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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 5/20/2018

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


Posting 5/12/2018

Very sad news — long time friend and fellow license plate collector Steve Ondik has passed away after a long struggle.  If you didn't know him personally, you will likely recall his name associated with many contributions to this website.  Rest in peace Steve.


This is a fairly recent Antique Vehicle plate judging by the number series progression and the map symbol.  It is not a high however.  The high plate, 3W34, does not have the map symbol and it does not have the sticker well.  We still don't know why a later plate would be missing the most current features.


Here's the latest photographed high Collectible Vehicle plate.  The first batch of these newer style plates runs from CV1600 to CV1699 and dates back to 2014, but so far only about forty-some plate have been issued.  This is why this plate still has the sticker well and no map.  The plates will likely remain so until the CV1700 mark is reached.


This Severely Disabled Veteran vanity plate was spotted recently.  The standard issue has D/V followed by a 5-digit serial number, the vanity format usess the same D/V with up to 5 letters, numbers, a space or dash.  One unique feature of the Disabled and Severely Disabled Veteran plate is the retention of the original plate coloring, no visitPA family of plates here.


Here's the latest high Pennsylvania Hunting Heritage plate as recently spotted by Bruce Bufalini.  The plate type dates back to 2014 and appears to have widespread appeal.  The plate shown here does not yet have the small map outline.  It is also available in a personalized version.


We start this week's oldies off with this 'shorty' Format 3 1939 Passenger plate.  Format 3 included the series 1A00 to 9Z999 which included both 4 and 5-character plates.  4-character plates were 6-inch by 10-inch, and 5-character were 6-inch by 12-inch.  Thanks to ebay seller Powerfullhammer for the use of this plate.


This is a 1944 Format 9 Passenger plate.  Format 9 was the last run for the year and the progression would have been 1AA0 to 1AA99, then 2AA0 to 2AA99, finally ending at 4NB8.   4-character plates were 6-inch by 10-inch, and 5-character were 6-inch by 11-inch.  They were issued as singles due to the war.  Thanks to Michael Wiener at Bestplates for the use of the photo.


Here is a 1949 Format 6 Passenger plate.  That format used a serial progression starting at 000A0 and going to 999Z9.  All plates were 6 inches by 11 inches that year.  This plate was spotted at a recent car show, and was being used as a YOM (year of manufacture) plate.



This is a 1956 Format 2 Passenger plate.  For this format the serial progression ran from A100 to Z9999, so both 4 and 5 character plates were part of the equation.  1956 also saw the standardization of plates at 6 inches by 12 inches.  Thanks to ebay user Powerfullhammer for the photo.



This is the earliest cardboard Temporary plate photo I have.  This plate is dated 6-26-57.  Considering the fact that this plate has progressed to a U-prefix, and an early all-numeric plate in the ALPCA Archives suggests that these plates may date back to 1941, this could be the earliest format for these cardboard temp plates.  Thanks to ebay seller Harlots.n.hussies for the use of the image.


The more of these late '50s to late 60s vintage cardboard temp tags I see, the more it appears that the order in which they were made has little to do with the order in which they were issued.  I'm going to suggest that this round of plates started with a 6-digit, all numeric format, then when that series became full it went to an alpha character in the first position, then in the second position, for example: 123-456, A12-345, then 1A2-345.  I'm only referring to the plates with T PA T as the top legend.  For this reason I'm going to group them by alpha-numeric sequence but then also list their known or approximate issue date.  Thanks to Bob Connison for these photos, with a couple more from Bob next week.


This is a 1938 Format 1 Trailer plate which included the all-numeric run of 0001 to 9999.  There was a second sequence of alpha-numeric plates starting with A000.  All plates were 4 characters and all measured 6 inches by 12 inches.  Bob Connison sent me this photo and was kind enough to send me a bunch of Trailer images that will be posted over the next few weeks.


This is a nicely refinished 1920 Class 2 Commercial or Truck plate.  Information on weight classes is very sketchy; however the first digit in the serial number is believed to designate the class.  The term 'Commercial' was used to designate a Truck in the early '20s and then again from 1968 to '77.  This plate measures 7 inches by 13½ inches.  The extra one inch in height is due to the placement of plate legend at both the top and bottom of the plate.  Some 16 inch plates (see below) were 6 inches high since the extra length allowed all of the plate legend to be placed along the bottom, while other 16 inch plates had the legend at both the top and bottom and were 7 inches high — confusing.  Thanks to Peter Cohen for the photograph.

This is also a 1920 Commercial plate, but this one is a Class 3.  Like the plate above, it contains 5-digits, but unlike the plate above it is on a 6- inch by 16-inch base, and therefore the entire legend fits along the bottom of the plate.  Another big thank you to Peter Cohen for the photo.


Posting 5/6/2018

When PA finally embarked on a major plate replacement initiative in September of 1999, the first passenger plates to be replaced were those 1977-base yellow on blue plates.  See License Plate Replacement Fact Sheet.  The replacement plates were reportedly the first plates in the U.S. to have a web address on the plate.  The plates also used flat screened legend and  fading color bands.  While the plates were completely new, the alpha-numeric serial numbers picked up at DAA-0000 after the previous yellow on blue base ended at or about CEG-3865.  The plate shown here is one of the first issued replacement plates still on the road, and in pretty decent condition.  Thanks to Jeff Lawson for the photo.


Here's a unique Penn Alumni, that's the University of Pennsylvania if you're not familiar.  Their plate program has been around since 2005.  The current reported high is 00448U/P according to Tom Perri's highs website.  Thanks to Matt Boyer for this attention-grabbing vanity photo.



This is likely the second National Wild Turkey Federation plate issued when the program started back in 2002, and it's still on the road today.  This plate program has never moved into the next generation of graphic formatting, and I have never seen an actual sample plate.  Thanks to Nick Tsilakis for sharing this image.


Here's the latest image of a Rosedale Technical College plate.  This plate program has an interesting history.  The program began back in 2012 with the legend 'Rosedale Technical Institute'.  Then in 2016 the facility changed its name and logo.  It is unconfirmed, but possible, that both the original 2012 format and the 2016 update are in use.  Both styles of the plate use the same serial progression of 00000R/I.  Click the link above to see photos of both variations.  Thanks to Bruce Bufalini for sharing what is also the current new high.


Here's a new high number Villanova University plate, now sporting the small map outline.  The previous high, according to Tom Perri's PA Plates website, was 00442V/U and did not appear to have the small map.  You may also recall older Villanova University Alumni Assoc. plates on the www base.  They had the V/U in the prefix position.  Many of those older plates are still in use.  Thanks to Jaska Börner for the use of this plates


This is a 1956 Miscellaneous Dealer plate with the X-identifier in the first position.  The X could also be in the second or third position, click the link above to see variations.  Also plates toward the end of the run began using narrower dies often referred to as '57 dies.  Thanks to Arthur Levine for the plate photo.


This is a needed 1935 Format 8 Passenger plate.  The serial progression ran from 0AA to 9BD99, which would have allowed for 3, 4 and 5 character versions.  The 3 and 4-character plates measured 6 inches by 10 inches, while those with 5 characters were 6 inches by 12 inches.  Thanks to ebay user Powerfullhammer for the photo; however, I recently purchased this plate from him.


Not beautiful, but it does show the short version of a 1937 Format 8 Passenger plate.  Short version means 4 characters with the serial format from AA10 to ZZ99 and 6" x 10" while 5 character plates had an additional digit and measured  6" x 12".  Another thank you to Powerfullhammer for the use of the photo.


Here's a 1947 Format 7 Passenger plate.  This series went from 0000A to 9999Z.  Some other series had 4-character plates; however, both 4 and 5-character plates were 6 inches by 11 inches in size.  Thanks to Arthur Levine for this photo.  Still need a Format 9  (1AA00 to 9ZZ99) plate to complete the '47 run.


This Temporary Cardboard 1970-issue has been added.  I'll be the first to admit my knowledge of these temp-tags is limited, but they do deserve coverage.  Since these plate don't have any natural date legend, and since they may lie on a dealer's shelves for an extended period, it's not easy to give the plate a year unless the hand-written portions are legible.  This plate is dated 1970 and was issued on to a Cadillac ambulance.  The image came from Andy Vereen.


This is a 1939 Format 1 Trailer plate.  Format 1 included the serial progression from 0001 to 9999, then the next progression started at A000 with the letter advancing last.  All serial numbers contained four characters and all plates measured 6 inches by 12 inches.  Thank you to Peter Cohen for sending me a group of older trailer plates.


Next is this 1949 Format 2 Trailer plate.  Format 2 included the series A000 to Z999.  The first series was all-numeric from 0001 to 9999.  All together there were 5 serial formats used that year.  From 1945 through 1952 trailer plates were all 6 inches by 11 inches.  The source of this photo is unknown.


Next is this very nice 1951 Format 2 Trailer plate.  The Format 2 progression again ran from A000 to Z999, and followed the initial all-numeric run.  By 1951 five digit plates came into use toward the end, it is unknown if any were issued prior to 1951.  I have no 5-digit photos.  Again thank you to Peter Cohen for the older trailer plates.


Posting 4/29/2018

Here's the latest Conserve Wild Resources - River Otter plate.  I thought it was strange that the only two plate photos I have are well over 01000.  I did some checking and find that very few plates below R/C01000 have been issued.  I'm not going to speculate as to why this is the case, but it does suggest that plate sales have not been as brisk as the plate number shown here might suggest.  Thanks to Steve Ondik for the photo.


This Philadelphia Animal Welfare Society plate photo was provided by Jeff Lawson.  I only have two additional images of this plate type, as a result, this is the low number.  These plates date back to 2015.  Somewhere around 164 of these plates have been issued so far.


This Teen Driver vanity plate was spotted recently by Bruce Bufalini.  Apparently not too many teen drivers want to be identified as such.  This plate type made its debut in 2013, and since that time only about 70 plates with a numeric serial number have been issued.  With sales that weak, I'm surprised they are still available.


This recently spotted Permanent-Trailer plate is the latest reported high.  Note that this plate does have the small map outline.  That feature was previously spotted as far back as August of 2017, and is believed to have come about at PT-500D0.  Vanities are not permitted.  Thanks to Bruce Bufalini for the use of the image.


This pair of plates was spotted on the front of a vehicle.  Apparently the owner likes PA rail trails and Delaware beaches.  The PA Rails to Trails Conservancy plate program dates back to 1997, then they were reissued on the www base in September of 2001.  Again in 2007 the plate was given a facelift and now appears on the visitPA base with color graphics.  Of course those who choose to keep their plate on the www base could do so.  The newest edition is also available as a vanity.  The photo shown hers is courtesy of Jeff Lawson.


This is a 1927 Bus plate.  The first character is the letter 'O'.  Between 1926 and 1929 there were actually two types of Bus plates.  There were plates with the 'O' prefix as shown here, and there were also plates with an 'H' prefix.  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.  Thanks to Drewski for the use of this photo.


These are two very welcome additions to the 1934 Passenger display.  On the far left is a Format 2 plate which consists of the progressions A to Z999, in 6" x 10", and A1000 to Z9999, 6" x 12".  The near left plate is a Format 8 which consists of series of AA100 to ZZ999, all of which are 6" x 12" in size.  I want to thank ebay user Powerfullhammer for the use of these photos.


Here is a pair of 1949 U Class Truck plates.  While these are both from the same weight class, they represent two of the four serial progressions used that year.  Click the link above to see additional '49 truck plates and an additional U-class format.  The far left plate is thanks to Jde609 and the other is from Peter Cohen.


Here's an addition to the 1951 Truck plate display.  It's a Class T weight class of which there were two serial progressions including T000A, T00A0, with this plate being a part of the second group.  Still need photos for the W to the ZZ class.  Thanks to ebay-er Suzelush1 for the use of the photo.


Truck plates for 1952 were very similar to the '51 series with the obvious reversal of the colors, and plates were issued as singles rather than in pairs.  The plate shown here shows one of the six serial formatting progressions - R0AA0 to R9ZZ9.  Thanks to ebay user Bennyjoebob for the use of this photo.


Here's a U-weight class 1957 Truck plate  Several changes are evident here, for starters the serial numbers of all truck plates are now 6 characters, thus simplifying the serial progressions.  The additional space for 6 characters came from the plate width being standardized at 12 inches, and the use of a narrower font.  Thanks to from Suzelush1 for the use of this plate photo.



Posting 4/22/2018

This is the first photo-documented International Association of Fire Fighters (aka IAFF) plate with the map outline.  It is also a vanity plate since it has only 4 character instead of the usual 5.  Personalized plates with the map outline are often spotted before that feature is seen on the standard-issue plate.   This photo was taken by Jordan Irazabal


Here's a low-number vanity on the www base.  At one time plates between 3 and 23 were reserved for cabinet members, and 24 and 999 were held in reserve for state officials and dignitaries.  Could this plate be a carryover from that era?  While today they are considered vanities, good luck getting a number under 100.  The number 1 and 2 plates are unissued but are held in reserve for the Governor and Lt. Governor but have not been used as such in a number of years.  Thank you Ryan Battin for sharing the photo.  By the way, Tom Perri has a web page that features plates up to 100.


This low number Friendship Hook, Ladder, Hose & Ambulance plate was spotted recently.  This fire company's plate program dates back to 2009.  It appears that about 14 plates have been issued, and somehow we have photos of # 1, 2 and now 3.  Thanks to Steve Ondik for the photo.


Here on the far left is a nice example of a Classis Car plate with the wrong serial number font.  Next to it is a Classis Car with the correct font for reference.  Classic plates date back to 1977, with the serial number likely starting at 10000.  There was a series of 1000 plates between 20000 and 20999 that were stamped with conventional or passenger dies in place of the 'antique' dies.  Who really knows what goes on behind prison walls?  Thanks to Jeff Hinkle for sharing this photo.


This 'shorty'  is a 1926 Format 1 Passenger plate.  That group includes the numerical progression from 1 or 2 to 999 and measure 6" by 10".  Click the link above to see a 2-digit plate and most of the additional seven formats with the exception of Format 5 which includes A to C-99 and Format 7 which includes A1-000 to C9-999.  Thanks to Mike at Pl8source for the use of the photo.


Here is a very nice pair of 1937 Passenger plates that should not have the keystones flanking the plate legend.  There was a run of these toward the end of production in the M, N and P-series.  1937 was also the first year to use the state map outline.  Thanks to Peter Cohen for sharing these photos.


This seems like the week for 1917 Truck plates.  I have been fortunate enough to acquire three new images this week.  While the images are helpful in documenting the progressions and variations in formatting details, they also create new questions.  This 1-star weight class is the first I've seen on the longer base and with the shorter legend of PA over 17 instead of PENNA over 1917.  The S indicates solid rubber tires.  Thanks to ebay-er 51jnj61 for the use of the image. 


The two far left images are new postings.  The plate on the near left is a previous posting shown for comparison.  They are all a 3-star weight class 1917 Truck plates.  The far left plate is S+4 digits and measures 6" by 14".  The center plate is also S+4 digits but measures 6" by 16".  Both use PENNA over the embossed keystone with the maker's number over 1917.  The S+5 digit plate is also 6" by 16" but uses a shortened legend of PA and 17 in place of the above.  So we're seeing three variations of 1917 3-star truck plates.  Credit for these plates from left to right goes to Charlesgilbertantiquetoys, Peter Cohen and Bob Connison.  If all of this weren't enough, the ALPCA Archives (members only) also shows a 1917 3-star S8799 plate with the shorter legend, making a total of 4 format variations for the 3-star series.


This is a 1938 Class R Truck.  It is also part of the the fourth and last serial progression of R-series plates starting at R00AA.  The use of two letters in the 4th and 5th position made it unnecessary to go to longer 6-character plates as was done in the previous several years.  Thanks to Mitzipinehigh for the use of this photo.


Here is a pair of 1939 R-Class Truck plates.  They represent the first and the third of the four serial formats used that year, which include R000A, R00A0, R0A00, R00AA.  All plates were limited to 5 characters and all were 6" by 12".  The far left plate is thanks to Peter Cohen, and the other is thanks to ebay user Likesandclicks.


This is a 1941 S-Class Truck plate.  For that year there were four serial progressions within the S-weight class.  These included S000A, of which this plate is a part, then S00A0, S0A00 and S00AA.  As with other Truck plates of that era, all plates were 5 characters and all were 6" by 12" in size.  This plate was provided thanks to ebay user Mg000000.



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John McDevitt, Walnutport, PA

ALPCA #4376