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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 6/25/2017

This Superior Court plate was provided anonymously.  In addition to this plate, the plate gallery has plates S/C03 (with badge), S/C06, S/C11 and S/CPJ1 (President Judge 1 with badge).  Not much is known about the history of this plate type.  Click the link above to read some additional bits and pieces of history.

 


This very recent image of a personalized Penn Alumni plate was photographed by Jordan Irazabal.  Note the lack of a sticker well and no map outline in its place.  This suggests that organizational plates or at least personalized ones, will not have the map outline, while standard issue vanity plates have been issued with the map outline.

 


They don't get any older and they don't get any nicer.  These 1903 to 1906 Philadelphia Pre-State plate images were provided by Bob Connison.  After the state passed a law requiring vehicles to show a registration number as early as 1903, and the state did not issue plates until 1906, the registration process was handled at the county level during the intervening years.  The City of Philadelphia (or County, as they are the same) began issuing 4-inch by 7-inch porcelain plates in 1903.  Eric Taylor's Porcelain Plates website (http://porcelainplates.net/) has an excellent write-up and is a must-read if you have any interest in license plate beginnings here in PA.  According to Eric, there were no single or 2-digit plates.  

 


This 3-digit 1916 Passenger plate photo was provided by Bob Connison.  1916 saw the switch from porcelain to painted steel.  The makers number was now stamped into the embossed keystone.  An aluminum keystone was only used if the plate was transferred to another vehicle.

 


This 1933 R-Class Truck plate was made available by eBay user rqb507.  This is the only '33 truck plate photo I have, so it does fill a gap.  These plates were yellow on dark blue and measured 6" by 15".  All plates used 6 characters with the first one or two alpha characters indicating the weight class and number of axles.  Since there was no legend identifying the vehicle as a truck, the first one or two letters and 6-character serial format identified the vehicle as a truck.

 


This beautifully refinished 1934 Passenger plate helps to fill one of the serial progression gaps. This 10-inch shorty is (or was) up for grabs on eBay, and the owner, Graham Ham of West Australia, gave me the OK to use the image.  I don't say this often enough, but one of the benefits of this plate hobby is the great people with whom you come in contact.

 


Here are a couple additional format variations to the 1944 Passenger and 1947 Passenger plates.  The 4-character '44 plate is a 10-inch shorty, and the 5-character '47 plate is a scant 1 inch wider.  Thanks to Steve Ondik for providing the photos.

 


Here are two more formatting additions to the 1949 Passenger run including these 4-character and 5-character photos.  For 1949 all plates were either 4 or 5 characters, and measure 11 inches.  The far left plate is from Steve Ondik and the near left plate is thanks to Chuck Sakryd.

 


The picture on the far left with one plate above the other shows the difference in die types used on 1956 Passenger plates.  The upper portion of the photo shows the thinner dies used later in the year and the lower plate shows the standard dies used up to the changeover.  Note the difference between the 4 and the 2 shown on both plates.  The M4K25 is part of what I categorize as Format 15.  I want to thank fellow ALPCA member and friend Ned Flynn for his help with the photos.

 


Here's another example of a '56 Passenger plate with '57 dies; however, it is from a different serial format than the plate shown above.  Three serial formats with '57 dies were issued concurrently.  The image is from an eBay user who did not request credit for the picture.  The left edge of the plate is clipped off.  This is how the plate was when the owner acquired the plate from another auction.

 


We're finally up to 1958 Passenger plates with lots of additional images since the first few standard issue plates were posted some months ago.  Other than the 1942 plates with the 43 tabs to aid the war effort, 1958 was the first modern plate to venture into the use of multi-year registration plates.  Initially plates were manufactured with a rectangular slot to the left of the 58 where a metal tab was planned to be affixed annually.  Eventually the tab slot was eliminated.  No tabs were ever issued and the idea was scrapped in favor of the now-familiar annual validation sticker.  Only the far left plate above shows standard formatting of six characters with a small keystone separator in the center between the 3rd and 4th characters.  The other plates shown in this group are all reserve issue which were available upon request. 

Keep in mind that during this period there were also Amateur Radio plates, Suburban plates beginning in 1960, and Press Photographer plates which all shared some common elements with Passenger plates.

 


I'm starting the 1958 Truck run with these two R-series that are in the same R00-0A0 serial progression.  The main difference is the earlier plate on the far left has the tab slot.  The near left plate was manufactured later which was after the tab slot had been eliminated.  These plates are from Chuck Sakryd.

Below is a continuation of 1958 Truck plates.  These photos were almost all a part of a group picture provided Kelly Brewer.  Unfortunately the original picture is not a high enough resolution to allow for larger individual photos.  As a result these photos do not enlarge by clicking them.  That's the down side.  The up side is that we now have photos of the complete RZ to ZZ series of 3-axle trucks. 

 

 

 

The ZZ class, heaviest 3-axle truck, plate from John Willard is shown here to complete the sequence.

 

For 1958 there was a new class of truck plates for truck tractors, or think of it as the truck portion of an 18-wheeler.  Obviously such trucks existed before, but now had their own plates series made up of WT, YT and ZT 3-axls truck tractors.  Don't know what 2-axle truck tractors used.

The last group of '58 truck plates includes these YX and ZX 4-axle trucks.  Again such trucks existed before, but were likely licensed with the heaviest 3-axle trucks.  The ZX class plate is from John Willard is shown here to complete the sequence.

 

 


Posting 6/18/2017

Here's the first standard issue Passenger plate I've seen with the small PA map outline where the sticker well used to be.  This plate was photographed in Delaware by Ryan Battin.  Map outline passenger vanity plates were seen as early as January 2017. 

 


Here's a personalized Person with Disability plate on the latest base with the small map outline taking the place of the sticker well.  A thank you to George Kunsman for the use of the plate photo.

 

 


I received a note from Tom Robillard stating that within a few weeks the Penn State Alumni Association plate will be undergoing a facelift.  He has been in touch with the Alumni Association and was provided with this update.  No pictures or prototypes yet.

 


This new Municipal Government plate is thought to be the current high.  If you recall these switched from the more official-looking white on blue fully embossed base to this semi-embossed base with the small map outline.  This change took place at M/G9000J and was first seen in early February of 2017.

 


This Share The Road plate is a Special Fund plate, and again one of those types that are issued in two tiers.  This two-tier thing was seen with the 3-digit Otter plates, the under-100 Honoring Our Veterans plates, and now this plate.  Don't expect to get an explanation of this from the state, I've tried and so have others.  Stonewalling is what you will get.  Enough editorializing.  Steve Ondik photographed this plate.

 


This Kutztown University vanity plate photo was snapped by Steve Ondik.

 

 


This very nice 1916 Passenger plate has been added and fills a gap for the 4-digit 6" by 13" plate series.  The owner of the plate wished to remain anonymous.

 

 


Last week's  plate progression ended with 1955, this week we pick up again with the 1956 Passenger series.  A couple changes came about for 1956.  First, all full-size plates were standardized at 6 inches by 12 inches.  This is quite a switch from 1955's 10-inch width.  Later in the '56 production run, thinner 1957 dies were put in play.  These dies were used in the later part of several serial progressions being issued concurrently.  While I have many examples of the different formatting variations, unfortunately, at present, I don't have photos of any of these thinner-die plates.

The first two all-numeric plates above are from Tim Gierschick, the E999 is from Sarge at Klassy Karz, 2S343 from Chuck Sakryd, 47L37 from Aimee Senott, next row, 201M America on Wheels, 1425B Drew Steitz, SL53 Tim Gierschick, AD120 Jeff Hinkle, 7DE20 Steve Ondik, bottom row, 60MG2 Runkle's Notary, 212YJ Steve Ondik, E0F59 Aimee Senott, finally the Sample plate is from Chuck Sakryd.

 

 

 


Next we move ahead to 1957 Passenger plates.  Again there were at least a dozen serial progression formats used, which eventually brought about the first 6-digit passenger plate since 1929.  The 6-digit plates used a thinner font and can be seen in the next to the last example below.  The 6-digit plates did not use any kind of separator or extra space for '57 plates.

The first two all-numeric plates above are from Tim Gierschick, E717 is from Steve Ondik, B5670 Lori Wakefield, 300M America on Wheels, CN945 AACA Museum, 912DM Runkle's Notary, 431095 America on Wheels.

 


These R- and S-class 1936 Truck plates photos were recently snapped at a truck show by Steve Ondik.  They show additional serial formatting variations over what was previously shown.  The R-plate appears to be a repaint.

 

 


Next up is this group of 1956 Truck plates.  Shown are four examples of R-series weight class plates each with a different alpha-numeric serial  format.  There were actually eight total formats, including a run of 6-character plates using thinner '57 dies.  Some 5-character plates also used the '57 dies near the end of the run.  If anyone has '56 Truck (or Passenger) with '57 dies, a photo or photos would be much appreciated.  Also shown above are two examples of S-series.  Photo credit goes to Jeff Hinkle for R6G88,  Jim Moini for R46LM, eBay user dustyjr for R2TN8, Bob Connison for R1H3B, S369E and S8S28.

 


For 1957 Truck plates all plates are now 6 character.  The additional character reduces the number of serial progressions needed.  Shown here are an R-class and an S-class plate.  Both are courtesy of Bob Connison.  The gallery also shows a Z-class from a previous posting.

 


Posting 6/11/2017

Here's an interesting and distinctive Press Photographer plate.  This is believed to be a vanity or personalized version.  Credit to Drew Steitz.

 

 


This is a Repair Towing vanity plate, and was photographed by Bill Ceravola.  The RT is a required prefix and up to 5 numbers and / or letters are permitted.  A hyphen or space will count as one of the available spaces.

 

 


This 1963 Member of Congress plate is up for grabs on eBay by pinkocelot.  I've been looking for a '58 to '64 Member of Congress plate for several years and the owner was kind enough to allow me to use the photo.  This plate would have been issued to the representative of the 27th Congressional District.  That district is now defunct as a result of redistricting.  I'm guessing the plate was produced early thus the tab slot, and then held in reserve.  The plate was eventually issued with a 63 PA0000 new issue validation sticker.

 


While detailing plate history, Ned Flynn points out that some 1913 plates were actually re-fired 1912 plates that were not issued for some reason, maybe a quality issue.  Then they were reused in 1913.  The evidence for this is where chipping of the outer layer of enamel around the keystone reveals the layer below is the 1912 color.  Also in the 'shadow' you can see some of the original number, which is close to the current number.  The 9497 plate above belongs to Ned.  In addition, the boxed markings on the rear of the 9497 plate from the maker, Brilliant Manufacturing, were used on the early 1912 plates and later switched to the larger stenciled marking.  Full-fledged 1913 plates used the stenciled marking on the reverse side as shown on the reverse of the 1913 plate from David at Platedog.com.  There is also a 5-digit plate with similar indications of re-firing a 1912 plate.

 


This is a 6-digit, 16-inch, 1921 Passenger plate.  It has been added to the plate gallery and is a better image than the existing one.  The plate is credited to John Willard.

 

 


This shorty 1934 Passenger plate is part of the AA to ZZ and AA1 to ZZ99 serial progression, and has been added to that year's display.  The plate is credited to John Willard.

 

 


This well preserved 10" shorty 1937 Passenger plate belongs to John Willard and was photographed at the recent Trexlertown plate meet.  This 4-character plate is part of the A100 to Z9999 serial progression.  Of course 5-character issues were on 12" plates.

 


Thanks to Tim Gierschick for sharing this 1952 Passenger 4-digit plate photo.  The series began at 1000.  Look back at the 1950 and 1951 galleries for previous 1222 plates.

 

 


Here are two additional 1953 Passenger plates filling some gaps.  The 3957 plate comes from the first series of 1000 to 99999, and was provided by Tim Gierschick.  The S308 comes from the A100 to Z9999 serial progression and was photographed at Runkle's Notary.

 


This week 1954 and '55 plates are being featured.  For 1954 Passenger plates there were some 15 serial format progressions used.  The plates above and below show examples of 7 serial groupings, beginning with the unusual 3-digit 666 plate.  Plates with 3 or fewer characters were not a standard issue, but rather some kind of reserve group.  With so many variations from the same year, it's probably easier to click the link above to view the plates by format groups.  The photos in order are top row, left to right, Charlie Metz, Tim Gierschick (2 plates), Amber, Steve Ondik, Aimee Senott, America on Wheels.  Bottom row, unknown, Tim Gierschick and Runkle's Notary.

 

 

 


For 1955 Passenger plates there are some 16 serial groupings.  So many that they will be shown here in two groups, above and below.  The plates shown here are from 11 formatting progressions.  The 19187 and 38039 plates are part of the same group.  The RN60 and LZ295 are also part of the AA10 to ZZ999 progression.  Like the 1954 plates above, it's easier to click the link above to view the plates in a more organized format.  The photos in order are top row, left to right, Tim Gierschick (first 2 plates), Steve Ondik, Aimee Senott, Steve Ondik, Runkle's Notary and Steve Ondik.  Bottom row, Eric Conner/R Nixon, Don, America on Wheels, AACA Museum, YOM plate, and YOM plate.

 

 

 


Switching gears to 1954 Truck, we have a pair of R-class plates showing two serial progressions, and a pair of S-class plates also from two different serial formats.  In addition a T-class and a V-class plate are shown.  All plates contained 5 characters, were 6" x 10" in size and were issued as singles.  Plates shown from left to right are courtesy of Jim Moini (both R plates), Bob Connison, Jim Moini (second S plate and T plate), and Bob Connison.

 


We end this week with this group of 1955 Truck plates where except for the colors and years, the plates are essentially the same as their 1954 predecessor.  Shown here are 3 R-class and 2 S-class plates each with a different serial format, and a Y-class.  Plates shown from left to right are courtesy of Bob Connison, Jim Moini, Chuck Sakryd, Jim Moini, Bob Connison, and the Y-class plate is unknown.

 


Posting 6/4/2017

*** Currently I have a backlog of photos from contributors.  Thank you.  This is a good thing, keep sending; however, my available time limits how much I can get posted.  Check future updates.  Also, the Passenger and Truck history pages are a current priority. ***


Normally in PA plate serial progressions skip over a few letters that could easily be confused with numbers or other letters.  Certainly the letter 'I' is a prime example.  And while it is used in several low production plates as part of the identifier such as Implement of Husbandry with IMP-0000, I'm not aware of its use as part of the serial progression.  The use of the 'I' in this Antique Historic plate is believed to be part of the progression between the 'H' and the 'K'.  This plate was recently spotted by Bruce Bufalini at a recent car show.

 


Here is a National Police Defense Foundation personalized plate.  This plate type has been around since late 2010 and has over 100 plates in use.  The image is courtesy of Arthur Levine.

 

 


Nice image of a Philadelphia Fire Fighters' Union sample plate from Dave Kearney.  Their plate program dates back to 2005.  While the state produces a limited number of sample plates for the organization to use, their decision to discontinue selling sample plates to the public some years ago was unfortunate in my opinion.

 


This very nice 1937 Trailer plate photo was provided by Jeff Hinkle.  In '37 Trailer plate started with a numeric series of 1 to 9999, then went to an alpha-numeric series as shown here with a letter the first position — and the letter always the last character to advance.  These plates were all 6" by 12"

 


It's always nice to go back and fill in license plate gaps among the displays.  And so it is with this beautiful 1910 porcelain 3-digit plate.  1910 plates were white on dark blue, and the 3-digit plates measured 6" by 10" which is one of 5 sizes that year.  The plates were manufactured by Ing-Rich, also know as Ingram Richardson of Beaver Falls, PA.  This gem was provided by Tim Gierschick. 

 


Tim Gierschick also supplied these 1946 all-numeric passenger plate photos.  The series started at 1000 and ran to 99999, all on 6" by 11" base plates.  Following the all-numeric plates some 9 other alpha-numeric serial progressions were needed to provide enough combinations of 5-character plates to meet the post-war demand.

 


1947 Passenger plates are similar in their formatting and series progressions to the '46 plates above.  Again thanks to Tim Gierschick for sharing these all-numeric 4-digit and 5-digit plates.

 

 


Again passenger plates for 1949, 1950 and 1951, the numeric series 4-digit plates started at 1000 and progressed to 99999.  I'm not aware of 1, 2 or 3 digit plates during this period.  These plate photos are all from Tim Gierschick with my appreciation.

 


From 1944 thru much of 1952, passenger plates have been 6" by 11", but during the latter portion of the year there was a switch to 6" by 10" plates.  This narrowing brought about a change in map outline in order to accommodate 5 characters.  This change is most noticeable on the right-hand border where the Delaware River takes a slightly straighter course.  It is seen above on the far right 562VH plate.  The 1952 Passenger plates shown in order from left to right are from the State Museum, Steve Ondik, America on Wheels, America on Wheels, Runkle's Notary, and Drew Steitz.

 


Following the change in 1952, all 1953 Passenger and other plates were now 6" by 10".  This size remained in use until 1956 when all plates were standardized at 6" by 12".  The group shown hear depicts 6 of the 13 serial progressions beginning with the all-numeric format.  The plates shown in order from left to right are from Steve Ondik, my collection, Steve Ondik, Jeff Hinkle, Lori Wakefield and Drew Steitz.

 


Switching over to 1952 Truck plates, the same as previous 2-axle and 3-axle weight class designations continue starting from R to Z  for 2-axle, and from RZ to ZZ for 3 axle trucks.  The group shown here are all from the 2-axle group.  Far fewer 3-axle trucks were on the road at the time and therefore the plates are far more scarce.  The plates shown above from left to right are thanks to Jeff Hinkle, Jim Moini, Bob Connison, and Jim Moini.

 


For 1953 Truck plates we see a couple changes — first the plates have shrunk from 6" by 11" to 6" by 10".  Secondly the expiration date has been changed from 3-31 of the following year to 5-31 of the following year, or in this case 1954.  The first and last image are thanks to Bob Connison and the center image is from Jim Moini.

 


Posting 5/28/2017

The introduction of new organizational plates has slowed way down over the past couple years especially when compared to 2005 thru 2007 period following the introduction of color graphic plates.  Earlier in 2017 the Hummelstown Chemical Fire Company No. 1  was added to the organizational plate list which I missed at the time.  No prototype picture at this point; however, it appears that their format is 10000H/C and there may be 8 plates in use at present.

More recently the Philadelphia Centurions Motorcycle Club has been added to the organizational plate list.  Since this is a police-related organization, it is being listed with Fire, Police and EMS page.  No prototype for this plate either.  The likely plate format will be 30000P/C.

 


This pair of images sets the start of the map outline for Truck plates at ZKJ-0000, with the previous run ending at ZKH-9999.  The ZKH-9999 is also an endpoint on a inventory sheet.  The would be no ZKI run.  Thanks to Steve Ondik and Kyle Kuser for the pictures.

 


It's that time of the year for car shows and the like.  Here are two recent shots of Antique Vehicles plates.  The 4K00 looks like a new high.  The letter K is the last character to advance.  Of course the Y-V8 is a vanity or personalized version of the Antique Vehicle plate.  These have become popular with up to four characters allowed.  The 4K00 photo is from Bruce Bufalini, and the Y-V8 is from Arthur Levine.

 


Here's a personalized version of a Pennsylvania Hunting Heritage plate.  As I recall when this plate was in the planning process, the PA Game Commission said there would be no personalized plates, and yet here they are.  Obviously there was a policy change.  For anyone interested in such a plate click this link to the information sheet and application.  Thanks to Steve Ondik for this image of a friend's plate.  The NCPA stands for North Central PA Outdoors.  Click this link (http://www.ncpaoutdoors.com/) to check out their website.

 


Here's a photo of the #1 PA Choose Life plate from William Young.  I find it interesting that the highest reported Choose Life plate is 1363, while the Planned Parenthood of PA plate has a reported high of 22.

 

 


On the far left is a 1958 Motorcycle Dealer plate from Bob Connison with the tab slots.  On higher plates such as the 838 plate shown in the plate gallery, there were no tab slots.  This change is common on many '58 bases that were planned for metal tabs but instead received stickers.  The '71 Motorcycle Dealer plate is from Steve Ondik.  From 1934 until 1966, MCD was used as the designator, then switched to DLR as shown on this '71 plate.  This continued until the 1999 plate changeover when the use of MCD came back into use.

 


This very nice 104-year-old 1913 4-digit porcelain plate was made possible thanks to ALPCA member Dave Livingston at PlateDog.com or http://stores.platedog.com/.  The reverse also authenticates the plate as having been manufactured by the Brilliant Manufacturing Co. of Philadelphia who made plates for PA between 1912 and 1916.  The plate fills the gap for a 4-digit, 6" by 12" plate.

 


We start off this week's progression of older plates at the mid-century point with this display of 1950 Passenger plates.  Shown here are eight examples of the eleven formatting progressions used that year.  The plates shown are 61R68, courtesy of Don; 472F, America on Wheels; 5305N, Steve Ondik; JY102, State Museum; 7ER9, Aimee Senott; 5DV64 & 72FV8 (below), Steve Ondik; and 542AP (below), Runkles Notary.

 

 

 

 


Next in order are 1951 Passenger plates.  The plates shown here represent six of the 13 serial progressions, including both 4- and 5-character examples.  Plates starting with 95394 are from Steve Ondik; 96H63, Don; 139P & PR64, Sarge / Klassy Karz; JD796, Steve Ondik; and 5AD18 is from my collection.  The 1950 and '51 plates are all 6" by 11" and still issued in pairs.

 


This trio of 1950 Truck plates represent the R and S weight class.  The same 2-axle and 3-axle weight classes continued thru 1950.  The 5-character limit on the 11-inch plates necessitated as many as 6 alpha-numeric progressions in the R-Class, fewer in other classes.  Thanks to Bob Connison for the first plate and Jim Moini for the remaining two.

 


For the 1951 Truck series we have a group of plate photos representing the R-, S-, T- and V- series of 2-axle weight classes.  Since serial numbers were limited to 5 characters, certain classes, especially the lower weights, required as many as six serial progression formats to accommodate the numbers of registrations.  The R-class plates shown here depict two such formats.  The R plates are from Jim Moini and Bob Connison respectively, the S class is from Chuck Sakryd, the T and V-class are both thanks to Jim Moini.

 


 

 

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Images and photos are always welcome.  Please send to:

John McDevitt, Walnutport, PA

ALPCA #4376

 

 

 

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