.  Previously I posted several Motorboat Dealer plates with the X-prefix.  Over the next several weeks I will add more Motorboat plates beginning with this 4-digit 1933 MBL plate.  MBL = Motorboat License.  For that year plates could have 1 to 4 digits, white on maroon in color, measured 6" by 12", had beveled edges, and were issued in pairs. 


Next is this 1938 Motorboat License.  Beginning in 1937 plates were scaled back in size to 5⅛ inches by 9 inches.  Colors on this '38 plate were white on dark blue.  The numerical sequence could be 1 to 4 digits and are all-numeric.  The MBL identifier, which was later shortened to MB, sometimes causes confusion between Motorboat and Motorbike.  Motorbike plates used MB thru 1949 after which they was discontinued.  Motorboat plates used MBL thru 1954, then switched to MB in 1955 and subsequent years.  Thanks to John Willard for the display.


The final John Willard Motorboat License for this week is this 1939 MBL.  '39 used the same size as the '38 above.  Note that the colors are distinctively different every year.  Click the link above to see a single digit, 3-digit and this 4 digit plate.  Check back next week for more.



This is a 1930 Format 7 Passenger plate.  That group had formatting that ranged from AA to ZZ999, so 2, 3, 4 and 5-character plates were produced.  Click the link to see examples of that series.  2, 3 and 4-character plates measured 6 inches by 10 inches, while 5-character plates were 6" by 12 inches.  This plate was spotted at a car show in use as a YOM plate.


In these weekly additions, we have this 1918 5-Star Truck plate.  This was part of Jake Eckenrode's ALPCA Valley Forge display which included the first 6 years of truck plates, from 1914 to 1919, which also included all of the years where weight classes were designated by the number of stars on the plate.  5-star plates are generally considered the toughest to find.  Thank you Jake.


Continuing with Truck plates we have this 1936 W-Class.  Beginning with 1934 truck plates had the word TRUCK as part of the legend.  Class W plates were part of the R to Z series for 2-axle trucks, and consisted of the format W000A as the only W class serial progression that year.  This plate measures 6 inches by 12 inches and was provided courtesy of eBay user MG00000.


This is a 1939 W-Weight Class Truck plate.  All plates that year used a 5-character serial number, with the series using the traditional R through Z (without the X), for 2-axle trucks, then RZ through ZZ (again without using XZ) for 3-axle vehicles.  All plates measured 6 inches by 12 inches.  My thanks to Mike at eBay MG00000.




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John McDevitt, Walnutport, PA

ALPCA #4376