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Pennsylvania License Plate History & Images

John McDevitt, Walnutport, PA

ALPCA #4376

 

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Posting 12/17/2017

The North Strabane Township Volunteer Fire Department is starting a plate program.  They are located southwest of Pittsburgh in Washington County, near the borough of Cannonsburg.  No prototype image is available yet, and no plates are in use yet.  The plate format is likely to be 00000N/S.

 


This is the first photo of a Share the Road plate as a vanity.  These plates had their start in 2016, and the PAPlates.com website shows the latest high as B/K00330.  The expressed purpose of the plate is to have the proceeds go toward maintaining PennDOT's central office position of Bicycle and Pedestrian Coordinator and funding highway bicycle signage.  Thanks to Arthur Levine for the photo.

 


This Pennsylvania Coal Alliance Inc. plate was recently spotted by Bruce Bufalini.  It was seen in Indiana County.  There are mining operation in Indiana County.  So far this is the only under-a-hundred plate photographed.  This plate program dates back to 2017.

 


This National Wild Turkey Federation plate was recently spotted by Jeff Lawson.  I actually see more wild turkeys in my yard than I see these plates on the road.  At the same time the high number of W/T01238 (from PA Plates) suggests that they are not that scarce.  This program dates back to 2002 with no evidence of a move to the graphic base.  Still looking for a sample plate.

 


This is not a repeat from last week, but it might look familiar.  Last week's plate was R/R9J14, while this week we have R/R9J18, making this plate the new high.  The Preserve Our Heritage plate is the sole survivor of the full-size graphic Special Fund plates.  Thank you Steve Ondik for sharing this photo.

 


The old Fire Department plates have not been issued since the mid-1980s, but the exact year is unknown.  They had their start in 1968, although a photograph in an Allentown Fire Department history book shows such a plate in use on a fire that took place in 1961.  I'm now of the opinion that either the date listed is incorrect or the photo was misidentified.  The plate series started at FD-10000 or FD-10001 and the series ran to FD-29999 or close to that number, after which they were replaced by Emergency Vehicle plates.  The low numbered plate shown here was provided by Clayton Moore some time ago.  Note the use of the small keystone separator which was replace by a dash separator near the end of the plate run. 

 


These plates are not the entire history of Mass Transit plates, but they do represent much of it.  The series dates back to 1977 with blue on yellow plates, next came the yellow on blue 1984 base as shown here from Steve Ondik, next was the www base as shown above starting at M/T30000 and and finally the current visitPA base.  Some www plates had the MT in line instead of stacked as shown here.  I don't think the small map outline base has made its debut yet.  A recently spotted ebay plate has helped to refine the transition point from Version 1 (click link above) to Version 2.  Thanks for the tip go to Jordan Irazabal.

 


This is a 1946 Motorcycle, Format 1 plate which includes the series of 1 to 9999.  This plate was made available by ebay user luv2wheels some time ago.  I still need a photo of a Format 2 plate which is the alpha-numeric series A to Z999.  The formatting of the 2-digit year, PA and MC have been similarly formatted for many years before and after.

 


Next in line is this 1950 Format 2 Motorcycle plate.  The 3-character plate has a certain appeal over the more common 4-character version.  Format 2 plates run from A to Z999; however, the full series was not needed.  When I asked the owner for permission to use the photo, he suggested I recognize the original owner who was a John Tomlin, and his bike was a 1947 Indian.

 


The final Motorcycle plate this week is this 1955 Format 2.  Like the plate above, Format 2 plates run from A to Z999; however, the full series was not needed. This photo may have come from ebay several years ago.  If the plate happens to be yours, plates let me know so I can credit you.

 

 


This pair of Official Use plates is from Eric Conner.  In PA, the term 'Official Use' or 'Official Use Only' applies to any state-owned vehicle from a State Police vehicle to a PennDOT snow plow truck.  There are also unmarked State Police vehicles and certain executive level vehicles that use standard issue plates.  Only standard issue motorcycle plates are used on state-owned cycles.  The far left plate above was part of the first sequence used from 1967 to '67.  I am hoping to find a photo of a similar vintage plate with the format reversed as 0000-PA.  The blue on white plate series was issued from 1977 to 1984; however, some of these can still be spotted in use, usually in rough shape.  This series from PA-20000 to PA-55999 was likely issued to a truck or commercial vehicle.  

 


This pair of Repair/Service Towing plates has been added to the history page.  The RS-00348 is a low numbered photo of the earliest series and used a flat screened Rep / Ser Towing tag legend.  The next plate has the Rep / Ser Towing legend embossed but uses the "You've got a friend" font for the state name.  It is also the lowest photo of that second version.  The far left plate was provided by Clayton Moore several years ago, and the RS-02476 plate was provided by Matt Ciecka.

 


Posting 12/10/2017

Gone, but not forgotten . . . but could they come back?  There are a couple of State Representatives who are working on  legislation to bring the validation sticker out of retirement and add inspection and emissions features.  This was mentioned in ALPCA's Plates Magazine.  I also confirmed this by speaking to one of Representative Jozwiak's aides.  The legislation has not yet been introduced.  I will post more when it becomes available.  The sticker above is courtesy of Bill Stephens.

 


This is not the first image of a personalized Conserve Wild Resources plate, but it is the first vanity with the map outline to be photographed.  There were previous vanities with the small photo that still had the sticker well.  At this point standard issue Otter plates also have the map.

 

 


The Preserve Our Heritage Special Fund plate series dates back to December of 1998.  This series is the only remaining full graphic plate left, as all other graphic plates have been either discontinued or given the very disappointing family of plates treatment.  As of the last count at the end of 2016 there were 27,108 of these plates in use.  During its 18 years the serial progressions started with R/R0000, then R/R000A, R/R00A0, and finally R/R0A00 as seen above on the R/R9J14 plate.  That plate is also the current high and was recently received by Joe Pavlo.  The other two plates are older photos of low numbered plates.  The R/R0005 was from Jordan Irazabal, and the R/R1057 is from Ralph Lindken.  Research indicates that plates up to R/R9Z99 are sitting in inventory, which suggests that this plate style may be around for a while.

 


The Person with Disability plate has now made the switch to the small map outline base.  With some help from my crystal ball this change took place at 72000PD.  The map outline was seen previously on a Person with Disability vanity plate; however, it's not unusual for this feature to be seen first on vanity plates, meanwhile the stock of previous PD plates is being depleted.  This find also makes this a new series high.  Thanks to Jaska Börner for sharing this photo. 

 

 


We are seeing many changes in plates these days, mostly the small map replacing the sticker well, but the Flyers Wives Charity legend, now singular, used to be Flyers Wives Charities, plural.  This change was first spotted back in April, but now the plate shown here helps to narrow down the transition point.  So this plate type has gone from Charities with sticker well, to Charity without sticker well, and finally to Charity with the map.  Thanks to Jordan Irazabal for the photo.

 


No small map outline yet on these recent Apportioned Truck plates from Steve Ondik.  Tom Perri's website is also showing AG-65273 which clearly shows the sticker well.  My reliable crystal ball indicates that the map outline will start at AG-67500.  A vanity check suggests that that mark has already been reached, so it's likely they are on the roads already.  Two older www base plates have also been added to the photo gallery but not shown here.

 


It's obvious the truck's not upside down, so what's with the upside-down plate?  At least the validation sticker was applied correctly to the plate.  The current reported Repair Towing high is RT-70836 according to Tom Perri's website which does not yet have the map outline.  A source suggests that the map outline begins at RT-70900, and plate check shows that almost 50 plates above that point are now in use.  Steve Ondik spotted this oddity.

 


Correction concerning the cardboard Temporary Intransit tags from last week: It should have read, they are only issued to non-PA residents who are purchasing a vehicle in PA.  Thanks Jordan.

 


I came across this very low number 1938 Motorcycle plate in my archives.  The first serial progression ran from 1 to 9999, then the series went alpha numeric starting with A and advancing into the B000 series.  All plates ware 4½" by 8".  This photo gets credited to Tim Gierschick.

 


Around 1984 PA began issuing Repair Service Towing plates, or, as the plate legend was written REP/SER TOWING, then that wording was later changed to REPAIR / TOWING.  Anyway Jordan Irazabal spotted an eBay auction which narrows down the the transition point where the legend change described above took place.  Since these plates were undated, it is difficult to say when this change took place, but I'm going to guess in the 1990s.  No photo.

 


Next we have a number of Trailer plates including this all-numeric 1949 Trailer.  For that year there was a total of 5 serial number format progressions including 0001 to 9999, A000 to Z999, 0A00 to 9Z99, 00A0 to 99Z9, 000A to 999Z.  All plates contained 4 characters, and all plates measured 6 inches by 11 inches.

 


For a few years in the early to mid-1950s plate size was reduced to 6" x 10¼" including this 1955 Trailer.  The same serial formatting progressions were used as listed for '49 plates above, plus one additional.  A 5-digit all numeric format was used for the overflow.

 

 


This group of 4 1956 Trailer plates represents 4 of the 6 serial formatting variations for that year.  One additional format was previously posted, leaving a gap for Format 5 for plates between 000A and 999Z.  The plate size was now standardized at 6" by 12".  The 27496 plate is thanks to Chuck Sakryd.  The origin of the others is unknown.  If any belong to you, let me know and I will give you credit.

 


The final entry for this week is this 1964 Trailer with a 69 validation sticker.  The '64 plates were used thru 1967, so I'm not sure what's going on with the 69 sticker.  All plate had 64 embossed on them even if they was issued in a later year.  This series started at 100-001 and progressed above 394-000.  This image was provided by Clayton Moore.

 


Posting 12/3/2017

Back in February of 2016 I should have posted these additional pictures that John Clark sent of the Medal of Honor plate that was issued to Army Sergeant Gino J. Merli who received the Medal of Honor for his service during World War II.  He passed away in 2002.  Look up Gino Merli and read or listen to his heroic account.  The group photo appears to be a ceremony where 8 Pennsylvania MOH recipients were presented with their registration plates.  I'm guessing that this took place not long after the plate was authorized in 1981.  These and the previously posted Medal of Honor plate pictures were taken at the Gino Merli Veterans Center in Scranton, PA.

 


Here's the first image of a Lung Cancer Alliance plate.  These plates have been active since about October of 2015, but so far the only plate photographed is the vanity edition.  At the present it looks like there are about eight sequentially numbered plates in use, which may explain why none have been photographed so far.  The image was snapped by John Clark.

 


Here's a low number Share The Road plate from Jordan Irazabal.  These are actually part of the Special Fund series.  This is one of those types where plates with serial numbers below 00100 appear to have been held in reserve possibly for those involved with bringing the plate about.  Regular issue plates of this type are well up into the 00400 series.  They have been around since August of 2016.

 


It has been a while since any standard issue Motorcycle plates have been added.  This plate is part of the 0AA00 serial progression.  This plate would be a new high and was spotted recently by Jordan Irazabal.  As a personal observation and opinion, since smaller plates never had a sticker well, it appears that the small map outline seen on full-size plates will not become a part of MC, MCD, MP, etc series.

 


Little by little we see plates shifting to the map outline.  The timing of the transition depends on the number of sticker well plates still in inventory and the rate at which they are issued.  Here is the latest School Vehicle plate showing the map.  It is believed that the change likely took place at SV-25800.

 


Admittedly I don't put much effort into tracking these Temporary Intransit cardboard plates.  CORRECTION These are issued to non-Pennsylvania residents who purchase a vehicle in PA.  These have been issued for many years, in fact the ALPCA Archives shows one for 1941.  Some fake cardboard plates have been made up thru the use of computers.  They can often be detected by the use of the wrong font or the number seems way out of the current sequence.  The plate shown here is a new high and is believed to be legitimate.  Thanks to Jordan Irazabal for the image.

 


There is nothing all that special about the far left Repair Towing plate, but it does help to establish the high point of the use of the narrow tag legend.  It is believed that at RT-47000 a wider tag legend was used as shown on the RT-48696 plate.  Compare the W on both plates.  Anyone have a plate that would go against what I said here, or how about an RT47000 series plate?

 


At first this might have you scratching your head, especially when you consider that a Hearing Impaired vanity is supposed to have the HE prefix followed by up to five characters.  It would not be the first time that a vanity plate was issued without the required prefix.  Plate was photographed by Jordan Irazabal.  Quite a find.

 


Here's an older Hearing Impaired plate I came across in my photo files.  The picture came from Brian Craig several years ago.  Click the link above to also see the #1 plate.  These plates date back to 1987, but were never widely used.  There may have been some 230 of these plates issued in the last 17 years.  It is not known how many were issued on the yellow on blue base shown here.

 


Farm Truck history data was updated under what I call Version 4.  Jordan Irazabal pointed me to an auction site where a Farm Truck plate helped to narrow down the change from the narrow FARM TRUCK plate legend back to the wide FARM TRUCK.

 


Here's a 1921 Format 2 Motorcycle plate from eBay user Thepoolcueshop.  Format 2 plates were 4 and 5 digits, and ran from 1000 to above 21000, and measured 4½" by 8".  Format 1 plates were 4½" by 6" and could be 1 to 3 digits.  Motorbike plates at the time were formatted similarly but the first character in the serial number was the letter 'O' which at the time looked like a 0 (zero).

 


This is a 1934 Motorcycle plate.  There were two serial progressions for that year — 1 to 9999, then an alpha numeric series beginning with A and progressing into the C000 series.  The colors were dark blue over yellow.  By contrast 1934 Motorbike plates began using MB stacked as the plate shown here uses MC.

 


Here's a 1935 Motorcycle Sample plate.  The appearance of '35 plates were much like the '34 plate above except for the colors.  The serial progressions were also similar to the '34 plates.  This plate belonged to Jake Eckenrode, at least at the time of the photo.

 

 


Next we move ahead to this 1939 Motorcycle plate.  This is a Format 1 plate in which the serial progression ran from 1 to 9999, and then switching to an alpha numeric format.  The map outline was added in 1938.  This photo was taken at the Boyertown Museum of Historic Vehicles.

 

 


This 1950 Trailer plate is part of the third formatting group.  These groups progressed as follows: 0001 to 9999, A000 to Z999, 0A00 to 9Z99, 00A0 to 99Z9, 000A to 999Z, and 10000 if it was needed.  Since most, if not all plates were limited to 4 characters, many serial progressions were needed.  These plates were all 6" by 11".  Can anyone shed any light on the use of the 5-digit series?

 


Next in line is this 1953 Trailer.  Trailer plates from 1952 thru '55 were reduced in size to 6" x 10¼".  This is a Format 5 plate following the same series of progressions as described above.

 

 


Posting 11/26/2017

Here's a new organizational plate in the works for the Fairview Township Fire Department.  Fairview Township is located in the northern tip of York County.  Note the inclusion of the map outline on this prototype plate.  No plates are in use at this time.

 


This latest edition of a Presque Isle Partnership plate came from Steve Ondik who just received this plate.  Their plate program dates back to 2006 and now has the PA map outline.  The highest plate recorded without the map and with the sticker well was 01069P/I.  Since these plates are produced individually I'm not going to guess at a transition point.

 


These Severely Disabled Veteran vanity plates have been added to the growing number of personalized DV plates.  As mentioned recently, while this plate type has been modernized, it has not been pulled into the family of plates.  This is because the law that authorized this plate also spelled out how it will be configured from the standpoint of color and appearance.  The SEABE plate is thanke to Brendan Sherry, while the INNER photo came from Arthur Levine.

 


In Legislative News, there are several bills in the legislature, if passed, would authorize new plates.  Passage does not appear close for any of the bills at this time.

  Senate Bill 266 that provides for vehicle registration plates for recipients of the Soldier’s Medal.

  Senate Bill 729 that provides for vehicle registration plates for veterans of an allied foreign country.

  House Bill 1294 that provides for vehicle registration plates for recipients of the Legion of Merit.  It also appears to authorize Purple Heart plates for motorcycles.

 


This is a Class 1 ATV plate.  It also part of the 4th serial progression with plates starting at 0000A, and each time the series fills up the letter moves one position to the left.  The reported high is 2C363.  These plates are issued by the PA DCNR or Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

 


Here is a 1943 Format 3 Dealer.  What that means is that the 'X' was in the third position and the serial progression ran from 10X0 to 99X99.  4-character plates measured 6" by 10" and 5-character plates measured 6" by 12".  There was an additional format where the X was in the 4th position.  The source of this plate photo is unknown.

 


Here is an example of a 1918 Format 2 Motorcycle plate.  Format 2 is the larger of the two sizes with serial numbers from 1000 to 26621, and the dimensions being 4½" by 8".  Format 1 plates ran from 1 to 999 and measured 4½" by 6".  The source of this plate photo is unknown. 

 


A note about photo quality.  Over the past year, I visited a number of automotive museums in PA looking for needed plates to photos.  Museums present unique challenges in obtaining good digital photos.  These include marginal lighting, plates mounted within glass enclosures, and plates mounted high on walls.  Add to this the pitfalls of using the flash feature plus low-end camera equipment, and the results are often very disappointing.  I recently purchased a much better camera and a long 'selfie stick'.  We'll see what happens. 

 


This is a 1920 Format 2 Motorcycle plate.  Like the plate above, Format 2 is the larger of the two sizes measuring  4½" by 8", and the serial sequence ran from 1000 to 23981.  This image was taken at the Boyertown Museum of Historic Vehicles.  A Format 1 plate image is still needed.

 


Here is a 1925 Format 1 Motorcycle plate.  This 'shorty' is part of the sequence from 1 to 999 on 4½" by 6" plates, while Format 2 plates ran from 1000 to 16122 and were on the larger 4½" by 8" base.  This photo was taken at the Boyertown Museum of Historic Vehicles.

 

 


This 1932 Official plate from Jeff Hinkle.  Sometime between 1924 and 1926 PA began issuing Official plates for use on state-owned vehicles.  Evidence sited by Eric Tanner suggests that they were issued as early as 1924.  Most plates were 3-digits, however there were also some 1-, 2- and 4-digit plates.  As a point of reference, 1935 Plates were authorized from 1 to 1600.

 


Here's a 1936 Official Use Only plate.  The '36 Official plates had some odd traits, for starters it's the only year where wide formatting was used.  This plate is believed to be 6" by 15".  The plate legend, 'Official Use Only' was not used before or after until 1957.  It appears that a group of numbers was taken from the passenger series, possibly 31-000 to 32-000, but the passenger series did not use the dash.  I got this image from John Anshant several years ago.

 


This 1953 Class R Truck plate is one of six different serial progressions used for the R class, with this plate being part of the first group, R000A.  The other progressions included the following: R00A0, R0A00, R00AA, R0AA0, R0A0A.  This plate measures 6" x 10¼", and the photo was taken at the Boyertown Museum of Historic Vehicles.

 


Here's a 1954 Class R Truck plate, very similar in some ways to the '53 plate above, but it is part of the R00AA serial format.  The other classes include R000A, R00A0, R0A00, R0AA0, R0A0A.  Weight classes ran from R for the lightest trucks to ZZ.  Truck plates after 1951 were issued as singles.  This plate also measures 6" x 10¼", and the photo was taken at the Boyertown Museum of Historic Vehicles.

 


Posting 11/19/2017

This pair of Collectible Vehicle plates is only 19 number apart, but the appearance is like night and day.  The new design is on the right.  Is it really necessary to have Collectible Vehicle twice on the same plate?  Is this 'Family of Plates' thing really progress?  If you had a choice, which plate would you pick for your collectible vehicle?  For anyone not familiar, PA is on a mission to make all plates essentially look alike.  And here we see the transition from the original all embossed format to a semi-flat new design.  Plates with the small map outline are likely to appear at CV1700.  The original design plate photo is from Ryan Battin, the new design is from Bill Stephens.

 


The East Brandywine Fire Company was added to the list of organizational plates in late July.  At that time they had no plates on the street, and thanks to Tom Perri we have the first photo of an issued plate.  Tom runs the PA highs page aka http://www.paplates.com.  It appears that the fire company has about 7 plates in use.

 


Back on October 22 it was announced that Alvernia University had plates on the street.  Currently about a dozen plates have been issued.  It didn't take long for Tom Perry to find and photograph this low numbered plate.  Many thanks go out to Tom for his persistence and diligence in photo-documenting so many of the plates posted on this website.  I can't mention Tom without including Jordan Irazabal of the Delaware 3000 — great teamwork.

 


Here's a vanity issue of a St. Joseph's University plate.  This plate was also photographed by Tom Perri.  Click the photo to enlarge it.  It is plain to see the sticker well that the owner choose not to use for sticker placement.  The St. Joe's plate program dates way back to 1985.

 

 


Here's the latest Combat Infantryman Badge plate thanks to Tom Perri.  These plates first came out in 2014, and have now made the transition to the latest base with the map outline, and without the sticker well.  It is not known at what point this change took place, only that it was between 20121C/O and the plate shown here.

 


Some changes have been made to the Disabled Veteran section starting with the DV-79000 series.  That's is the group of plates issued in pairs for vehicles equipped to carry assistive devices on the rear such as a wheel chair or battery powered personal mobility device.  Upon examining that plate picture further, it is clear that it is the latest version with the DV plates withe the DV and plate legend flat screened.  I'm now calling that 2-plate DV-79000 series Format 9.  In addition, the DV vanities and the plates above DV-36750, I am listing as Format 10 and 10A respectively.

 


This 1953 Miscellaneous Dealer plate is a little nicer than one previously posted.  For 1953 there was also New Car Dealer (A-series), Used Car Dealer (B-seies) and Transit Dealer (C-series) plates.  No Transit Dealer plates have surfaced so far.  It is also still unconfirmed when that series began.  It could be as early as 1946.  This image was taken at the Boyertown Museum of Historic Vehicles.

 


These two gems make great additions to the 1933 Truck plates group thanks to Eric Tanner.  Weight classes that year started at R and went to ZZ as indicated by the first letter.  All 1933 truck plates measured 6" by 15".

 

 


The next truck plate to be added this week is this R-Class 1944.  With plates being limited to 5 characters, it meant that 4 different sequence formats were needed including the following: R000A, R00A0, R0A00 and R00AA, with this plate being part of the second group.  All plates were 6" by 11".  This image was taken at the Boyertown Museum of Historic Vehicles.

 


These Format 2 and Format 3 1947 Trailer plates have been added to the mix.  Five different serial progressions were used including 0001 to 9999, A000 to Z999, 0A00 to 9Z99, 00A0 to 99Z9 and 000A to 999Z.  Format 1 and 5 plates are still needed to complete the run.

 


This is a 1948 Format 1 Trailer plate.  Like the '47 plates described above, the '48s also used 5 serial formats.  This was largely due to plates being limited to 4 characters.  Click the link to also see Format 3 and 4 plates.  The source of this plate and the Trailer plates above is unknown, possibly eBay several years ago.  Let me know if you own any of these plates.

 


This 1977 Trailer Dealer plate helps fill the gap for that year.  Although the plate is marked dealer with no other identifying legend, the E10-000E serial format was the distinguishing feature.  The series likely began in 1971, but I'm still in need of plates for '71, '72, '74 and '78.  It should be noted that most of the higher number E00-000E plates in the undated '84 thru '94 period were not trailer dealer plates as the alpha-numeric prefix system were merged together so that the alpha characters no longer represented a particular group.  This plate photo was provided by eBay user hpr4661.

 


This is a 1946 Truck plate, Class R weight limit, with serial format 1.  For 1946 there were 5 R-class serial formats used including R000A, R00A0, R0A00, R00AA and R0AA0.  All plates had 5 characters with the first letter designating the weight class.  All classes had at least one additional letter in the serial number which was never next to the weight class prefix.  This photo came from the Boyertown Museum of Historic Vehicles.

 


Here's another R-weight class truck plate, with this one being from 1951.  Beginning with 1949, there were so many R-Class trucks that 6 format variations were used.  All truck plates had 5 characters and measured 6 inches by 11 inches.  This photo also came from the Boyertown Museum of Historic Vehicles.

 


The final plates this week is this 1952 R-Class Truck.  Again 1952 plates were 6" by 11", however, this was the final year for that size with the next few years' plates measuring 6" by 10¼".  This photo also came from the Boyertown Museum of Historic Vehicles

 

 


 

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John McDevitt, Walnutport, PA

ALPCA #4376

 

 

 

 

 

                  

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