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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 8/21/2016

This very distinctive looking number 1 U.S. Air Force Veteran is not the first plate off the press, rather it's an extra cost vanity.  The image was taken recently by Jordan Irazabal and Tom Perri.  Very nice, thank you for sharing.


In case you were wondering what a Commercial Implement of Husbandry vehicle looks like, here's a pair of images on the far left.  The first is a granular fertilizer or lime spreader, the next is a sprayer.  They are ag implements that do commercial applications of fertilizer and spray materials.  There are other vehicle types with such plates, and there are similar vehicles with other types of plates.  Inconsistency is fairly consistent.  The plate image is a new high and was taken recently by Jordan Irazabal and Tom Perri.

If this piques your interest, check out Implement of Husbandry plates.


This is a Retired State Legislator plate from Bruce Bufalini.  There are 203 legislative districts in PA, although the districts tend to get carved up differently about every 10 years or so.  I think, in general, a retired legislator can get the same number as the district he or she served.  Of course for districts below 100 leading zeros are used so as not to conflict with current State Senator plates and the first generation of Retired State Senator plates.  Not sure what happens where there is more than one retiree from the same district.  I have never seen one of these with the P/A in the suffix position.


The new high Jefferson Fire Company plate was provided by Colin M.  These plates have been on the street since 2010.  Jefferson Fire is located outside of Norristown.



Colin M. also provided this low number West Catholic High School plate picture.  Their plate program dates back to 1997.  Since this plate had its start on the yellow on blue base, then later reissued on the www base.  New plates that were issued after the replacement process saw a jump in numbering with this series starting at W/C01000.  I still need one of those later plate pictures.  West Catholic has not moved to the newer graphic style plates.  


These are both NASCAR 29 Kevin Harvick plates.  They are only 17 numbers apart, yet the graphic 29 is different.  The low numbered plate (0143) was issued for the 2004 thru 2006 racing season with GM Goodwrench sponsorship, while the high numbered plate (0160) was issued for 2007 and 2008 with Shell Gasoline sponsoring.  Exactly what number signaled the change is unknown, but there are no significant gaps in the intervening sequence of plates.  The low number plates was posted previously, while the high plate was recently photographed by Jordan Irazabal and Tom Perri.


This isn't the first time I've photographed this plate.  The last time it was wearing an 8/06 sticker and a more intrusive plate frame.  This is a NASCAR 12 Ryan Newman plate issued for the 2004 thru 2006 racing seasons with a total of about 68 plates being issued.  While these are no longer being issued they can still be renewed.


The far left number 1 Expeditionary Forces Veteran plate picture is from Colin M.  These plates first came out in 1995 and while the plate itself appears to be in good condition, there is paint fade especially along the bottom.  These plates have gone thru a couple changes as noted in the center plate above in 2013 or early 2014, then later in '14 the graphic version on the visitPA base was released.  The center plate is courtesy of Brendan Sherry and the newest plate is thanks to Ryan Battin.  The current high is in the 27-hundred series according to the Pa Plates website.


This 1OF1, that's '1 of 1' Antique Vehicle plate is a vanity.  PA does not issue the letter 'O' as part of progressive serial numbers.  We also know it's an O rather than a 0 (zero) since letters are not as tall as numbers.  Thanks to Steve Ondik for the picture.


Continuing to add Suburban plates to the Plate History Section 2 page.  This 1960 plate has the Suburban plate legend and a serial number from the Press Photographer series.  Press Photographer plates never had Press Photographer as the legend.  This plate was provided by Chuck Harrington.



Posting 8/14/2016

Act 36 of 2016 created the “Share the Road” registration plate which became available on August 8, and will be listed as a Special Fund plate.  Proceeds are to maintain PennDOT's central office position of Bicycle and Pedestrian Coordinator (salary $51,443 - $78,103) as well as funding highway bicycle signage.  Cost of the plate is $40.  It is also available as a vanity for an additional $100.  So far no plates are in use.


Here's the latest high DeSales University plate.  The DeSales University plate program has been around since late 2011.



Colin M. provided this number 4 Malvern Fire Company plate image.  This would also be considered the new high for this plate type.  Malvern Fire has had a plate program since 2008.  You probably know my feelings about plate frames.  Colin has sent me quite an assortment of plate images, and I plan to post several of these with next week's update.


Here's a pair of recently photographed vanities.  The vertical Motorcycle plate reads E-V-zero-8-Oh.  Standard issue plates do not use the letter O.  The picture is from Bruce Bufalini.  The Dealer vanity is a little more obvious.  It also uses the number zero.  On full size plates numbers are slightly larger than letters.  This plate picture was provided by Brendan Sherry.




Here's a recent high number Antique Historic Vehicle on the recently changed alpha-numeric format.  After reaching 9ZZ9, the format changed to 0A00.  The alpha character is the last to advance.



A couple more images from the Macungie car show.  These are Antique Historic Vehicle vanities.  It's been said before, but the redundancy of placing the words "Antique Historic Vehicle" and "Antique Vehicle" on the same plate makes no sense.  Also are the words Pennsylvania and PA both necessary?  Up to 5 characters are permitted for vanities.


Here's a trio of Classic Car / Classic Vehicle plates.  The plate on the far left is a recent photo of the lowest documented plate of this series which began in 1977 at 10000, the center plate is the highest plate spotted on the original base.  The C37278 plate is the latest high on the newer redundant legend series.  This photo is from Bruce Bufalini


This very nice 1949 New Car Dealer plate image was added to the Dealer History section.  The plate is in use as a YOM tag.




Harry Campbell has contributed many older Motorcycle plate pictures recently.  He has also sent information on a dozen and a half motorcycle plates issued during the '71 to '76 run.  From that a spreadsheet was put together helping to establish at what point plates were switched from steel to aluminum, in addition, early plates were painted blue on the reverse side, then were changed to blue, but not at the same time as the switch to aluminum.  All of these changes took place during the initial run from 0A000 - 9Z999.  Click link to see the breakdown.  Further refinement on the transition points is still needed.


Suburban plates have added to the Plate History Section 2 page as a new category.  You may remember these plates if you were born before 1960.  They only had a short run from 1960 thru 1964 and were used on station wagons.  Today the term station wagon has somewhat fallen out of use in favor of newer labels such as SUV, minivan or crossover.  I guess they were considered one step below a truck which at the time used alpha prefixes to designate the weight class starting with R, so presumably stations wagons, being lighter, used  the letter Q.  So many station wagons were registered over the period that many permutations and combinations were used with the letter Q.  There were also Amateur Radio and Press Photographer Suburban plates without the Q.  I will be adding more plates over the next couple weeks.



Posting 8/7/2016

This number 1 U.S. Army Reserve plate is a very unusual sighting.  You may say, another number 1 plate, so what!  Here's the storey.  Back in 1987 U.S. Army Reserve plates were first issued on the yellow on blue base. Then in 2000 all plates were reissued on the www base, and the newly issued plates started at A/R1000; however, those who originally had A/R0001 through A/R0010 had the opportunity to keep the same tag number. The following plates were reissued on the www base: A/R0001, A/R0003, A/R0004, A/R0005, A/R0008 and A/R0010.  This plate is one of those six issued in 2000, and it's the only one still on the road today.  The military reserve plates including Air Force Reserve, Army Reserve, Marine Reserve, Navy Reserve and Coast Guard Reserve plus the National Guard, have always been classified as organizational plates rather than veterans' plates.  Thanks go to Brian Craig for the use of the picture.




Here's the latest Lycoming College high number.  This plate program dates back to 2010.  Lycoming is located in Williamsport, PA.  Thanks to Jeff Lawson for the image.



Here's another nice find from Jeff Lawson.  Check the West Point Alumni photo gallery to also see the W/P0000 plate and the W/P0001 plate.  West Point is one of a small group of organizational plates using a four-digit serial number.



Spotted this high number plate from Waynesburg University in my travels.  This plate program has been around since 2011.




This high number PA State Corrections Officers Association picture was provided by Jeff Lawson.  These plates have been around for about 10 years.



Tom Perri snapped this first image of a Rose Tree Fire Company No. 1.  Rose Tree got their plate program listed by PennDOT in December of 2015, with the first plates on the street in June of this year.



Moved Communities in Schools Pennsylvania from the Miscellaneous Organizational Plates Page to the Educational Plates Page.  The group has no plates in use yet.



Update on the Liquid Fuels P. or O. Permit plate from Eric Tanner, former ALPCA Archivist.  These were not used on vehicles, but were actually mounted on gasoline pumps at gas stations.  That explains why there were so many issued, as well as the additional mounting holes.  Eric indicated that the law was first effective July 1, 1937, and the license year was 7/1 to 6/30. The 1937 plate should probably have been dated "37-38" but that was not fixed until the next year.  Another law was passed 5/26/39 repealing this act, so that is why there are only 2 plate [years] in the run for this type.  Eric plans to do more research on the law but believes it was related to some kind of gasoline tax for sellers. Other states had similar laws and plates at the time, such as the NJ Motor Fuel Dealer etc.  Mr. Tanner also theorizes that the meaning of the "P. or O." might mean Petrol or Oil, which if true, would indicate the dealer could sell both.  He has not seen any other type of plate that restricted the seller to just one or the other, but that is something we can find out from the original law, which was passed on June 2, 1937.  Thank You Eric.


These two 1931 Motorcycle plates were provided by Harry Campbell.  These consist of a 4-digit numeric plate and an alpha-numeric plate.  Together these make a group of five 1931 motorcycle plates.  For now this ends the long run of plates provided by Harry Campbell, although I do have some other plate related material that may be added in the future.  I owe quite a debt of gratitude to Harry for so many images.  As stated previously there is at least 1 plate for every yearly issue and every multi-year plate, however, more needs to be done with M/C Dealer plates.  I want to also recognize the following for helping with images and information: Tim Stentiford, Dave Lincoln, Clayton Moore, Jerry McCoy, Tiger Joe Sallmen, Bob Connison, Edward F. Jones, ebay user luv2wheels, Aimee Senott, Chuck Sakryd, Jeff Hinkle, Tim Gierschick and Bill Pratt.



Posting 7/31/2016

Here's a prototype or conceptual image of the pending Share the Road plate.  The legislation authorizing this plate has been signed into law by the Governor as Act 36.  The plates should be available on or about August 7th or 8th.



Rescue Hose Company No. 1 is getting into the plate business with this prototype.  They are located in Greencastle, Franklin County, which is southwest of Harrisburg near where I-81 crosses the Maryland state line.  There are no plates in use yet.



Here's an International Association of Fire Fighters  plate from George Kunsman that fills a gap in the formatting.  When the yellow on blue plates were first issued in 1993, they were likely issued up to P/F02860 by the time the plate changeover took place on 6/27/2001.  That group of plates was then reissued on a number for number basis on the www base up to the plate shown here.  Plates issued following the reissue started at P/F03500 leaving a gap in the plate number sequence.


Here's a very nice pair of Syria AAONOMS plates.  These were seen on eBay and the owner, Michael Natter of Studio 1908 gave me the OK to use the photo. This Syria Shriners facility is located a little northeast of Pittsburgh.  As a result I don't ever recall seeing one of these plates on the east side of PA.  Judging by the number the yellow on blue plates was likely issued in 1986.  The tag legend AAONMS stands for Ancient Arabic Order of the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine.



Here's a U.S. Air Force Veteran vanity plate image taken by Arthur Levine, and my attempt to crop and skew the image.




Here's the latest Pennsylvania State University official plate.  These are used on university-owned vehicles.  This nice photo was taken by Tom Perri, keeper of the Pennsylvania Highs Page,  Pitt, Temple and Lincoln University also have their own official plates.  There are 14 other universities that are part of the PA State System of Higher Education that use the more common Official Use plates. 


And another high, this one from Jordan Irazabal shows the latest Special Mobile Equipment plate.  These are generally seen on specialized equipment that does most of it's work off-road, but may also do incidental travel on the roadway.



Here's the low and high International Union of Operating Engineers.  The # 1 photo was taken some time ago by Tom Perri and Jordan Irazabal, while the most recent plate image was provided by Jordan Irazabal.



I've added Liquid Fuels P. or O. Permit as a new category on Plate History Section 1.  The plate legend suggests it is a permit possibly issued to a liquid fuel hauler or supplier.  Unfortunately not a lot seems to be known about the plate, although judging by its motorcycle plate size, it was not the primary plate on the vehicle.  I'm going to guess that it likely was not issued by the BMV, but rather by another state agency.  These plates also have an additional set of holes for a total of six.  For 1937 I have seen plate number ranging from 11000 to 69000.  These plates are only known for a '37 issue and a '38-'39 issue.  The colors are the same as other plates for those years.  I have posted a couple pictures but I'm hoping for some feedback explaining the P. and O. and the use of the plates. 


This very nice, 2-digit 1942 Motorbike plate picture was provided by Harry Campbell.  You didn't think is was a Motorboat plate, did you!?  Motorboat plates at the time used MBL as their identifier.  Motorbike plates were intended to be used on what we'd call Mopeds today.  These MB plates were very similar to Motorcycle or MC plates at the time.  One big difference is the number of plates issued with Motorbikes being a small fraction compared to Motorcycle plates.


I doubt that there is a better looking 1922 Motorcycle plate.  While some prefer plates in their natural state, this plate has been restored to its original condition, the colors being brown on cream.  Some 19-thousand plates were issued beginning with # 1 and going to 5 numbers since all plates were numeric at the time.  Click the link above to see a 4-digit plate.  Thanks again to Harry Campbell for supplying so many Motorcycle, Motorcycle Dealer plus a few other plates



Posting 7/24/2016

Here's an image of the latest high Honoring Our Veterans Motorcycle plate.  As I said in the past, I was happy to see graphic features had finally arrived on motorcycle plates but very disappointed that the wide numeric fonts left so little space for the symbol that it looks like a postage stamp.  They could have done better.  Thanks to Jordan Irazabal for the picture.


This very nice University of Scranton plate image was provided by Steve Ondik.  This series started at U/S10000, and has they have been in the plate business since 1995, and switching to the visitPA base in 2006.



The Kutztown University plate on the far left was a live traffic shot from Steve Ondik.  The plate on the near left was taken by me some months ago.  This is not a new discovery, but look how the number on the near left plate jumps by some 9000 numbers.  It appears that the series went from 01476 to 10477, apparently an error, but now the error continues.  Note, this occurrence is also seen in the Clarion University plates and the Lock Haven University series.


I don't do a lot with Passenger Vanities but thought these were worth posting.  The all-X picture is from Nick Tsilakis, the other, believed to be a phone number, I spotted in traffic recently.  Today the use of vanities has been expanded to allow almost all plates types including Truck, Trailer, Motor Home, Dealer types, Veterans' plates and many more.  There are some weight restrictions.


The current high number Person with Disability is 61759PD according to Tom Perri's website,  Yet here are plates in the 98-thousand series.  Simple explanation — a while back it was authorized that vehicle owners who had a device on the rear of the vehicle for carrying a wheelchair or personal assistive device were authorized to get two plates since the assistive device carrier may block visibility of the vehicle mounted plate.  Click the image of the far left and the second plate can be seen above and behind the other.  The two far left images are courtesy of Nick Tsilakis and near left image is from Bruce Bufalini.

This 2-plate option is also available to users of Disabled Veteran and Severely Disabled Veteran plates beginning at DV-79000 and D/V98000 respectively.  The two-plate option extends to vanities for these two plate classes.


Here the latest high Municipal plate.  This one happens to be on a Ford Explorer Police Interceptor, but these plates can be used on everything from 18-wheelers to fire trucks to street sweepers.  This image was provided by Brendan Sherry.





Here's another gem from Harry Campbell's collection.  This 1936 Motorcycle plate is a great example of the alpha-numeric configuration.  Some 11,900 plates were issued that year so the plate sequence likely extended well into the B series.  1936 plates had embossed borders but they were not painted.  Clink the link above to see 4 examples of '36 plates.


Next we switch focus to dealer plates beginning with this 1955 Motorcycle Dealer plate.  Harry Campbell has been very supportive in helping to fill many gaps in the motorcycle dealer plate series.  I don't believe the MCD plates went to 4 digits until multi-year plates made their debut in the 1958 to '61 run.


This pair of 1966 Motorcycle Dealer plates raised a couple questions.  For starters 1966 plates were supposedly single year plates, since new MCD plates were issued in 1967.  Since new plates were issued in '67, why would some plates be a '66 base with a '67 validation sticker?  We really don't know if the '66 - stickered '67 was renewed for 1967 or if it was issued new in '67.  By comparison, there were 1966 Motor Vehicle Business plates plates issued (or renewed?) with '67, '68 and '69 stickers even though there were plates issued for '67, '68 and '69.


Here are some group displays from Jeff Hinkle.  They are different shots of the same wall display.  Since they show large groupings of plates.  I have not reduced the dimensions of the original images which are 2592 x 1937 pixels, so the expanded image may load slowly.  These images have been added to the Group Displays page.


This is the first image of a 1916 Trailer plate on this website, thanks to Judd Clemens.  Everyone has their own opinion as to whether this plates should be refinished or left in its current state.  Originally this plate would have been black on orange.  It is unknown how many of these plates were issued but the number runs at least to T427.  The size is believed to be 6" x 13"; however, T+1 or 2 digits are believed to be shorter.  If you happen to be a member of ALPCA, there are some additional '16 Trailer plate images in the Archives.





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Images and photos are always welcome.  Please send to:

John McDevitt, Walnutport, PA

ALPCA #4376