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Pennsylvania License Plate History & Images

John McDevitt, Walnutport, PA

ALPCA #4376


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The photos on this website, whether provided by me or other contributors, are intended for use solely on this website, and may not be otherwise used without permission.

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Posting 5/22/2016

This is going to be a 'lite' week.  I've had a lot on my plate recently, especially in my other life.  In addition, I need a little break.


Legislative News House Bill 150 creates a Share the Road registration plate, with proceeds maintaining PennDOT's central office position of Bicycle and Pedestrian Coordinator and funding highway bicycle signage. The bill has been passed by the House and Senate, but now the bill returns to the House for concurrence on Senate amendments.  No image yet.


This Pennsylvania Coal Alliance, Inc. plate has been in the works for a while, but just recently this prototype image was released.  These Friends of Coal license plates are also available in other states including Kentucky, Ohio, and West Virginia.  At this point I have no information on getting one in PA.  I don't expect that Hilary or Obama will be lining up to get one.


Kyle Kuser recently passed along this new high Passenger (KCT) plate on the left spotted in south Philly.  Then Bruce Bufalini snapped this (KCX) image in traffic.  I suspect the actual high changes every few minutes.



They don't get any lower, and they don't get any nicer.  This Pennsylvania DUI Association plate image was shared by Nick Tsilakis.  Tom Perri's website shows the current high as 00097D/U.  These plates have been on the road for about 10 years.


On the far left is another Official Use front plates from Chuck Harrington.  Chuck suggests this version would have been in use in the 1985 to 1999 era.  On the near left is a white or cream on blue Official Use Only plate.  Although the formatting is similar to other Official Use Only plates used during the '60s and '70s, the white or cream coloring does not ring a bell for me.


More gems from Bob Connison. This week we begin with this pair of 1941 Dealer plates.  This is the fist year where the expiration date (EXP. 3-31-42) now is embossed in the upper border.  The 5-character pair shown here measure 6" by 12", however, there were also 4-character shorty 6" by 10" plates.  The 5-character plates had the 'X' in the first position, and possibly elsewhere, whereas the 4-character edition could have the 'X' in any position.  What's needed are more examples.


Next we have a 1945 Dealer plate, again courtesy of Bob Connison.  It appears that all plates for '45 measured 6" by 11" regardless of the number of characters.  Both 4 and 5-charter Dealer plates were issued and the 'X' could at least be in the first and second position. 


Back to the older Motorcycle plates starting with this 1934 Motorcycle image from Harry Campbell.  This is the first image of a '34 M/C on this site.  This series started at plate 1 then ran to 9999, after which an alpha-numeric run began at A1 thru A999, then B1, and here we have B724.  The run likely ended in the C-series.  The formatting of these plates has been very similar from 1916 up thru 1933, but for 1934 the stacked M/C has been added for the first time.  1934 also signaled the addition of M/B on Motorbike plates and M/C/D on Motorcycle Dealer plates.


Next in line is this 1935 Motorcycle plate.  This is an all numeric plate, and except for the colors being reversed, is similar to the plate above.  I have a copy of the Bureau of Motor Vehicles plate designs for 1935.  It gives the size as 45/16" by 7⅞".  In addition the document authorizes plates 1 to 9999, then A to A499.  It is likely the A499 was exceeded as the total number of motorcycle plates registered that year was 11,731.  Don't know if that figure includes Motorbikes and Dealers, but they were only authorized at 50 and 200 respectively.



Posting 5/15/2016

This high number Dealer - Multi Purpose plate on the two far left images was spotted recently.  It's not a great image as it was taken at quite a distance with full zoom.  Anyway, it's still on the www base.  The current inventory runs to MP4899D — what happens after that point is unknown.  These are low volume plates with only 1750 or so plates issued since their reissue starting point of MP3000D on 9/1/1999.  I also added a picture of the lowest www plate picture I have.


Here's what was thought to be the latest high Motorcycle plate from Jordan Irazabal on the left.  Then Ryan Battin snapped this highway shot of 4CA17 on the right.  Motorcycles appear to hibernate over winter in PA but once the weather gets nice, the nearly 400-thousand bikes reappear.  It's interesting that the number of motorcycle registrations has doubled since 1999.  This has brought about an evolving plate numbering system that started at AAA00, then 0000A, then A0000, and finally 0AA00.  In addition there was a switch to the visitPA base and a limited run of "Live free..." plates.  In addition to the standard MC plate there are vanity, Person w/ Disability, vertical, Antique, Classic, Collectible, YOM, Veteran, and Honoring Our Veterans.  Do you want to include Moped and Municipal?  What have I missed?  Maybe organizational plates in the future.


Here are the latest Antique Vehicle and Antique Motorcycle, fresh off the plate press in the big house.  Thanks to Ryan Battin for sharing these.



Here's a new high Civil Air Patrol plate spotted by Kyle Kuser.




Bruce Bufalini managed a traffic shot of this U.S. Air Force Veteran vanity VADER plate.




Here's a picture of a Special Event plate from Chuck Harrington.  It likely came from an International Fuel Tax Association gathering in PA.  Not sure if the 14 represents 2014, or if it is the serial number of the plate.  Anyway it does show that special event tags in PA are not limited to just a piece of white cardboard.


These two older Zem Zem Temple plates on the far left have been added in with the newer plates.  This is also one of the organizational plates to use a 2-tiered numbering system.  As with other plate types, the low number group, in this case from Z/Z00001 to about Z/Z00500, represents the original issue of yellow on blue plates and the subsequent replacement group.  Plates that were issued following the completion of the replacement process started at Z/Z01000, leaving a gap of about 500.  The sample is from George Kunsman and the high number plate is from Tom Perri and Jordan Irazabal.


Again this week we have more old Dealer plates from Bob Connison.  We start with this pair of 1939 Dealer plates.  The '39 plates were similar to the '38s except for the colors.  There were both 4-character and 5-character Dealer plates measuring 6" by 10" and 6" by 12" respectively.  The 'X' could be in the first, second or third position.


Next from Bob Connison is this 1940 Dealer pair.  The formatting is similar to the above pair, but this plate has the 'X' in the third position.  Again both 4- and 5-character plates were issued measuring 6" by 10" and 6" by 12" respectively.  Anyone have a shorty picture to share?


The plate on the far left is not the first 1932 Motorcycle plate displayed here but it is the nicest by far.  The previous year, 1931, saw the end of 5-digit plates and the beginning of alpha numeric plates when the 4-digit high of 9999 was reached.  So the series started at 1 and went to 9999, then came alpha prefix plates starting with A and up to a 3-digit number such a A12 or B123.  This same pattern was used in both the '32 and '33 Motorcycle plates, and both years had some 11-thousand plates issued, so many alpha plates were issued.  Both of these plates shown here are courtesy of Harry Campbell.


A new Motorcycle plate display page has been added.  It features plate displays from both Harry Campbell and Todd Mickinak.  These gentlemen have been very helpful in providing many older motorcycle plates, thereby filling lots of gaps.  At this point in time I have not established cross-links to this new page from other pages. 







Posting 5/8/2016

Arthur Levine recently spotted this PA Association of Realtors, all-zeros plate.  It seems that some plates types that had their origins back in the yellow on blue series, had all-zeros plates.  Don't know if this was made available as an option or a favor, but I attempted to do this on a new organizational plate program that started in 2010 and was flatly turned down, even though I am the plate program coordinator for that plate.  If you see an all-zeros plate on visitPA plates it's because the original number that was issued on the yellow on blue base was carried over into the www base, then visitPA.


Here's the latest high Municipal Motorcycle plate, thanks to Jaska Börner, or for his web address.  This plate type is one of the very last types of PA plates still issued with the state map outline base.  The other is the Collectible Motorcycle of which there are only a couple plates in use, and future plates are due to change to the visitPA base.  I really don't understand the mentality that all plates should look alike.  The rationale was to make plates easier to read by the police, but is PA the only state where the police have difficulty reading license plates?


Here are the latest high Antique Vehicle plates from Jaska Börner.  If you recall when PA switched from the white on purple Antique Historic Car plates to the visitPA base the first series was A00A, next came the current series of 0AA0.  As can be seen here, this current alpha-numeric series will soon reach the end at 9ZZ9.  If you're wondering what's next, the series will be 0A00.  Number series from the older white on purple plates can't be used since many such plates are still in use.


This high number Vietnam War Veteran plate was also provided by Jaska Börner.  This is the second generation for these plates that originally date back to 1999, and received a facelift in late 2014 at plate number V/W09500.  A couple of newer generation have been spotted as vanities.  Click the link above to see the evolution of this plate.


These first generation Vietnam Veterans of America plates on the far left have been added in to the current display of organizational plates.  In addition the near left plate has been added as another example of the early group of www plates.  In 2005 the plate changed to the visitPA base.  Still needed is a plate between V/N02000 and V/N02107, which represents the second wave of www plates. 


Here's a new high Transporter plate also from Jaska Börner.  These plates made their debut in 1984 and since that time have gone thru several iterations.



We begin the weekly addition and update of older dealer plates with this nice pair of 'shorty' 1937 Dealer plates from Bob Connison.  Judging by the wear on the plates, I'm guessing that the plate on the far left is the front plate.  This pair measures 6" by 10", while 5 character plates were 6" by 12".  As stated these plates could be 4 character or 5 character, with the X appearing in the first or second position. 


Next is this first image on this site of a 1938 Dealer plate.  Thanks again to Bob Connison.  Many characteristics are the same as the above plate but the biggest difference, aside for the colors, is the state map outline.  These were first seen on 1937 passenger plates and then were added to other plates in 1938.


We'll finish up this week with a couple more old cycle plates starting with this 1922 Motorcycle from Harry Campbell.  Todd Mickinak was helpful in photographing and sending Harry's plate pictures.  This is the first image of a '22 cycle plate on this site which helps fill another gap.  For this year plates were brown on cream, started at 1 and ran to about 19,316, were 4½" high, length was 6" for 1, 2 & 3-digit plates, 8" for 4- & 5-digits.


Next on display is this very nice 1930 Motorcycle plate from Harry Campbell.  Again Harry is helping me fill a number of gaps where I had no images.  For 1930 plates were dark blue on yellow with a painted border.  The use of alternating dark blue and yellow began in 1923.  The series ran from 1 to about 13223.  Plate sizing again depended on the number of digits and were the same at the 1922 plate above. 


There is nothing remarkable about this Motorcycle Vanity plate, only that it a decent example of a yellow on blue 5-character vanity with a dash.  (1968 HD Sportster?)  It is my understanding that vanities were not offered on motorcycle plates prior to the '85 base, and I don't know if they were allowed as far back as '85.



Posting 5/1/2016

Jaska Börner photographed this vanity vertical Motorcycle plate.  This is the first one of these spotted.  The vertical plates have been available for a little over two years, and although they're not common, they do fill a need.  According to the law that made the vertical plates possible, Act 89, as of 1/1/2016, there was to be a report of the number of vertical plates issued and the cost of issuance and any required revision to the fee so as to maintain necessary financial support for the highway system.




This Antique Motorcycle plate is a bit of a mystery.  Judging by the wide bolt hole separation it is a modern plate, yet it doesn't fit any of the known serial number formats used prior to the changeover to the all-too-familiar visa card family of plates .  Another plate with a 2S serial was seen back in August of 2015.  Click the link above to see the other plate.  If anyone knows the story here, please fill us in.


While on the subject of Antique Motorcycles, I took this photo at a recent Oley, PA bike event.  This plate helps to narrow down the transition from what I call Format 4 to Format 5.  The main difference is the Format 4 plates use a narrower bolt hole spacing while the Format 5 plates have switched to a wider spacing.  The change has been narrowed to between L00 and R00.


Next plate for this week is this very nice number 1 image of a Combat Act Badge from Nathan Krawzyk.  The Combat Act Badge plate is part of a series of 5 combat related plates all using the CO suffix.



Here are two images of the same number 1 Elizabethtown College plate.  The picture on the far left is from Eric Conner and was taken in mid-2009.  Note the fading and deterioration of the sheeting on the near left plate.  That picture was taken recently by Kyle Kuser.  By the way, there was an all-zero Elizabethtown College plate.  Click the link above to see more images.


University of Scranton plates from U/S11000 to U/S11095 represent a small group of plates issued after the re-plating process was completed in late 2001.  This plate is part of the two-tiered system on the www base that was common to organizations whose plate program started on the yellow on blue base.  Click the link for a further description of how the plates evolved.  Thanks to John Clark for the image.


This first picture of a Waynesburg University vanity plate was snapped by Bruce Bufalini.  Waynesburg plates have been active for about four years, and since this plate type is on the visitPA base they can be personalized as shown here.




This group of three first generation Vietnam Vets or Veterans of Vietnam War, Inc. on the far left was added to the current plate display page.  The newer image on the www base is an example of a later plate issue after the replacement of the first generation.  The replacement plates ended at V/V02791 and later picked up at V/V04300 leaving the number in between skipped.


Bob Connison is helping to fill another void with this pair of 1935 Dealer plates.  The plates shown here are 6" by 10" and are the short version with the keystones on each side of the word Dealer.  2 to 4 character plates were configured as shown here, while 5 character (X0000 or 0X000) were 6" by 12" and had the keystones on both sides of the legend to the outside of the bolt holes.  Click the above link for more on formatting.


Also from Bob Connison is this very nice '36 Dealer plate.  For 1936 plates with 4 characters were a short 6" by 10" in size, while 5 character plates as shown here were 6" by 12".  In addition the X could be in the first, second or third position.  Click the link to see an additional plate with the X in the second position.


I've seen a picture of this plate in the past, but I saw the actual 1914 Motorcycle plate on a bike last week in Oley, PA, at a bike event.  1914 was the first year for motorcycle plates, they were white on black porcelain, and the first character in the 1914 and '15 plates was the letter O, although you can't distinguish it from a zero by looking at the plate.  The plates were 4½" high but came in 4 different lengths depending on the number of digits after the O which could be 1 to 5.


Harry Campbell has provided this very nice 1919 Motorcycle plate picture.  According to state records there were some 25 thousand of these plates issued.  The series started at 1 and ran up thru 5 numbers.  All the plates were 4½" tall, with the length being 6" for 1 to 3-digit plates, and 8" for 4 & 5 digit plates.  The plates were red on black, although this plate may be a repaint.


This very nice 1920 Motorcycle repaint was also provided by Harry Campbell.  The original colors were white on dark blue, although the blue on this plate is such that it almost appears black in the photo.  These were almost 24 thousand plates issued beginning with plate 1.  Plate length again depended on the number of digits, with 1 to 3 using 6 inch plates and 4 and 5 digits using 8 inch.



Posting 4/24/2016

This is the first image of the newly redesigned Millersville University of Pennsylvania, now on the visitPA base with a new logo and addition of the words 'of Pennsylvania' added to the legend.  Millersville's plate program dates back to 1994 making this the third generation of plates.  Thank you to Tom Perri for photographing and sharing this image.  Tom runs the website which tracks all of PA's plate highs.


Spotted this high number Rutgers University plate recently.  Rutgers is a relative newcomer to PA's litany of plates only dating back to 2011.




This Bronze Star is also a new high. This plate type has been on the road since 2012.  PA also offers a Bronze State for Valor plate.




This U.S. Coast Guard Veteran also represents a new high.  This plate type dates back to 2009.




John Clark sent this first generation University of Scranton plate picture.  These plate came out in 1995 with this plate being the 336th out of 651 issued; the first plate was actually U/S10000.  Since that time plates were issued on the www base, and then around 2006 they migrated over to the visitPA base.  Click the link above to see all the variations.


For some (maybe all) of the first generation military reserve plates, there were two versions of the sample plates.  Some had three zeros and some had four.  The 3-digit U.S. Air Force Reserve plate is a new image.



These first generation Veterans of Foreign Wars plates have been added to the display section for current plates.  It appears that some 2500 of the yellow on blue plates were issued since their inception in 1984 until they were replaced in 2001 on the www base.  To see more plates click the link above.


This very nice pair of 1933 Dealer plates was provided by Bob Connison.  Bob has provided quite a few more Dealer plates, many of which will help to fill gaps.  The series shown here likely ran from X1 to X9999, then there were also additional combinations of 0X, 0X0, 0X00 and 0X000.

Check back over the next few weeks to see additional Dealer plates from Bob.  Some of the plates are shown as a stacked pair, others are shown as individual images, depending on how they were posed when photographed.




1934 Dealer plates saw some big changes.  Gone was the 'X' designator for Dealer, and in it place is the return of the word Dealer.  The word Dealer was last seen in 1923; however, the 'X' has been a part of Dealer plates every year since 1911.  Serial sequence could be all numeric or alpha-numeric but X was not used. 1, 2, 3 and 4 character all numeric were issued, then a single alpha character followed by 1, 2 or 3 numeric characters were used.  All plates are believed to be 6" x 10".  This pair was provided by Bob Connison.


This pair of Commercial Motorcycle plate images was provided by Harry Campbell.  Harry, with help from Todd Mickinak has proved quite a few images of older Motorcycle plates which will be posted over the next several weeks.  The '38 plate had been posted in the past, but this is a nicer image.  Commercial Motorcycle plates were issued for 12 years from 1938 until 1949, except 1943 when metal tabs were issued.  It appears that plate formatting was the same from year to year with the exception of the color rotation which was the same as passenger plates, and the 2-digit year, which was embossed as part of the COMM over MC over PA.  The expiration date was added in 1941 as seen above.  All plates measured 4½" by 8".  In 1950 the Commercial Motorcycle registration fee was reduced from $5 to $4 eliminating the need for this plate type.  Plate serial numbers ranged from 1 to under 1000.






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Images and photos are always welcome.  Please send to:

John McDevitt, Walnutport, PA

ALPCA #4376