Brendan Sherry points out the fact
that PA still has millions of cars on the road with the state's website,
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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"
where the SME is in the suffix
location. Later plates with the SME suffix used the block style
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
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
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.
Bill Stephens snapped this first image of a
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
Here's another image of an In God We Trust
plate, courtesy of Ryan Battin. This plate is also considered the current
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.
The answer to the PA Plate Trivia question from last
week. Pennsylvania still issues 3 Motorcycle plate types with the
outline. These include
This is not to say that there are not other older issues still on the road such
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.
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 Platesource.com,
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.