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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.  This is a reference only website, no plate sales..


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Posting 4/30/2017

Here's the latest high Vertical Motorcycle plate.  The formatting of these plates is not very obvious with the series starting point of M0A0C, and the M and the C are non-advancing characters, at least so far. The alpha character in the center, in this case a 'V', is the final character to advance.  These plates have been around a little over 3 years, and if my calculations are correct, some 19-hundred plates have been issued, as not all letters are used.  These vertical plate are also available as vanities with up to 5 characters permitted.  Thanks to Ryan Battin for sharing the photo.

 


These older passenger plates have been added to the plate gallery.  They are all formatting variations not previously shown on this site.   We begin with this 13" 1923 Passenger plate on the far left.  Next is a 1926 4-digit 12" plate.  Next is a 4-digit 1927 10" shortie, and finally this 1930 Passenger shortie.  I want to recognize Chuck Sakryd for his support of the hobby by allowing me to use these images.  These plates are available on his website.

 


 

 

 

These 1940 Passenger plates may look random but they each represent a different serial formatting group.  Click the link to see the list of serial progressions.  The plates in the order displayed are courtesy of Chuck Sakryd, Runkle's Notary, America on Wheels, Bob Griffin, State Museum and Bruce Bufalini.

 


 

 

 

For 1941 note the addition of the expiration date in the top map border with EXP. 3-31-42.  This grouping of 1941 Passenger plates shows examples of seven of the ten serial progression formats.  The plates shown here are all 6" by 12"; however, there were 6" by 10" plates in several of the progressions.  Plates shown left to right are from America on Wheels, Runkle's Notary, Aimee Senott, Chuck Sakryd (2 plates), my collection.  Bottom row plate unknown source.

 


1942 Passenger plates, except for reversing colors, were very similar to the '41 plates.  Shown here are plates from 4 of the 10 serial progressions.  The far left plate is from Chuck Sakryd, next is from Joe Bosche, then the State Museum, and the final plate is from Aimee Senott.

 


These 1939 Truck plates represent the S weight class and the T weight class.  Click the link for additional details.  These old truck plates are not nearly as common as Passenger plates.  The S class plate photo was supplied by Bob Connison, while the T class came from Jim Moini.

 


1940 Trucks retained the same weight classes as the previous year, in these photos, an S-class and a T-class plate.  These are the only photos I have of a '40 truck plate (and '39 above), so any additional images would be welcome.  I do want to thank Jim Moini and Bob Connison for supplying me with many older truck plate photos, including these.

 


Again 1941 Truck plates and weight classes were similar to previous years, but now the plates have the expiration date embossed into the top border reading EXP. 3-31-42.  Click the link to also see a Z class plate.  The S and V class plates shown here are courtesy of Bob Connison.

 


Moving ahead to 1942 Trucks we have two R-class, a T-class and a U-class plate.  The series, as in previous years, ran from R to Z for 2-axle trucks, and RZ to ZZ for 3-axle trucks.  Note the U-class plate also has a 1943 validation tab attached.  The first R-class is from Bob Connison, the next R-class from Jim Moini, the T-class plate image was provided by Bob Connison.  The U-class photo came from Kelly Brewer.

 


 

Posting 4/23/2017

Here's the latest Municipal Government plate, now in the K-series.  This new format was first seen in February of this year.  It appears that the change took place at M/G9000J.  Wonder when we'll see this change trickle down to the Municipal Motorcycle plate? Thanks to Ryan Battin for sharing this plate photo.

 


Here's a couple of fairly recent Truck plates.  The one of the far left is a near-high and was provided by Steve Ondik.  The photo on the near left would be the latest reported high and was taken by Bruce Bufalini.  I'm wondering if the plates without the sticker well will have the small map symbol on Truck plates when they hit the street?

 

 

 


Here is a 1962 Motorboat sample plate — first one I've seen.  Motorboat plates were issued from 1931 to 1963, with the MB designator used in later years sometimes being mistaken for Motorbike.  Thanks to Rick Kretchmer for the plate image.  Rick, a fellow member of ALPCA, has an excellent website covering Illinois, Maryland, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Virginia plates (http://www.ricksplates.com/) .  Rick also conducts an ALPCA Regional Plate meet in Mount Airy, MD.

 


I have not done much with Bus plates for a while, but there's never a bad time to add more plate images.  Anyway, Jim Moini passed along this low number 1955 Bus plate.  The first character is the letter 'O'.  The series started at O1, went to O9999, then OA000, etc.

 

 


If you look close at this 1915 plate, there is a gap between the left border and the plate legend.  This gap was intended for an aluminum weight class band to be riveted to the top and the bottom of the plate; however, in this case the plate was assigned to a passenger vehicle, so no weight band was applied.  The series ran from 20000 to 29999 was reserved for the truck series with space for the weight class band to the left of the legend.  Too many plates were produced, so some plates from this series were issued to cars and did not have the weight strip attached.  Thanks to Tim Gierschick for the plate photo.

 


This trio of 3-, 4- and 5-digit plates adds some variety to the 1st progression of 1931 Passenger plates.  The two plates on the left are 6" by 10" shorties, while the 5-digit plate measures 6" by 12', all are thanks to Tim Gierschick.

 


Here are more '31 Passenger plate from a later series.  The far left plate is from the 000A to 999Z9 series and the near left plate from 0000A to 9999Z series.  This far left plate photo is thanks to Chuck Sakryd and the near left photo was provided by Jim Moini.

 


Next is this group of 1932 Passenger plates, starting with this 3-digit shortie measuring 6" by 10", followed by a 5-digit.  These are both from the initial series of 1 to 99999.  The final plate is from a later series of 00A to 99Z99.  By 1932 these were over 1.4 million car registrations necessitating eight different serial formatting progressions.  Thanks once again to Tim Gierschick for the 472 plate, and to Chuck Sakryd for the other two images.

 


Next in the lineup is this group of 1938 Passenger plates.  With each succeeding year, there was a marked increase in the number of registrations.  The challenge was to come up with enough serial combinations while being limited to 4 and 5 characters.  The plate photo on the far left was taken at a car show.  My guess is the owner registered the number as a vanity and then applied the sticker.  The second plate is from Joe Bosche, the third plate is from Chuck Sakryd, next is from Runkle's Notary, and the final plate is unknown.

 


1939 Passenger plates were very similar to the '38 plates above except for the color reversal.  Serial formatting appears to be the same with some nine different serial formats.  Far left plate is courtesy of Chuck Sakryd, next plate is from Bill Ceravola, the center plate is from Runkle's Notary, the fourth photo is from America on Wheels Museum, and the final plate is from a car show.

 


These two 1937 Truck plates have been added to the matrix, including the R-series 6-character overflow plate which measures 6" by 15".  The 6-character plates were issued after all of the authorized 5-character plates were issued in the R and S weight class.  Most plates were 6" by 12" as seen in the S-series plate.  These images are courtesy of Jim Moini.

 


For 1938 Trucks, the map base has been adopted, and the same weight classes of R to ZZ remain in effect; however, missing from the lineup are the 15-inch overflow plates being replaced by a new serial format — R00AA which fits the 12-inch base.  The R, S and T class plates shown here are thanks to Bob Connison.

 


Posting 4/16/2017

Tom Perri spotted this high serial number Flyers Wives Charity plate on the far left.  Tom also points out that the plate legend changed from Flyers Wives Charities to the singular Flyers Wives Charity — compare both plates.  In addition, the sticker well is no longer present and the small PA map outline, that was previously announced, will likely not be a part of organizational plates.

 


Here's a Conserve Wild Resources a/k/a an Otter plate in a vanity format.  Vanities have been available for several years now but it appears that most drivers prefer the full-size plate photo on the standard issue over the much scaled down version shown here.  Nick Tsilakis spotted this plate.

 


This very low number Gold Star Family plate was spotted recently by Jordan Irazabal.  From the Gold Star Legacy website, "The term 'Gold Star' describes a family member who has lost a loved one in military service.  The Gold Star signifies the family's pride in the loved one's sacrifice rather than the mourning of their personal loss."  Sadly over 700 of these plates have been issued. 

 


This personalized Vietnam War Veteran plate photo has been passed along by Steve Ondik.  The first generation of these plates dates back to 1999, then they were redesigned in 2014 on the graphic base.

 

 


These three Passenger plates from 1927, 1928 and 1929 have been added to the plate galleries to show some additional variety.  I had received these photos from Jim Moini a couple years ago.  Jim has an amazing website, http://moini.net/, covering New Jersey plates, Apportioned plates from just about everywhere, license plates of Mexico, Truck & Trailer plates, and a great section on Corporate Fleet plates.

 


This 1930 Passenger plate has been added and is the first photo of the all-numeric serial format and measures 6" by 12".  Thanks to Jim Moini for this image.

 

 


Thanks to Jim Moini for this 1931 Passenger plate from this 0000A to 9999Z serial grouping of plates.  Some 7 different serial formatting groups were used to allow over 1.5 million passenger registrations while holding the plates to a maximum of 5 characters, and limiting the size 6" by 12".

 


Here's a nice group of original 1935 Passenger plates from the first serial progression going from 1 to 99999.  Plates from 1 to 4 characters were 10-inches in width and 5-character plates were 12 inches.  These plate photos were provided by Tim Gierschick.

 


This grouping of 1935 Passenger plates shows several serial formatting variations and both the 12-inch and 10-inch sizes.  There are eight serial formatting variations.  Click link above to see additional information on both serial formatting and sizes.  Plate photos in order are courtesy of America on Wheels Museum, Jim Moini, John Willard & John Anshant, and the JH1 from Jeff Hinkle.

 


For 1936 Passenger plates there were some changes in serial formatting; however, the same two sizes of 10- and 12-inches continue unchanged.  Plate credits, U481, Chuck Sakryd; 6B529, Joe Bosche; 2J236, Jim Moini; 94Y19, Runles Notary; 9581J, America on Wheels Museum.

 


1937 Passenger plates are marked with the addition of an embossed state map outline.  Most other plate had the map added in 1938.  10- and 12-inch sizes continued to be used.  The use of the small keystones was dropped until it reappeared briefly on a late run of plates — note the two plates on the right have the keystones which were used between the MC and PK series.  Plate credits: 30250, Runkles Notary; 2G418 from a car show; 545A, unknown; 7MZ28, Christopher Zavatski; and 2PB08, Dave Lincoln.

 


A number of older Truck plates has been added to the mix including a 1915 3-Star, a 1918 3-Star with a C+4 digit serial, and a pair of 1919 2-Star plates with a C+4 digit serial numbers.  Thanks to Jim Moini for sharing so many photos.

 


This is the first image on this website of a 1931 Truck plate.  A quick look at the plate and it's easy to see why this plate would not easily be recognized as a truck plate.  The S prefix, which is part of the R thru Z classes, might suggest truck but the lack of any legend might leave one wondering.  Click the link above to see more on this tough plate year.  This image is courtesy of Jim Moini.

 


Posting 4/9/2017

This U.S. Submarine Veterans Inc. plate photo has been added to the Fraternal, Non-Profit and Misc. Organizational Plates page.  While the plate is military-related, it is not considered a veterans plate.  These plates have been around since 2005 with a reported high of 00144S/V according to Tom Perri's PA Plates website.  Thanks to Jeff Lawson for the photo.

 


Here is a nice 1921 Passenger 4-digit plate.  Mike at PL8 SOURCE was kind enough to let me use some of his sale plates.  This plate helps to fill a gap between a 2-digit and 6-digit plates.  There were 4 plate sizes used that year, this one measures 6" by 12".  There were two larger sizes and one smaller.

 


The photo gallery now shows two examples of 6-digit 1924 Passenger plates.  The earlier one, 398-516, has strap slots and bolt holes, the plate shown here has bolt holes only, but no slots.  5-digit plates were also known to have been made both with and without slots.  Thanks to Mike at PL8 SOURCE for the use of the image.

 


 

 

 

Here is a partial run of 1932 Passenger plates.  After 1924 alpha-numeric plates were needed due to the increase in registrations.  This, combined with the elimination of plates wider than 12 inches for passenger use, limited plates to 5 characters, and made for quite a letter and number combinations.  Pictured above are 6 of the 8 different plate formats.  Credit for the images: 1779, Sweigart Museum via Eric Conner; R5653, Bob Connison; 8P, Jeff Hinkle; 63A78, Joe Bosche; 2051H, John Willard; PM88, Runkle's Notary; VZ779, America on Wheels.

 


These 1933 Passenger plates represent several of the formats used that year.  Again 1 to 4 character plates measure 6" x 10", and 5 character plates are 6" x 12".  Note that the N6246 plate has the legend reversed. Click the link above to see more of serial formatting.  Plates shown, H1057 belongs to John Willard, 3V156 is from Joe Bosche, the 6V360 was photographed at America on Wheels, and finally the YR plate is from Sarge at Klassy K.arz.

 


This 1933 plate was an experimental or test plate, made of aluminum with a reflective year tab riveted to the plate. The color is burnt orange or copper, while the embossed features are not painted. The reverse is also painted orange. The tab appears to contain the year, 33, and a serial number A25369. Plate measures 6" x 10".  The concept of a replaceable feature to revalidate the plate, in this case a reflective tab, was about 25 years ahead of it's time.  To me the average driver would encounter issues dealing with replacing a tab riveted to the plate, if that was the idea.  This plate was provided by John Lemons.

 


Next is this group of 1934 Passenger plates represents several different serial number formats in both the 10-inch and 12-inch widths.  In 1934 there were some 1,700,000 passenger registrations.  This serial numbering system would have presented a challenge with a maximum of 5 spaces available.  Click the link above for a listing of the various alpha-numeric progressions.  Plates shown in order are courtesy of America on Wheels, Runkles Notary, unknown, and Joe Bosche.

 


This is a 1926 R-Class truck plate with the R weight class designator in the suffix position.  This was the result of R class plates running out of numbers where the R was in the prefix position.  Once plates reached R99-999 additional R class plates used the suffix position.  This plate is courtesy of Mike at PL8 SOURCE.

 


Here is an R-Class 1935 Truck plate — the R-Class being the lightest weight and most common plate.  Like the 1932 to 1934 plates the same truck classes were in use from R to Z for 2-axle and ZR to ZZ for 3-axle, skipping the X series.  Almost all truck plates were 6" by 12"; however, it appears that the R-series ran out of 5-character combinations toward the end of the run and went to 6-character, R00-00A serial format measuring 6" by 15".  The plate shown here is courtesy of Bob Connison.

 


This grouping of 1936 Truck plates shows two R weight class plates, one with the second alpha character in the 4th position and the other in the 3rd position.  The other is a T weight class plate with the second alpha character in the 4th position.  Click the link above for more detail on plate serial formatting.  The 1st and 3rd plates shown hear are courtesy of Chuck Sakryd; the 2nd plate is from Bob Connison.

 


The final run this week consists of these 1937 Truck plates.  Four classes are shown here beginning with R, the lightest weight, then S, T and U as the weight classes progressed higher.  All truck plates had a second alpha character in addition to the weight class.  1937 was also the beginning of the familiar map outline, but it was only used on Passenger and Official plates that first year.  The R- and S-class photos are from Bob Connison, the T-class is from Chuck Sakryd, and the U-class is unknown.

 


Posting 4/2/2017

Spotted this newly issued Passenger Vanity with map outline, and without the sticker well.  This revised base should be showing up in the not too distant future on passenger and other plate types.

 

 


It appears that the Pennsylvania Fraternal Order of Constables now has, or is about to have 1 active plate.  With only a single plate, confirmation of this information is difficult.

 

 


This may not look like anything special, but this is the only first-generation Commercial Implement of Husbandry plate to be photo-documented.  And that is not from a lack of trying.  A little history might be helpful.  Yellow-on-blue Commercial Implement plates were first released in 1997, then in September of 1999 they were reissued on the www base.  It is not known how many were issued but this plate suggests a few hundred.  Also, they were only issued for about two years before being replaced.  It is my understanding that originally the non-commercial Implement of Husbandry plates, which go back to about 1984, were issued to both non-commercial and commercial vehicles, then in 1997 commercial vehicles were split off and issued tags as shown here.  This plate was on a recent ebay auction and the owner, Tighe N., gave me the OK to use the photo.

 


This 1914 porcelain plate was produced a part of a number block of plates from 20000 to 39000 destined to be used for truck plates; however, the demand for truck plates did not meet expectations, so some of that block were registered to passenger vehicles.  1914 truck plates would have had a vertical aluminum weight band or strip on the left side of the plate between the border and the legend.  The small mounting holes are visible especially on the full size image.  This plate was also on eBay recently the owner, old2new4u gave me the OK to use it.

 


This 6-character alpha-numeric plate has been added to the 1926 Passenger display.  The plate series ran from 1 to 999-999, then moved to a leading letter format starting with A, A1, A2 etc.  This plate measures 6" by 15" and the photo was taken at Runkles Notary in Hanover, PA.

 


Here is a B-series alpha-numeric format 1927 Passenger plate.  The initial run was all-numeric, then after reaching 999-999, an alpha-numeric plate run followed the same format as the '26 plate shown above.  This photo was taken at the State Museum in Harrisburg.

 


This is a pair of 1929 'shorty' passenger plates.  The 76 plate would have been 76th plate issued in the passenger series that extended to 999-999.  After reaching that point, the series began with A, A1, up to A99-999 and eventually to the F series and this F-28 plate.  Plate size depended on the number of characters with up to four using 6" by 10", 5 character were 6" by 13" and 6 character were 6" by 15".  The 76 plate is from Tim Gierschick and the F-28 is thanks to Ned Flynn.

 


These plates have been added to the 1930 Passenger display.  While these plates may appear to in random order, they actually follow a newly established order that the serial numbering system followed for 1930.  Apparently there was a goal to eliminate the use of 15" plates limiting sizes to 6" by 10" and 6" by 12", but in order to do this plate serials had to be limited to 5 characters.  Click the link above to see the progression of alpha-numeric combinations.  Plate credit: C1, Jeff Hinkle; N6708, Joe Bosche; 1B1, unknown; 8F630, AACA Museum; 27Z24, America on Wheels; FL1, Nick Smith.

 


This group of 1931 Passenger plates has been added to the plate photo gallery.  In an effort to limit the size (width) of passenger plates to a maximum of 12" required limiting the plates to 5 characters.  As a result a number of permutations and combinations of numbers and letters were used.  Note the 4-character plates shown above are 6" by 10".  Click the link to see the list of formats.  Plates shown above: 9006, unknown source; J506, America on Wheels; S9441, Joe Bosche; 715U, Runkle's Notary, FL1, Nick Smith; LB65, Fred Carlton. 

 


On the far left is an photo of an Allentown Fair truck back in the day with a 1929 U-class tag, U11-962, click photo to enlarge.  Also shown is this pair of R-Class 1929 Truck plate photos.  There was no plate legend at the time to identify these as truck plates, just the letter prefix.  R-Class is the lightest weight class and the most common plate.  As can be seen these plates are different lengths depending on the number of characters in the serial number.  These are 6" by 13" and 6" by 15" respectively.  There was also a 6" by 10" for 2, 3 and 4 character plates.

 


Truck plates during the early 1930s are tough finds.  Before 1934 they are missing any kind of identifying legend.  In addition some passenger plates at the time can be confused with, and easily misidentified as truck plates.  If anyone has truck plates for this period that they would be willing to share photos of, it would be appreciated.  Take a look at the formatting of the 1931 thru 1933 truck plates for more information. THANKS!

 


 

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Images and photos are always welcome.  Please send to:

John McDevitt, Walnutport, PA

ALPCA #4376

 

 

 

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