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Pennsylvania License Plate History & Images

John McDevitt, Walnutport, PA

ALPCA #4376

 

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Posting 6/17/2018

Here's a very nice photo of a recent Organ Donors Save Lives vanity plate.  Note the map outline attesting to its newness.  The Organ Donor plate was one of the first plates to use the color graphic format.  They were first seen on 10/27/2004.  Since that time almost 1,900 plates have been registered.  Thanks to Bruce Bufalini for sharing this image. 

 


On the far left is a recent photo of a NASCAR 88 Dale Jarrett.  It would have been issued for the 2004 or 2005 racing season, and it is the highest number documented so far.  The sample plate on the near left represents a 2006 variation of the 88 graphic possibly due to a change in sponsorship.  So far it has not been determined how many of the 2006 plates were issued, if any.  With so many unanswered questions about NASCAR plates, the final history may never be written.  Thanks to Jeff Lawson for the 0173 photo, and Paul Bagnarol for the sample. 

 


This pair of sequential Municipal Government plates are believed to be the latest reported high numbers.  As you may recall, this new Municipal plate format started at M/G9000J, and was first seen in early February 2017.  Thanks to Steve Noll for the photos. 

 


This Severely Disabled Veteran plate was spotted by Nick Tsilakis who remarked that this may be a remake of an old base or the owner is a Trekkie.  Both the Disabled Veteran and Severely Disabled Veteran vanities seem popular, as I'm sure there's a story behind each one.

 


Sorry, it's barely recognizable, but it is a new high Permanent Trailer plate.  This plate type made its debut back in 1997 with its yellow on blue colors.  The plate type until recently always had a sticker well but never had a sticker since the plates are permanent, but for the last 10 months the plates have the small map outline in the upper left.

 


Clayton Moore has shared a group of older Tractor plates including this 1920.  The legend TRACTOR along the bottom of the plate makes identification easy. The 'E', for Engine, is another identifying feature which had been used on all Tractor plates since they started in 1914 up through 1923.  It appears that all 1920 Tractor plates measured 6" by 16", with the original colors being white on black.  Click the link above to see several others. 

 


Here's a 1921 Tractor also from Clayton.  This plate had been on this site previously under a different owner.  The 'E' prefix and 6 inch by 16 inch size is the same as the 1921 plate above.  After the serial number hit E1-000, a dash separator was added.  Plate colors are black on yellow.

 


Do you recognize this as a 1927 Tractor plate?  The E is the identifier, short for engine or traction engine — an early term. They're kind of rare, rare enough in fact that this is only the second 5-character plate I've seen from 1927.  So in spite of there being a hole in the plate, it's a great find, and does help to confirm plate size and formatting.  Thanks to Clayton Moore for the use of his plate photo.  Check back next week for more of Clayton's plates.

 


The 1930 Truck plate is likely one of the most difficult to collect, or even identify.  There is no legend saying Truck, and no weight class prefix letter as in earlier or later years.  The final 2 letters designate weight class for 1930.  In this case this is a Class R, which was authorized to run from 01AA to 999FZ.  The R thru ZZ class system was still in place but identification was much more cryptic, and not shown on the plates.  This plates measures 6" by 12", but 4-character plates were 6" by 10".  Thank you to Peter Cohen for sharing this plate photo and so many others.

 


Next in line is this 1931 Truck plate.  Apparently the 1930 experiment with puzzling serial numbers was discarded in favor of a more logical system.  The new formatting used the weight class as the prefix, in this case R, then used another letter in the number in order to hold the plates to 5 characters.  The colors were yellow on dark blue, and all plates are believed to be 6 inches by 12 inches.  Another gracious thank you to Peter Cohen for sharing this plate photo.

 


By 1932 Truck plate size went back to 6 inches by 15 inches.  All plates contained 6 characters, with the first character representing the weight class.  So the T-class, as shown here, would have run from T10-000 to under T50-000, however the plates were likely authorized as high as T99-999 if needed.  This is another Peter Cohen plate photo.

Just for fun, here's another pair of 1932 plates.  The plate legend is the same, the 'T' prefix is the same, but has a different meaning.  If you haven't figured it out, these are Trailer plates.  Since the 'T' prefix did double duty, the number of digits is the deciding factor.  These trailer plate photos were provided by Eric Tanner.

 


Posting 6/10/2018

Back in March the Antique Vehicle plate 3W34 was documented without the sticker well and without the small map outline.  This is after plates in the R, S, V and Z series were know to have the map outline.  Recently Bruce Bufalini photographed three additional W-series plates at a recent event all with the map outline missing.  Not sure what's happening, but plate production is inconsistent.  We need to see plates in the T, U-series (if there was a U-series), W, X and Y.  The 3W34 plate was from Ryan Battin.

 


Here's the latest high number Classic Vehicle, also spotted by Bruce Bufalini.  These plates added the small map outline at C40900 and it appears that they have stayed the course, unlike the plates above.  The difference between antique and classic registration is that an antique must have been manufactured more that 25 years ago, while a classic requires 15 years.

 


Here's a new high Emergency Vehicle plate.  These plates are generally seen on fire department and EMS vehicles, although Municipal plates are also seen.  They are fee-exempt.  There is also a lower tier of EV plates, those in the EV-30000 range, that are issued when a registration fee is required.

 


The PA Society Sons of American Revolution plate program dates back to late 2006.  The number of these plates registered is under 200.  It is unknown if any vanities exist, or if the map outline has made an appearance yet.

 

 


This Appalachian Trail Conservancy vanity plate was recently spotted by Jordan Irazabal.  This plate type dates back to 2014.  Did you know the AT stretches 229 miles mainly through the south east to south central portions of PA?  The plates cost $52, more for personalization.  The current listed high is AT00325.

 


Here is a Radnor Fire Company of Wayne plate.  Their plate program goes back to 2013.  I think this plate would be a new reported high for this series.  This plate was recently spotted by Jordan Irazabal.

 

 


This is likely one of the very last PA Permanent Fleet stickers issued, that is based on the belief that Fleet stickers were discontinued at the end of 2016 as were other stickers.  Thanks to Steve Noll for the photo from a Duquesne Light fleet vehicle.

 

 


This photo helped provide a needed image of a 1914 Format 2 plate.  Format 2 were all 3-dgit plates ranging from 100 to 999, and all measured 6 inches by 10 inches.  The plates were porcelain and were made by the Brilliant Manufacturing Co. of Philadelphia.  This was a John Willard & John Anshant plate.

 


Here's a 1924 Format 2 Passenger plate, which were 5-digit plates.  This plate helps narrow the point at which the strap slots were discontinued which is likely somewhere between this plate and the 35000 series.  Tim Gierschick comments that he never seen a tractor, trailer, truck, omnibus plate from 1924 with a slot, but he has seen home-made slots on these plates up to and including 1929.  Interesting — and one of those things that make the hobby interesting, and deserves more follow-up.  Thanks to Pinkocelot for the use of the photo.

 


Here's a photo of a nicely preserved 1930 3-digit Passenger plate.  It's part of Format 1, which ran from 1 to 99999.  This plate measures 6 inches by 10 inches.  That size was used for 1 to 4 digit plates.  5 digit plates were 6 inches by 12 inches, with that being the largest size used that year on passenger plates.  The owner of the photo gave me the OK to use it but did now wish credit.

 


Back to older Truck plates starting with this 1926 S-Class tag.  The weight class series ran from R to Z skipping X, with R being the lightest weight.  The S-Class series likely ran from S-1 to above S33-000.  The size of the plate depended on the number of characters in the serial number — 6" by 10" for 2 and 3 characters, 6" by 12" for 4 characters, 6" by 13" for 5 characters, although some 5-character plates were 6" by 15", and 6" by 15" for 6 characters as shown here.  Thanks to Peter Cohen for the plate photo.

 


The R to Z lettered weight classification system for 1927 Trucks is similar to the '26 above.  The V-Class ran from V-1 to at least as high as the plate shown here.  The size of the plate depended on the number of characters in the serial number — 6" by 10" for 1 to 4 characters, 6" by 13" for 5 characters, although some 5-character plates were 6" by 15", and 6" by 15" for 6 characters as shown here.  This is another one of those oddities that make this hobby enjoyable.  Another nod to Peter Cohen for his generosity in sharing so many truck plates. 

 


Again the weight classification system for 1928 Trucks was similar to the plates above.  Here is an R-Class plate with 5 characters.  The R progression would have started at R-1 and went to R99-999, then the R prefix was shifted to the suffix position, 1-R, etc.  Click the link above to see all three plate sizes and 2 to 6 character serial formats.  Another thank you goes out to Peter Cohen.

 


We finish this week with this 1929 U-Class Truck plate.  The U class took its place in the R to Z progression, but a ZZ class was added for heavier weight trucks.  The plate shown here being 5 characters in length is also 13 inches in length.  There were also 10-inch and 15-inch plates for those with shoeter and longer serial numbers.  Again I wish to thank Peter Cohen for this and more plates to come.

 


Posting 6/3/2018

This is a vanity edition of a Bronze Star plate.  The standard edition is 5 digits plus the B/Z suffix, the personalized or vanity can be had with up to 5 letters and/or numbers with the flat screened B/Z suffix.  Vietnam 101st Airborne?  You decide.  Thank you to Jordan Irazabal for the plate photo.

 


Here's an interesting pair of sequentially numbered Animal Friends plates.  The far left plate, which was spotted back in April, does not have the small map outline, while the other more recent plate photo does.  Bruce Bufalini took both of the photos.  The graphic organizational plates are produced upon receipt of an order, not produced and kept on inventory.

 


College and university plate programs are fairly plentiful, but high school plate programs not so much.  Here we have a low number LaSalle College High School.  These have been on the street since 2005, with the current reported high of L/S00134.  The plate shown here was recently spotted by Jeff Lawson.

 


Here is a pair of low-numbered Villanova University Alumni Assoc. plates.  These would have originally issued on the yellow on blue base, then reissued in July 2001.  The far left plate was borrowed from Tom Perri, while the near left plate is from Jeff Lawson.  There is also a later version of the Villanova University plate on the graphic base, but with the V/U in the suffix position.

 


To the average driver there may be nothing special about this plate.  It's not a high or a low, but a Repossessor plate is definitely not one you see on the road every day.  It's also one of PA rarest Dealer types.  I thought the name on the side of the truck of 'Financial Adjusters' kind of says it all.

 


These are recent National Rifle Association plates.  The serial numbers are only 13 plates apart, but the 0841 plate has an obvious space between the serial number and the NRA suffix.  In fact the 0841 is also shifted to the right.  This was not seen in any earlier plates.  The 0828 plate is courtesy of Brandon Sowers, while the 0841 plate was previously posted, and was provided by Steve Ondik.

 


The Ruffed Grouse Society plate program dates back to 2005 with some 140 sequential plates registered.  This is the first personalized or vanity edition I've seen.  Note that the 5 is the only embossed character on the plate, all other characters are flat screened.  It does make you wonder how long until the entire process goes flat.  Thanks to Jordan Irazabal for the nice photo.

 


Probably not much chance of PennDOT running out of these plates anytime soon.  After all, it appears that these sequential plates are the latest high numbers in the Teen Driver plate series which dates back to 2013.  This is considered an optional plate similar to the In God We Trust plate.  The Teen Driver has a bargain price tag of $11, as long as you don't decide to go vanity which adds another $104.  On the other hand, the In God We Trust plate goes for $21.  Also $104 to personalize it.  The In God We Trust plate have over 1000 plates registered so far.  I wouldn't be surprised if the Teen Driver plate program was discontinued.  Thanks to Barefoot Jaime for the photo.

 


Here's the latest high Temporary Intransit plate spotted by Jordan Irazabal.  The photo was added to the Miscellaneous plates page and the N to Z History page.  It may be worth mentioning that there are some fake or counterfeit Temporary plates out there, usually with the wrong font or the an out of range serial number.

 


First time I've seen one of these Superior Court plates with an embossed keystone and the word JUDGE.  It appears that at one time the plate had the state coat of arms in the center of the keystone.   At one time I had a Superior Court plate with with a brass keystone and state seal.  Click link to see image.  Unfortunately there are no photos of actual Superior Court plates prior to 2000.  They did exist.  Thanks to Lee Madigan for sharing this and other photos.

 


This week we have a few more older Trailer plates starting with this 1951 Format 4 shown here.  Format 4 consisted of the serial progression of 00A0 to 99Z9.  All plates were 4 characters that year; however one source indicates that there were 5-digit plates toward the end of production, while another source does not support that.  It's one of those mysteries that makes the hobby interesting.  All plates were 6 inches by 11 inches.  Thanks to Bob Connison for providing this photo.

 


Next in line is this 1953 Format 6 Trailer plate.  Format 6 plates were all 5 digits.  Beginning in 1953 the plates were reduced in width from 11 inches down to 10 inches as part of a cost saving measure.  Even with the narrower plate, 5 numeric characters were squeezed into the available space.  Another thank you to Bob Connison for providing this photo.

 


The final trailer plate for this week is this 1954 Format 5.  This is one of 6 serial progressions.  This serial format includes 000A to 999Z.  This plate is also a continuation of the 6 inch by 10 inch plates used during 1953, '54 and '55.  This calls for another thank you to Bob Connison for providing this photo.

 


This is a 1922 Commercial plate.  The term Commercial has been used interchangeably with the term Truck over the years.  In fact the use of the word Truck was not actually used as part of the plate legend until 1934.  Based on research done by Eric Tanner it appears that there were likely 8 truck weight classes which were identifiable by the first digit in the plate serial number, making this a Class 6 plate.  The plate colors were brown on cream.  Many thanks to Peter Cohen this and other truck plates.

 


Next in this week's lineup is this nicely refinished 1923 Commercial plate.  It is believed that the same weight class system was used up thru 1923, making this a Class 1, or lightest weight class as designated by the 1 at the beginning of the serial number.  The plate colors were yellow on dark blue making this the first year for the annual flip-flop of those colors.  Again my thanks to Peter Cohen for the plate photo.

 


The final plate is this 1926 U-class truck.  Beginning in 1924 weight classes were changed to the more familiar R for the lightest weight through Z for the heaviest.  There was no X class as that was reserved for Dealer plates.  The progression for the plate shown here likely ran from U-1 to approximately U25-000.  The colors were dark blue on yellow, and sizes varied with the length of the serial number.  Thank you Peter Cohen.

 


 

Posting 5/27/2018

I had to look twice at the photo when John Clark sent me this Official Use plate image on the far left.  Back in February of 2017 PennDOT announced that they would bring Official Use plates into the 'family of plates' giving them a new look.  It was also stated that other state agencies would have the option of using their own logo in place of the generic coat of arms which still has not made its debut.  Up to this point only PennDOT has been issuing agency-specific plates.  Examples to the left.  Now we see that the PA Turnpike has followed suit.  Note the logo and U suffix where the PennDOT plates use T.  Other state agencies could follow.  

 

 


Here's a new high number Official Use plate.  This is part of the series issued to passenger vehicles which also means that two plates would have been issued.  Sometime in the future these are expected to switch over to the visitPA 'family of plates' format with a flat screened coat of arms.  Thanks you to Bruce Bufalini for the use of this photo.

 


Here's a new high Motorcycle plate.  The current alpha-numeric progression is 0AA00, but notice the use of the letter I in the serial number.  That is one of the letters that is not normally used in serial progressions, but lately the letters I and O have also been seen on Antique Vehicle plates as well.  Thanks to Ryan Battin for this interesting photo.

 


This is the latest high Antique Vehicle plate.  These plates have been around since the 1950s with many changes in formatting over the years.  The Z on this plate would suggest that this serial format is about to shift.  I'm thinking that 00A0 could be the next progression.  Another thank you to Ryan Battin for his timely photo updates.

 


This is a new high Apportioned Bus plate.  This plate type switched to the visitPA base at BN-04000.  But unlike most other plates that made that switch, these plates retained the dash separator instead of the expected keystone separator.  Not sure when the sticker well go away, or the addition of the small map outline.

 


My crystal ball suggested that by this point the Apportioned Truck series would have been using the small map outline, but not yet.  It's hard to say for sure, but the plate does not appear to have a sticker well.  This is a new high recently spotted on the dirty rear end of a dump truck.

 


Here's a recent street shot of a new high number Dealer plate.  It does not appear to have the small map outline yet.  So far the map outline has only been seen on a Dealer vanity plate.  I'm not going to speculate on the presence or absence of the sticker well.  Thanks to Bruce Bufalini for the use of this photograph.

 


This is a new high Severely Disabled Veteran plate, now in the 96000 series.  Don't look for these plates to take on the visitPA look.  The design and coloring of both the Disabled Veteran and Severely Disabled Veteran plates are spelled out in the legislation that authorized these plates.  Another thank you to Bruce Bufalini for the use of this photograph.

 


I took this Operation Enduring Freedom Veteran plate picture back in March, and then missed posting it.  The serial number, 1090Y, makes this a vanity plate.  The plate features the Afghanistan Campaign Medal.  This plate type has been available since 2005.  According to Tom Perri's PA Plates website, the high is 01798E/F.

 


We're adding a few more older trailer plates this week starting with this 1947 Format 1, all numeric (0001 to 9999) plate.  There were also three additional alpha-numeric sequences.  Click the link above to see examples of the other three serial formats.  All trailer plates were 4 characters and all were 6 inches by 11 inches.  Thanks to Bob Connison for this photo.

 


This is a 1949 Format 4 Trailer plate.  Format 4 consisted of the run from 00A0 to 99Z9.  There was a total of 5 formats used that year.  All trailer plates had a 4-character serial number, and all measured 6 inches by 11 inches.  Thank you to Bob Connison for this photo. 

 

 


Here's a complete run of 1950 Trailer plates.  The all-numeric Format 1 plate on the far left was provided by Michael Wiener of Bestplates.  The G548 is a format 2 plate and is thanks to Bob Connison.  These are both new additions to this website.  The three remaining plates were previously posted but are being shown here to show all 5 formatting sequences for 1950.  Note that the serial progressions starts with all-numeric, then with each succeeding plate the alpha character shifts one space to the right.

 


Posting 5/20/2018

Here's the first image of a Eureka Volunteer Fire and Ambulance plate.  They are located in Stewartstown, York County, PA.  Their tag program has only had plates on the street for a couple months, with about 5 in use.  Thanks to Arthur Levine for the plate photo.  Unfortunately the photo did not capture the upper portion of the plate.

 


Here are two National Ovarian Cancer Coalition plates.  This group has had plates on the street since mid-2012. The current reported high is 10103C/S.  The far left plate was recently photographed by Bruce Bufalini, near left plate picture was taken a couple years ago by Tom Perri, but never posted.

 


It looks like a new organizational plate is in the works called Mayflower Descendant.  Can't find much information on the plate yet, but it may be a creation of the Society of Mayflower Descendants or Pennsylvania Mayflower Society.  No prototype photo yet.  The serial coding on the plate will likely be 00000M/D.

 


Back in March of this year it was announced that a new PA National Guard plate would soon be available.  Apparently it is now available with about 7 plates registered so far.  The image on the left is a prototype and is one of the 'active duty' (AD) series of veterans' plates.

 


Here's a new high number School Vehicle plate.  This plate type has seen a lot of variations over the years.  So far ten variations have been identified since they first transitioned to the www base.  Note the presence of the small map outline which is believed to have started at SV-26800.  Thanks to Bruce Bufalini for sharing this photo.

 


This is a recent issue Amateur Radio plate — note the presence of the small map outline.  These plates have a long history, dating back to 1956.  The plates show the radio call letters of the owner, which can have A, K, N or W as the first letter.  They always contain a number in the second or third position to indicate the region of which PA is in region 3.  For additional information click the link above.

 


Here's the earliest cardboard Temporary plate photo I have.  It's dated 1949.  At least for now I'm going to treat this format as being the original design.  One feature that makes this design different from the next are the dashes between the Ts and PENNA.  The next design had the T's with PENNA without dashes.  I'm hoping that as more examples come to the forefront, more details can be recorded.  Thanks to ebay seller Pat Damico / Libertysales2 for the use of the photo.

 


Here's an all-numeric version of Temp tags used from around 1968 to around 1974.  When I said all-numeric, I'm not counting the first T which appears to be a static, not advancing character.  This version spells out the word TEMPORARY above the serial number, then above that feature are spaces for the following data: Issued; Make; Serial and Expires.  Thanks to Bob Connison for the use of this photo.

 


While this plate may look similar to the Temporary above, the T has been replaced with a number that is now part of the serial number The word TEMPORARY is now at the top between the bolt holes.  The data line is now below the word temporary and includes additional fields which are: Issued; Year; Make; Model; Serial; Expires; Dealer I.D.  Another thank you to Bob Connison for the use of this plate photo.

 


This is a 1940 Format 2 Trailer plate.  Format 2 plates were authorized from A000 to Z999, which does not necessarily mean the series was fully utilized.  Format 1 was all-numeric.  All trailer plates were 4 characters, and all were 6 inches by 12 inches.  Thanks to Bob Connison for sharing a group of older trailer plate photos.

 


Next in the  lineup is this 1944 Format 1 Trailer plate.   That format included numbers from 0001 to 9999, all of which were 4 digits.  Note the use of a leading zero.  All alpha-numeric formats were also 4 characters, and all plates were 6 inches by 12 inches.  Thanks to Bob Connison for sharing his older trailer plate photos.

 


Next comes this 1945 Format 4 Trailer plate.  Format 4 included the serial progression of 00A0 to 99Z9.  All trailer plates were 4 characters since 1938; however, for 1945 the plate size was reduced from 6 inches by 12 inches to 6 inches by 11 inches.  Again my appreciation for all of Bob Connison's help.

 


This 1946 Format 1 Trailer plate is the last of this type until next week.  Format 1 included 0001 to 9999.  Again all plates were 4 characters.  There were 4 serial number progressions used that year, and the plates measured 6 inches by 11 inches.  Thank you Bob Connison.  Check back next week for more older trailer plates.

 


In the years following World War 2, the increasing number of car registration led to a growing number of serial progressions.  For 1948 Passenger plates there were 10 such groupings with this plate being part of Format 6.  Some progressions used both 4 and 5 character serial numbers.  All plates measured 6 inches by 11 inches.

 


Here is a 1950 Format 8 Passenger plate.  Format 8 consisted of the series AA10 to ZZ999, so both 4 and 5 character serial numbers were issued.  All plates measured 6 inches by 11 inches.  1950 used a total of 11 serial format progressions.  Click the link above to see examples of each.  Still needed are several 4-character examples.  Thanks to Michael Wiener for the use of this photo.

 


 

 

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John McDevitt, Walnutport, PA

ALPCA #4376

 

 

 

 

 

                  

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