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Pennsylvania License Plate History & Images

John McDevitt, Walnutport, PA

ALPCA #4376

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Posting 10/21/2018

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


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


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


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



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


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


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


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


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


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



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


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


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


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


Posting 10/14/2018

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


Posting 10/7/2018

This Honoring Our Veterans Motorcycle plate photo was sent to me by Gary Walker, an Australian collector.  It was part of a larger group of plates.  He indicated that the picture came from Facebook.  I'd like to credit the actual owner of the plate or the photo.  Aside from that, this is also the new high.  These plates came out in late 2015.  This is considered a Special Fund plate with both full-size and motorcycle-size tags.  As of the end of 2017 registration figures for the full-size plates was 2,389, while the motorcycle-size registrations were only 140 plates.  I attribute some of the lack of sales to the postage stamp size plate graphic.


This U.S Air Force Veteran plate was recently spotted by Bruce Bufalini.  It is also the first plate spotted with the map outline.  The highest previous plate with the sticker well was 22702A/F.  The Air Force Vet plate came on line back in 2009.



Somewhere between HH-68620 and this plate, the sticker well on Motor Home plates was discontinued.  These changes appear to be arbitrary, and therefore difficult to track.  The high plate in this series is HH-70423.  No plates with the map outline have been reported so far.



Here's a recent Passenger vanity plate where the letter 'O' (oh) and the number '0' (zero) are seen next to each other.  As far back as 1926, with few exceptions, letters on Pennsylvania plates have always been smaller than numbers.  Thanks to Jeff Lawson for the photo.



Shame on me for not posting this PA Choose Life plate photo sooner.  Arthur Levine sent this to me some time ago.  Even with the delay, it is still considered the current high, although I would not be surprised if plates with the map outline are already on the road.  This plate type dates back to 2007. 


This is a NASCAR 41 Casey Mears sample plate, not to be confused with another NASCAR 41 plate of Reed Sorenson, but not in the same year.  The Mears plate was for the 2004 and 2005 racing seasons, while the Sorenson plate was for the 2006 season.  Research suggests only 1 Mears plate was sold, and no Sorenson plates.  The sample plate is likely the closest we'll get to an issued plate.  The existing plate is believed to be N/4/10101.  Thanks to Clayton Moore for the use of this photo.


Last week these Auto Wheel plate made their debut on this website.  And as mentioned last week, there are still unanswered questions, but thanks to Ned Flynn for removing much of the mystery surrounding these plates through his research.  Click the link to read more detail.  The plate shown is a 1932 Auto Wheel plate.  I have a very limited number of these Auto Wheel photos.  So, if anyone has photos they'd be willing to share . . .


This is a 1936 Format 8 Passenger plate.  That run included the serial range from AA10 to ZZ999.  I spotted this plate in use at a car show.  For those who enjoy the look of a professionally restored plate, they don't get much nicer.  This plate measures 6 inches by 12 inches.


1947 Passenger plates saw 10 serial formats used, including this 4-character Format 2 plate.  That serial progression ran from A100 to Z9999.  All plates measure 6 inches by 11 inches regardless of the number of characters.  Generally the 4-character plates are tougher to find.  This plate is thanks to eBay user Carstuffstore.


Here's a trio of 1951 Passenger plates.  The far left is a Format 2 plate with a serial sequence of A100 to Z9999, from eBay Carstuffstore.  The middle plates is a Format 3 plate with a serial sequence of 1A00 to 9Z999, thanks to Peter Clericuzio.  These 4-character plates are tougher to find than those with 5.  The PA00 plate is a sample from Neil Breinig.


Here's another plate from Jake Eckenrode's outstanding display of early truck plates.  Jake's display included the first 6 years of truck plates, spanning the period 1914 to 1919, which also included all of the years where weight classes were designated by the number of stars on the plate.  Jake put together a complete series of those years with examples of all 5 weight classes from each year, including this rare 1917 5-Star Truck plate. 


This is a 1940 S-Class Truck plate from Jeff Hinkle.  For 1940 the S-Class included the following serial sequences: S000A, S00A0, S0A00 and S00AA, with the plate shown here belonging to the second series.  All plates were 5 characters with the leading 1 or 2 letters indicating the weight class.  All plates measured 6" by 12".


And this is a 1950 T-Class Truck plate courtesy of Peter Clericuzio.  For 1950 the S-Class included the following serial sequences: T000A and T00A0, with the plate shown belonging to the second series.  All plates were 5 characters with the leading 1 or 2 letters indicating the weight class.  All 1950 Truck plates measured 6" by 11".


Posting 9/30/2018

These organizational vanity plates with only a few characters are always eye-catching.  This Blue Lodge plates appears to have been issued since the stickers ended but before the sticker box was eliminated.  A Blue Lodge personalized plate was previously spotted with the map outline.


This Organ Donors Save Lives plate is meant to convey tongue-in-cheek humor, not disrespect.  Thanks to George Kunsman for sharing this plate photo.  This is the second vanity plate shown here, both having the map outline.  That Feature has not yet been spotted on serial numbered plates.


Here is what I believe is a new Person with Disability high.  The map outline has been in use since 72000PD.  So far there is no evidence of this type without the sticker recess and without the map outline.



Here's the latest reported high Omnibus plate.  I took the photo myself and as best as I could determine, both visually and from the photo, the plate does not have a sticker box.  By comparison, OB-86003 still had that feature.



This is the first U.S. Army Veteran vanity plate spotted with the map outline.  This plate type was part of a series of military veteran branch of service plates introduced in 2009.  The series began at 10000A/R and is now over 14162A/R.  Thanks to Bruce Bufalini for the use of the plate photo.



This is a NASCAR 31 Jeff Burton sample plate image.  The image was part of a large group of NASCAR sample plate photos from Clayton Moore.  This plate type was issued for the 2005 and 2006 racing seasons, with only about 7 plates issued.  So far one actual plates have been photographed.  There was another NASCAR 31 issued for the 2004 racing season, that one was a Robby Gordon plate.


I debated over this for a long time as to whether to include a section in the plate history about Auto Wheel plates.  Many collectors have heard of them, but few know their history and use.  If you are a member of ALPCA, you may recall the August 2012 article by Ned Flynn in Plates magazine.  Ned did extensive research and learned that the Auto Wheel Coaster Co. of Tonawanda, NY. issued such plates for small 4-wheeled vehicles.  The plates, like to one above, were issued by that NY company rather than by the PA Dept of Highways or Bureau of Motor Vehicles, therefore they were not official plates.  Issue dates were from 1927 through 1942.  There are still unresolved questions about these plates.  See Ned's article for more in depth information.


This is a 1926 H-prefix Bus plate.  Bus plates were first issued in 1924 with the letter 'O' prefix, then in 1926 another class of bus plates were introduced as shown here.  These used an 'H' prefix and were only in use for 4 years ending in 1929.  The explanation is a bit confusing: 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.  In 1929 a new law was passed requiring all buses to have this certificate and thereby ending the "H" prefix plate.  After this. all common carrier and for hire buses used the "O" prefix until 1968 when the "BA" prefix came into use.  The information above from Jake Eckenrode and Eric Tanner.  The plate shown above is the lowest number I have seen.  It was also a part of a matching pair of plates owned by Clayton Moore.


Here is a 1945 Format 3 Passenger plate.  Format 3 consisted of the serial range of 1A00 to 9Z999, so both 4 and 5 character plates were part of this group; however, all plates measured 6 inches by 11 inches in size.  Many thanks to Peter Clericuzio for this and a number of other plate photos.



This is a 1955 Format 2 Passenger plate.  Format 2 represents the serial progression of A100 to Z9999, so both 4 and 5 character plates were part of the mix; however, all plates were 6 inches by 10 inches in size.  Another thank you to Peter Clericuzio for the use of this photo.



This week we begin truck plates with this 2017, 4-Star weight class plate.  For 2017 plates were white on brown embossed painted steek.  As other plates in the 1914 to 1919 range, the weight classification program was identified by the number of stars.  The 4 and 5-star heavy weights are the toughest to find.  One peculiarity, the legend of PENNA over 1917 was used on lower number plates, while PA over 17 was used on higher plates, as shown here.  The plate shown here measures 6" by 16", while some plates with shorter serial numbers were 6" by 14". This plate was part of Jake Eckenrode's outstanding display at the ALPCA Valley Forge Convention.


Next is this 1931 S Weight Class Truck plate.  While 1931 plates lacked any legend indicating it was a truck, the 5-character serial number with an R to ZZ (no X) prefix and another non-adjacent letter identify the plate as a Truck.  This plate is yellow on dark blue and measured 6" by 12".  This plate was provided courtesy of Peter Clericuzio.


Next we have a 1940 W Weight Class Truck plate.  After 1934 the word Truck was prominently displayed on the plate, as were the 2-digit year and the state as PA.  There was only one serial number format, W000A, used on 1940 W-class truck plates.  All plates were 6" by 12".  This plate was provided courtesy of Peter Clericuzio.


Posting 9/23/2018

Here's another Passenger plate high.  This was recently spotted by Tylar Scavello.  For anyone not familiar, the 4-digit numeric portion is always the first to advance, next is the letter in the third position, then the second position, and finally the initial letter.  Not all alpha-characters are used, and vowels are not used in the second position.


Here's the latest high in Dealer plates.  It is believed that plates beginning at K46-500K no longer had the sticker box.  I'm going to suggest that the small map outline should make its debut at K51-500K.  This plate was recently spotted on the road by Bruce Bufalini.



These Antique and Classic vanities were recently spotted at one of the Macungie car shows.  Both are the latest editions with the map outline.  Neither plate presents much of a challenge figuring out what the plates was mounted on.  The 'C' on the Classic Vehicle plates is a required part of the serial number; however, at least one plate has been spotted without the 'C'.


This Fraternal Order of Police vanity plate was recently spotted by Arthur Levine.  FOP plates are one of the earliest organizational plates dating back to 1987 on the yellow on blue base.  They are also believed to be either the 2nd or 3rd most issued organizational plate behind the Penn State Alumni Association plate.  The other contender is the Fire Fighter plate. 


This is the first image of a U.S. Coast Guard Veteran plate in a personalized format.  This type of veteran plate dates back to 2009, but vanities were not allowed until mid-2014.  The high listed so far is 00367C/G.  Thanks to Jeff Lawson for this traffic shot.


This is a NASCAR 16 Greg Biffle sample plate image.  The image came from a large group of NASCAR sample plates from Clayton Moore.  This plate type was issued for the 2004 through the 2006 racing seasons, with only about 13 plates issued.  So far two actual plates have been photographed.


This is not a new Duquesne University plate or photo, but it fills a gap in tracking.  I needed a plate photo for the series that consisted of the yellow on blue base numbers reissued on the www base.  This plate program dates back to 1991.  The photo was provided by Tom Perri of


This is the highest School Bus plate spotted so far, and is also the first plate observed without the sticker well.  Plate SC-80015 still had the sticker well.  Sometime in the foreseeable future I'm sure the small map outline will make an appearance. 


This very nice 1935 Format 7 Passenger plate was provided courtesy of Ed Levine, and was part of a pair.  For that year there were at least 8 formatting progressions, or according to the Bureau of Motor Vehicles at the time there were as many as 13.  The difference is that my groupings and BMV's are not organized the same way.  This plate with 4 characters measures 6 inches by 10 inches, while 5-character plates were 12 inches.


Next is this 1939 Format 9 Passenger plate.  This group consisted of the series of 1AA0 to 9ZZ99.  So both 4 and 5 character plates were issued, and like the plate above, also utilized both 6" by 10" and 6" x 12" sizes.  This plate was on eBay; however, the owner wished to remain anonymous.


This is a 1952 Format 13 Passenger plate.  Format 13 ran from D000A to P999Z.  I believe the reason for this group starting at D000A was that the A, B and C000A series was reserved for the Dealer series.  The ending, at P999Z was to avoid conflict with the Truck series starting at R000A.  All plates measured 6" x 10".  This plate was provided courtesy of Peter Clericuzio.


This is a 1949 Class R weight class Truck plate.  R class was the lightest class, and the plates consisted of six serial progressions consisting of R000A, R00A0, R0A00, R00AA, R0AA0 and R0A0A.  All such plates measured 6 inches by 11 inches.  This plate was provided courtesy of eBay user Bapad.


Here is a 1954 ZZ weight class Truck plate.  ZZ was the heaviest 3-axle truck class.  The term 3-axle in those days meant a single front axle and tandem (2) rear axles, for a total of 3 axles.  The plate in the photo also has a West Virginia Trailer Public Service Commission tag attached.  As trucks evolved over the years and got larger and heavier, more classes were added between 1958 and 1967.  Thanks to Clayton Moore for the use of this photo.


The final truck plate this week is another ZZ class plate for 1955.  Again this is the heaviest weight class, but for 1955 there were actually two serial progressions — ZZ00A and ZZ0A0.  The plate shown here is part of the second group.  Another thank you to Clayton Moore for sharing so many photos.





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John McDevitt, Walnutport, PA

ALPCA #4376