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Supporting the hobby, conducting research & preserving the history of Pennsylvania License Plates

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 5/31/2020

This past week we were saddened to learn of the passing of life-long Pennsylvania plate collector Joseph 'Jake' Eckenrode.  Jake was a researcher and author, publishing the Collectors Guide to Pennsylvania License Plates in 1983.  He also wrote a number of excellent articles in the ALPCA Plates magazine and the earlier ALPCA Newsletter.  He possessed a wealth of knowledge.  Rest in peace Jake.


As I've said in the past, I'm not big on tracking new highs on large volume plates such as Passenger, Trailer and Truck, but here are some recent examples of all three.  The Passenger photo was taken by Preston Turner, while the Trailer snapshot and the road shot of the Truck plate are from Bruce Bufalini.  Also worth mentioning is that LJA-7838 was recently spotted by Bill Stephens.  These highs probably change by the minute.


On the legislative front, there is action on House Bill 2319, that if passed, would provide for a Purple Heart plate to be designated for a Person with Disability.  There is also movement on Senate Bill 954 which would reinstate registration stickers if passed.  Finally House Bill 1710, if passed, would create a USA Semiquincentennial registration plate, similar to the Bicentennial Plate, with the phrase “Let Freedom Ring - 250 years”, for issue between 2021 and 2026.


The first plate in this display of ATV Dealer plates represents a low number and was likely issued in 1986.  The far left plate legend reads DEPT. OF ENV. RES. (Environmental Resources).  These plate are not issued by PennDOT.  Then in 1995 there was a name change to Department of Conservation and Natural Resources or DCNR as seen on the low and high of this second series.  These are full-size plates.  Then in 2006 all ATV dealer plates were reissued and the number series started over likely starting at 0001, and now on motorcycle-sized plates.


These photos are a follow-up to last week's post on Liquid Fuels P. or O. plates.  These plates were used on gasoline pumps and the "P. or O." is thought to mean Petrol or Oil.  The '37 plates represent the high and low for the 1937 - '38 year.  The '38 - '39 plate is the lowest I've seen.  The actual starting point is not known, possibly 1 or 0001.  Anyone know?


This is the first image on this website of a 1941 Format 1 Motorcycle plate, with that format being all-numeric from 1 to 9999.  After reaching 9999, an alpha character was used in the first position followed by up to three numeric characters.  This image is from Worthpoint.


This is a pair of 1942 Format 2 and Format 3 Motorcycle plates.  Format 2 on the far left consisted of a letter in the first position followed by 1 to 3 digits.  On the Format 3 (near left) plate, the alpha character advanced to the second position.  This 1A00 format was likely the result of the need for additional plates because of having to 'extend' the 1942 plates to cover 1943.  Assuming that this was the case, 1942 plates used in 1943 would have been issued a 1943 validation strip.  The B35 plate is from Worthpoint; the 4A15 plate is thanks to Allen Shrewsbury.


This is a 1944 Motorcycle plate.  The series ran from 1 to over 9000, and did not require an alpha-numeric run.  As can been seen from the '41, '42 and '44 plates that except for the colors flip-flopping, the plate formatting is the same.  In fact from 1938 up through 1957, M/C plates remained largely unchanged.  This is a Worthpoint image.


These unique tags are 1934 Passenger Format 2 and Format 3 plates respectively.  Format 2 includes A to Z999 measuring 6" x 10", and A1000 to Z9999 on 6" x 12".  Format 3 is made up of 0A to 9Z99 measuring 6" x 10" and 1A000 to 9Z999 on 6" x 12".  Both of these are Worthpoint photos.


This is a trio of 1934 Truck plates. Starting on the far left the plate represents one of the three S-weight class serial progressions.  The center and near left are the first 1934 T-weight class images on this site, and they represent two of the three serial progressions.  These image are from Worthpoint.


Posting 5/24/2020

Memorial Day is much more than the start of summer, or a day of barbecues and family gatherings.  This year it may have additional meaning for many Americans, but while we enjoy the day, let us not lose sight of the true meaning of this solemn day.



Here is a new high U.S. Navy Veteran plate recently spotted by Bruce Bufalini.  This is part of a series of veterans plates that date back to 2017.  The series would suggest that the starting point would have been 10001N/A, but the lowest number plate is 10011.  Then around 8/2019 the map outline was first documented at 13362N/A.


This School Vehicle plate is the highest plate spotted so far in the Format 4 - SV17800 to SV19799 group.  This group uses the narrow tag legend and no separator.  Format 3 used the wide legend while Format 5 used the keystone separator and wide legend.  This photo is from Worthpoint, a service I subscribed to for research.  If the owner of a plate wishes, I can acknowledge them also.


It isn't pretty, but it is an example of a 1956 Bus plate.  The Bus series went from O1 or O0001 to O9999, then OA000.  I don't know if the series began at O1 or O0001.  Anyone know?  The initial character is the letter 'O', which does not advance.  The second serial group, as shown here, used an additional alpha character in the second position likely starting at OA000.  This is a Worthpoint image.


Here is a sequential series of Liquid Fuels P. or O. plates.  These motorcycle-size plates were not used on vehicles, but were actually mounted on gasoline pumps. That explains why there were so many issued, as well as the additional mounting holes. Several years ago, Eric Tanner, who was kind enough to provide an explanations of these plates, indicated that the law responsible for these plates was first effective July 1, 1937, and the license year was 7/1 to 6/30.  The plates shown here were from the second and final year of such plates and are embossed '38-'39.  The 71191 is also the highest number spotted.  These photos are from Bob Connison.  Will post more next week.


They're not beauties, but they are representative examples of alpha-numeric motorcycle plates from 1935, 1936 and 1937.  The initial series during this period were all-numeric from 1 to 9999.  These photos are from Worthpoint.


These are 1957 Passenger plates.  The far left is a Format 4 plate which includes 10A0 to 99Z99, which included both 4- and 5-character progressions.  The near left plate is a Format 10 which includes 00AA to 99ZZ.  These are Worthpoint photos.


WIIC was the former call sign of Pittsburgh's TV channel 11 between 1957 to 1981.  These 1965 base plates were associated with that TV station.  Concerning the WIIC plate, I recall from that time period that vanity plates were either all numeric or alpha-numeric.  The Vehicle code at the time permitted FCC radio & TV call signs such as the WIIC plate. This is not the same as Amateur Radio plates.  Thanks to Jerry McCoy for this series of plate photos. 


This group of 1956 Truck plates plus two others have been added to the plate gallery.  There are now photos representing all five S-Class formats, and three of the four U-Class formats.  These are Worthpoint photos.  The W-Class now has both formats, with the plate shown here being unused and comes from Tom Firth.  The ZZ-Class is a big bonus, and is thanks to Rob Baran.


These 1958 Truck plates at first glance might appear to be sample plates, but a closer look shows that they were both used.  That said, they appear to be the first plates of the T- and U-series.  They both have the tab slot.  Thanks to Jerry McCoy for sharing these photos.


Posting 5/17/2020

Alvernia University plates have been on the street as far back as 10/22/2017, but until Jaska Börner spotted this plate recently, only one other plate has been photographed, that one being 10002A/U.  Vanity check indicates that the current high number is 10023A/U.  Alvernia is located in Reading, PA.


A Toyota Prius sedan is not exactly what comes to mind when thinking of an Omnibus vehicle, but apparently these vehicles in the photo, used as School Vehicles, fit the requirements of the state.  The plate in the center, OB-90703, is a new high.  Click this PennDOT Fact Sheet link that describes all of the Bus, School Vehicle, Limo, Taxi, etc. registrations.  Thanks to Jaska Börner for sharing this photo.


This is a low number Repair Towing plate from the series where the sticker well was removed - Format 4.  It is believed that this series ran from RT-70900 to RT-71899 — 1000 plates, then the map outline was added at at RT-71900.  Thanks to Clayton Moore for sharing this photo.



These Legislature plates are believed to be prototypes that were not issued.  These were likely the work of a Dept. of Transportation official who had a keen interest in PA license plates.  Note the use of the word LEGISLATURE, whereas issued plates used LEGISLATOR.  Click the above link to see other plates from the same era.  Thanks to Eric Conner for his thoughts on these plates.  The far left plate was provided by Jerry McCoy; the other plate image was from Mike Wiener.


On the far left is the first image of a 1934 Motorbike (MB) plate.  The formatting suggests that the use of the letter 'O' prefix, as used on 1933 plates, has been discontinued.  The number issued is unknown, but for 1935, 50 plates were authorized.    The near left is a Format 2 Motorcycle (MC) plate.  Both plates are motorcycle sized tags and are Worthpoint images.


This is a 1966 to 1970 U.S. Congress plate.  These were numbered to reflect the congressional district.  There were 21 districts at one time, but as a result of reapportionment, there are only 18 such districts today.  This plate appears to have never been used.  Thanks to Jerry McCoy for the use of this photo.


These are all 1933 Passenger plates.  The far left plate is a Format 2 image with the legend reversed.  The center plate is a Format 3 image to replace a poorer image.  This also has the legend reversed.  The reversed legend is considered an error but was widespread and seen in at least three plate formats.  The DL18 shorty is a Format 7 plate which covers AA to ZZ & AA1 to ZZ99.  These are Worthpoint images.


While looking at some first generation School Vehicle plates, it made me question the starting year for such plates.  One source from an unofficial PennDOT document says 1993, while the legacy Archives suggests circa 1997.  Judging by the stickers I've seen on a few of these plates, I haven't seen any before 1998, so maybe 1997 is correct.  This is the lowest number I've seen.  The series started at SV10000.  Photo source believed to be Brandon Sowers.


Here is a group of 1931 Truck plates.  Since no identifying plate legend was used, the use of the weight class letter (R to Z, without X) usually in the first position, plus an additional non-adjoining letter in the third, fourth or fifth position.  Some overflow plates from the R and S weight classes had the letter in the second position as shown in the first plate above.  All truck plates were 5 characters and measured 6" by 12 inches.  These photos are from Worthpoint, a service I subscribed to for research.  If the owner of a plate wishes, I can acknowledge them also


This group of plates is a continuation of last week's posting of 1952 Truck sample plates.  Last week focused on the 2-letter prefix 3-axle truck plates, while this week features the 2-axle series from U to Z.  The U through Y  plates came from Worthpoint, the Z class is thanks to Ed Burr.  These samples reflect the changes that would be seen on 1954 plates.  Still needed are S and T class plates.


Posting 5/10/2020

These are Delaware County Fallen Firefighter & EMS Memorial Committee plates.  Even with the contractions used on the plate, the plate legend is one of the longest in use.  The far left plate dates back to 9/2018, and shows the first recorded plate without the sticker well.  It was borrowed from Tom Perri's PA Plates website.  The higher number plate is a recent shot from Jordan Irazabal, also without the sticker well.


Here's a better sample image of the pending Eagle Scout plate.  The image came from Todd Ellis and the COLBSA Facebook page.  COL is the Cradle of Liberty Council - Boy Scouts of America.  With the current environment of shutdowns and delays due to health concerns, there may be longer waits until new plate types hit the streets. 


This nighttime photo was taken by Matt Ceicka and shows a Repair Towing vanity plate now with the map outline.  The map has been seen on numbered plates in the past, but this is the first vanity.  The RT prefix is a required part of the serial number.



This is a 5-21 validation sticker.  For most vehicle owners, 2017 was the final year for stickers, but they may have been issued by request beyond that point.  There were also trailers with 5-year registration periods, so stickers up through 2022 were issued.  Thanks to Tom Firth for this image.



This particular Amateur Radio Operator base is the only one to also use the word Operator as part of the plate legend.  This very nice, unused plate was recently acquired by Clayton Moore.  Plates with this tag line were only issued for a year or two starting in 1988.  I'm still looking for an Amateur Radio plate on the Bicentennial base using the Liberty Bell separator.


These are both 1939 Dealer plates.  The far left plate is a Format 2 from the 1X00 to 9X999 series.  The near left is a the high number from the Format 3 series of 10X0 to 61X54.  Both of these plates are 6 inches by 12 inches; however, 4-character plates from these series were 6 inches by 10 inches.  These images are from Worthpoint, a service I subscribed to for research.  If the owner of a plate wishes, I can acknowledge them also


This is a 1940 Format 1 Dealer plate, that series ran from X100 to X9999.  Both 6" by 10" and 6"by 12" sizes were used for 4 and 5 character plates respectively.  The letter X, used as the dealer identifier, could also be used in the second and third positions.  This is also a Worthpoint image.



Next is this 1941 Format 3 Dealer plate.  As each serial progression fills up, the X moves one position to the right.  In this case it's in the third position.  1941 also saw plates with the 'X' in the fourth position for which I could use a photo.  This is also a Worthpoint image.



This pair of 1942 Dealer plates represents Format 2 and Format 3 layouts.  Both formats use a similar progression of 1X00 to 9X999 and 10X0 to 99X99, where the 'X' advances one position.  So both 6" by 10" and 6" by 12" plates were used.  The plates shown here are 12".  These are Worthpoint images.


Give up?  This is a 1919 Format 1 Motorcycle plate.  Some 25-thousand motorcycle plates were issued that year.  Plates from 1 to 999 measured 4½ inches by 6 inches, while 4- and 5-digit plates were 4½ inches by 8 inches.  Color scheme was red on black.  This is a Worthpoint image.



Next is this 1920 Format 2 Motorcycle plate.  Format 2 encompassed plates from 1000 to nearly 24000.  These 4- and 5-character plates measured 4½ inches by 8 inches.  1- to 3-digit plates were shorter at 4½ inches by 6 inches, like the 1919 plate above.  Colors were white on dark blue.  This is also a Worthpoint image.


This trio of Tractor plates are all part of Format 2, meaning they all use an alpha-numeric serial progressions.  All plates were 4 characters including all numeric Format 1 group.  The far left is a 1949, the center plate is a 1950 and is the recorded high.  The near left is a 1955 and represents a new high.  These are Worthpoint images.





What a difference a week makes.  

After last week's posting of poor images of these 1952 Truck 3-axle plates, Clayton Moore suggested that Ed Burr may have these plates.  I contacted Ed and he didhave the plates and graciously provided me with the images shown here.  He did confirm that these are all samples as shown on the mailing envelope.  Also, the plate serial numbers follow a unique progression.  Eric Tanner also commented on the serial progressions suggesting that the sample series likely included the entire truck series, not just the double-letter plates.  This is further evidenced by an earlier sample image from John Willard with R123A.  There are differences between these samples and standard issue '52 truck plates.  For starters, the length has been shortened from about 11 inches to 10¼ inches on samples.  Also the expiration date along the top border has been changed from 3-31-53 to 5-31-53.  Both of these changes reflect the changes that would be seen on 1954 plates.  I will have several more 2-axle truck samples for next week.


Posting 5/3/2020

Here's the latest edition of a University of Notre Dame, formerly Notre Dame Alumni Association plate.  The name was changed when the plates switched to the graphic base.  So far we know that plates up to 02646N/D still has the sticker well, plate 02681N/D no longer had the sticker well, and now 02695N/D, shown here, has the map outline.  Thanks to Jordan Irazabal for sharing this image.  Notre Dame has been in the plate business since 1988.




It's not a new high but it is the latest iteration of the Vietnam War Veteran plate.  The current high according to Tom Perri's PA Plates page is V/W11279.  This plate type dates back to 1999, and in 2014 the plate went to the graphic base at about V/N09400.



Each plate in this trio of Official Use plates has its own story.  The far left plate is an unused plate from the 1977 to '84 issue for passenger vehicles in pairs, some of which are still in use.  The center plate is from the same time period, but is a single plate for use on commercial types.  The last plate is unused and is part of the 1985 to 2009 issue for use on commercial vehicles as single plates.  The 1st and 3rd plates are thanks to Tom Firth, the center plate is from Eric Conner.


These Omnibus plates are part of the 1974 to '83 issue, but could be validated through 2000.  The starting point in the progression was OB-10000.  The low numbered plate came from Worthpoint.  The high numbered plate is an unused plate belonging to Tom Firth.


This is a 1939 Motorbike plate, not a Motorboat plate which would have had MBL as the legend at the time.  It is unknown how many of these were issued, but 4-digit plates were not seen earlier than 1942 plates, at least not for me.  Motorbike plates were discontinued after 1949.  Plate image is from Worthpoint.


On my last weekly installment I featured a Suburban plate with Q0000 from Jerry McCoy.  I wondered if anyone had a Q+3 character plate and look what came from Ed Lybarger on the far left.  The starting point was likely Q000.  The other two plates helped fill some gaps in Format 3 and Format 4.  Those images came from Worthpoint.  


Could this be a 1965 Suburban plate?  There were no issued Suburban plates for 1965 or later, so this unique plate is most likely a prototype.  Jerry McCoy shared this gem with us.  This certainly would make an interesting YOM plate on someone's 1965 Pontiac GTO station wagon.



Next in this week's lineup is this 1935 Tractor plate from Tim Gierschick.  For 1935 we know that the series started at 1 and went at least as high as the plate shown here.  The "Design of Registration Plates 1935" shows an authorized high of 4699, with all such plates measuring 6 inches by 12 inches.  


By 1938, Tractor plates had a new look.  This was the first year for the map outline on Tractor plates, although it was used on Passenger plates in '37.  This series is believed to have run from 0001 to 5241.  All Tractor plates again measuring 6 inches by 12 inches.  Thanks to Tim Gierschick for the photo.


I consider these 2-letter prefix truck plates as the Holly Grail of truck plates.  These generally include RZ to ZZ.  The 2-letter prefixes indicate a 3-axle truck, meaning 1 front and 2 rear axles.  For a variety of reasons very few of these plates have survived and made it into the hobby.  One reason is that relatively few, if any, plates were issued in certain classes.  Anyway here is a 1954 ZZ 3-axle Truck plate thanks to Rob Baran.  It also shows that this is part of the ZZ0A0 progression, which had not been previously documented.  Previously identified issue was ZZ00A.  Check back next week for a 1956 ZZ Truck plate.


Sorry, these pictures are pretty awful, but they do provide a graphic representation of most of the 1952 2-letter prefix Truck plates from RZ to YZ.  I do believe these are samples.  These pictures came from a screen shot I captured several years ago.  Later I tried unsuccessfully to find the owner or the source.  I do believe that these plates exist somewhere within the hobby.  Anyone know more about them?



Images and photos are always welcome.  Please send to:

John McDevitt, Walnutport, PA

ALPCA #4376