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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 5/1/2016

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



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


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


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



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


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


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



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


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


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


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


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


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



Posting 4/24/2016

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


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



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




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




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


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



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


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

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



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


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



Posting 4/17/2016

LEGISLATION — The State Senate Approves Special License Plate for Active Duty Military.  Senate Bill 1155 would establish a special license plate for members of the United States Armed Forces including members of the reserves, and Pennsylvania National Guard.  The bill now goes to the State House for their consideration.

 • In other legislative matters, House Bill 1154 which, if passed, would repeal the elimination of Registration Stickers.  The bill was passed in the State House and is now in the State Senate.


This is the first image of a Combat Action Badge with the serial number format.  The image was provided by Kyle Kuser.  Two other images of this plate type have been posted, both in a personalized / vanity format.  This plate type has been available since November of 2014.


It appears that the Eagles Youth Partnership plate may no longer be available.  I received an inquiry from a Jeff H. who noticed that there is no mention of the plate on their website, and the email link for the plate program is no longer functional.  These plates have been around since late 2010 with some 780 plates issued at a cost of $75 per plate.  The plate shown here is courtesy of Tom Perri.


Bruce Bufalini snapped this first image of a Steel Worker plate on the visitPA base.  This was a street shot and the plate is wearing an awful frame.  Note the use of the colored logo.  This series appears to have started at S/W05500 as plate S/W05498 was still on the www base.  Nice find.


The Bronze Star plate picture on the far left was snapped back late 2014, however, the plate is still the reported high.  That image is from Ryan Battin.  The plate on the near left is a recent photo of a Bronze Star vanity.  Brendan Sherry suggests that it stands for the 219th Mechanized Infantry Division.


This is likely the second Collectible Vehicle plate issued from the general issue group which began at CV0100.  If you recall from last week's post, there was a reserve issue of the plates under 0100, and that those who were instrumental in getting the law in place for this plate were eligible to receive numbers below 0100.  A plate check shows about 8 of those plates in use, and the numbers are spread out.  Thanks to Arthur Levine for the image. 


First let me say that the colors have not changed, this Disabled Veteran image is a little overexposed.  It is also the current high.  You may have noticed that the standard Disabled Veteran plates are still on the fully embossed base, while Disabled Veteran vanities are partially flat screened with the DV- prefix being screened.  The screened base also has the state on the top and Disabled veteran on the bottom, both flat screened.  Click the link above to see more examples.


CORRECTION — Last week I posted these two Official Use Only images but had the information backwards.  The far left plate is a '65 - '70 issue while the near left plate is a '71 to '76 issue.  Thanks to Chuck Harrington for the correction.



These first generation U.S. Navy Reserve plates have been added to the display section for current plates.  It appears that almost 750 of the yellow on blue plates were issued since their inception in 1987 until they were replaced in 2000.  Since that time less than 200 have been issued on the www base.  As I have stated in the past, with so many newer, more attractive veteran plates with color graphics, these Navy Reserve plates have lost their appeal.  To see more plates click the link above.


These Trailer plates are from around 1984, with this series being issued until the XA series came out around 1993.  The Trailer plate on the far left is a rare find, and was provided thanks to Clayton Moore.  This plate was formatted with PENNSYLVANIA on top and TRAILER on the bottom, while most of the run up to TZ-99999 had TRAILER on the top and PENNSYLVANIA on the bottom.  It is unknown how long the run was, but by TL-16365 or below the change was made.  The source of the near left plate is unknown.  If anyone has any plates or images that would narrow down the changeover point, it would be appreciated.


Bob Connison, who has been so helpful with dealer plates in the past, has been kind enough to dig out a large group of older dealer plates starting with this pair of 1932 Dealer plates.  Unfortunately at the time PA plates lacked an identifying legend, and with varying numbers of digits and location of the 'X', one may ponder the authenticity of any X-rated plate.  The consensus among a number of plate enthusiasts is that this is a Dealer plate.

Check back over the next few weeks for great pictures from Bob.




Posting 4/10/2016

Chad Gage provided this very nice image of a Format 2 Classic Motorcycle plate.  Format 2 is believed to start at C/L0200, and so far this is the lowest number with photo-documentation.  Numbers below C/L0200 are considered Format 1 and use a different PENNA font; however, only 1 such plates has been photographed, that being C/L0103.  Additional photos of plates from C/L0000 to C/L0200 are needed.


Jeff Lawson pointed out a recent eBay auction in which the seller explained some of the history of Collectible Vehicle plates.  The seller explained that there was a reserve issue of the first 100 plates, and that those who were instrumental in getting the law in place were eligible to receive them.  A plate check shows about 8 of those plates in use, and the numbers are spread out.  Of the plates shown here, the plate on the far left is likely a sample while the CV0097 was provided by Michael Wiener, the provenance of that plate is uncertain.  These plates are also expected to switch to the visitPA family of plates base.  That should help to kill sales.


Arthur Levine spotted this St. Charles Borromeo Seminary plate recently.  It's the first image of this plate type and is one of only nine such plates.  The plates have been on the street for less than a year.



This personalized NRA Foundation plate was spotted recently by Brendan Sherry.  Most of these organizational plates, where vanities are permitted, allow up to 5 characters, but in this case with the 3-character suffix, only 4 additional characters are permitted.



Jeff Lawson provided this screen shot of a Bucknell University vanity plate.  The Bucknell plate program dates back to 1998.




This Pennsylvania SPCA plate picture was provided by Jeff Lawson.  This plate program has been around since 2008 and currently the reported high is 10086P/H.



This Person with Disability vanity suggests the user suffers from low oxygen.  The picture was provided by Jeff Lawson.




Bruce Bufalini spotted this vanity version of a Disabled Veteran plate.  These plates use a combination flat screened portion, DV-, and the embossed side, 14QM.  Bruce adds that "The 14th Quartermaster Detachment . . . in Greensburg lost 13 soldiers in a missile attack in the 1991 Gulf War, 25 years ago last month."  It's also noteworthy that while the legend and prefix are flat screened, the plate has not joined the visitPA family of plates look.  This is because the law that authorized this plate also specified the coloring of the plate.


Also provided by Jeff Lawson is this Vietnam War Veteran vanity plate.  The LLRP likely stands for Long-Range Reconnaissance Patrol.




Here are two Official Use Only plates with similar formatting except for the reversal of the colors.  There are also variations of these plates without the state in the top border and there are other variation without any plate legend but with the state seal both with and without the raised loaf surrounding the seal.  According to Chuck Harrington, the plate on the far left was issued from the '65 to '70 era, the the near left plate from 71' to '76.  The plate on the far left was provided by Chuck Harrington.  Click the link above to see other variations.

See correction under 4/17 posting.



Posting 4/3/2016

This pair of Municipal plates with an alpha character in the final position shows a low-number earlier plate with an A suffix, and a much later plates from the current-issue J series.  The early plate picture was provided by Jordan Irazabal. The color difference is due to cameras, lighting, etc.  There were no plates issued with an 'I' suffix.  Prior to the alpha suffix, a 5-digit serial was used followed by -MG in the suffix position.  Click the link above to see more variations.


Arthur Levine spotted this low number PA Chiropractic Association plate, but could not identify the plate from a distance.  Not surprising since the dealer's plate frame completely obscures the name of the organization.  These plates have been around since mid-2006.  The current high is 00056D/C.


This number 50 NRA Foundation plate was spotted on the road by Steve Ondik.  The high on this plate type is in the upper 7-hundreds.  This 4-digit and 3-letter suffix combination was the supposedly the result of a favor; however, the formatting is not too unlike NASCAR plates.  See below.


I spotted this the other day, then saw that I had photographed the same plate back in 2007 with a dealer frame around it.  Anyway this is a NASCAR 18 Bobby Labonte plate.  These were issued only for the 2004 and 2005 racing seasons, but remain renewable.  This would have been the 4th plate issued out of 86.


Tom Perri, owner of the PA Plates ( highs website got this first image of the first plate of Bucks County Community College.  These plates are a fairly recent arrival, and there are currently about 7 plates in use.


Last week I posted the # 2 plate, this week the # 13 Northampton Fire Department plate.  This is also the current high.




Brendan Sherry spotted this Slippery Rock University plate back in July of 2014.  This plate is still considered the current high.  Slippery Rock began their plate program back in 2004, so there were no yellow on blue predecessors, and so far no indication of a move to the visitPA family of plates.


I should have added this U.S. Coast Guard Reserve plate image with a 2-04 sticker to last week's Coast Guard Reserve update.   It's likely I snapped this picture back in 2003.  As stated last week, there are unexplainable gaps in plate numbering.  Also, there are 4 plate images between this website and Tom Perri's.  All range from 1104 to 1127.  In looking further at the numbers there are only 7 plates between 1000 and 1099, and 20 plates between 1100 and 1137, for a total of 27 plates. 


John Fedorchak sent images of this 1975 Dealer plate with a natural PA0000 sticker.





I had more material to post but ran out of time.





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Images and photos are always welcome.  Please send to:

John McDevitt, Walnutport, PA

ALPCA #4376