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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.

What's new in the last 30 days?

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Posting 6/26/2016

Jeff Lawson spotted this 63 split window Corvette coupe with matching vanity Classic Vehicle plate at a recent Corvette meet.



Also from Jeff Lawson is this 50th anniversary Corvette also with a matching U.S. Army Veteran plate.



Here's a vanity version of a Northampton Fire Department special organization.  The 42 is the station number and the 91 indicates the position or rank of the fire officer.  The 90 series is fire police.



Here's the latest Salvage Yard high spotted at a recent antique truck show.  I never understood the connection between the prefix WL and the term salvage yard.



Bruce Bufalini recently spotted this new graphic style Prisoner of War plate on the street.  This new design dates back almost 3 years but so few of these plates are issued today that they are seldom seen.  Just guessing that most are probably re-issues rather than new issues.  Anyway, the most recent issue (high) spotted on the original base was POW-V67 according to Tom Perri's website.



Jeff Lawson shared this low number International Brotherhood of Boilermakers picture.  These plates have been on the street since 2012 with about 80 plates having been issued.



Eric Conner recently acquired this 1963 Governor's Inauguration plate.  '63 was the fist year for Inaugural plates and they were reportedly issued to vehicle dealers who had cars in the inaugural parade.  Eric, who specializes in 'PA Politicals', indicates that there were fewer than 100 such plates issued.  Such plates are considered special event plates and normally have a limited period of validity.


Jim McDevitt sent me this novelty vanity plate he spotted recently in Philadelphia.  A few weeks back I posted a couple others, click the link above to see the others.



Jeff Lawson sent this image of a first generation Implement of Husbandry plate.  These plates date back to 1984 after Tractor plates were discontinued.  Tractor plates were replaced by Implement of Husbandry plates for farm use, and Special Mobile Equipment plates for industrial and construction vehicles.  Of course today Implement of Husbandry plates can also be used on farm machinery other than tractors including vehicles that are not self-propelled; however, they are almost never seen.  The good news is that several of these plates are known to exist within the hobby.  The bad news is that the first generation of Commercial Implement of Husbandry plates seems to have disappeared without a trace, not even a photo.


This 1966 Used Car Dealer plate was provided by Bob Connison and fills a gap in the lineup.  One significant change for 1966 is the end of both the 'X' series Miscellaneous Dealer category and the 'C' (Transit) Dealer plate, the the replacement series, now called Motor Vehicle Business, uses the same format as the previous 'C' series.


The next image is a 1968 New Car Dealer plate, again filling a gap in the photo lineup, and again much thanks to Bob Connison.



Harry Campbell has provided some additional cycle plate images beginning with this 1915 Motorcycle.  The first character on the 1914 and 1915 plates was the letter 'O', which at the time looked like a zero, '0' and was followed 1 to 5 numeric characters to at least 17000.  Click the link to also see 3 and 4-digit plates from 1915.


Harry Campbell has also made available a number of Motorcycle Dealer plates.  I will add them over the next few weeks, and they will help fill a number of gaps in the M/C Dealer displays.  For 1949 Motorcycle Dealers the series is believed to run from 1 to an unknown 3-digit high similar to the plate shown here.  MCD was used as the designator from 1934 to 1966 inclusive, usually in the suffix position.



Posting 6/19/2016

The image on the far left shows a University of Pittsburgh prototype.  Pitt is in the process of giving their plate a new look.  Thanks to Ryan Battin for sharing this.

On the near left is a current University of Pittsburgh vanity plate that was recently shared by Bruce Bufalini.


Still alive and well.  These two NASCAR plates were recently spotted.  The N18 Bobby Labonte plate was previously spotted in May of 2005.  These were only issued in 2004 and '05, with about 86 plates being registered.  The N48 Jimmie Johnson plate had a longer life form 2004 thru 2009.  About 221 of these plates were issued.  The NASCAR program ran from late 2004 up thru May of 2010.  Each year there were additions, deletions and changes making it a challenge to track.  There are NASCAR variations that have never been photographed but still may be in use, and a number of plates that were never issued.


Steve Ondik recently snapped this image of a DeSales University plate.  The first plate was spotted in January of 2012 with some 42 plates having been issued.  DeSales is located in Center Valley, just south of Allentown, PA.



Here's the latest high Emergency Vehicle plate from the 'no-fee' registration series, which is the progression that started at EV-50000.  All EV plates were (supposedly) reissued in 2007 on the visitPA base.



Is it a Taxi or is it a Limousine?  Take your pick.  Seen recently on Airport Rd. near Allentown.





On the far left we have a new image from Bob Connison. This '56 'X' Dealer plate has the X in the second position.  1956 brought about changes, for starters all plates were now 6" by 12" as compared to 6" by 10" for 1955.  In addition there were two sets of fonts and two bases.  Wide fonts were used initially and wide map borders as seen here on the far left.  Later in the production cycle narrower fonts were used in conjunction with a narrow border base as seen on the second plate.  The 43X02 is not a new image but shown here for comparison.


The following year, 1957 Dealer plates saw more changes.  The base has been refined again to allow a little more space for the additional character — now 6 characters for the first time since 1929.  The same coding was used with A, B, C and X prefixes.  Thanks again to Bob Connison the the image.


This very nice 1957 Motorcycle plate was provided by Harry Campbell.  For 1957 the series ran from 1 to 9999, and then began an alpha-numeric run beginning with A000 or A001.  This all-numeric plate was needed to compliment the F941 plate that had been previously posted.  My goal, as always, is to photo-document as many variations in formatting, sequencing for each year and plate type with certain exceptions.   


Here's one I didn't know if I'd ever see, but Harry Campbell had one.  The 1965 base was used until the '71 base was issued — a long stretch.  It was also at a time when motorcycles were gaining in popularity.  In an effort to not run out of combinations as many as seven different all-numeric and alpha-numeric systems were used, which included this scarse 3-character plate using the series 0A0 to 9Z9, also A00 was used and possibly 00A.  Thanks to Eric Tanner for some of the data references.


1951 Tractor plate belonging to Tim Gierschick.  This picture was taken at the recent ALPCA meet in Trexlertown.  That year PA registered almost 20,000 tractors and trailers.  Lets' assume that there were 4 to 5 times more trailers than tractors, based on later statistics.  This would make the number of Tractor plates issued in the range of 4 to 5-thousand.  Of that number how many would have been used on farm tractors and how many on other non-farm tractors?



Posting 6/12/2016

Legislative update House Bill 150, was signed into law by the Governor on 6/8, and is now Act 36, which authorizes a Share the Road registration plate.  The plates should be available on or about August 7th or 8th.  No photo yet.


One of PA's rarest plates.  The Air Force Cross plate has been available since late 2012, and there are only 2 or 3 of these plates in use.  The Air Force Cross is awarded for extraordinary heroism not justifying . . . the Medal of Honor.  Tom Perri spotted this plate recently — great find!



Bruce Bufalini recently snapped this traffic shot of a low-number Combat Action Badge plate.  At present there  are some 63 of these plates with numerical serial numbers on the road, at least a few formatted as vanities.





Tom Perri recently spotted this Watercraft Trailer Dealer plate with some collaboration from Jordan Irazabal.  This plate would certainly be considered a rare find.  Tom, Jordan and I have had this conversation in the past, that while these plates have been issued, most are tucked away somewhere at the dealership and only brought out when needed.  Also many such dealers have no such plates, or they don't know it.  Since September of 1999 fewer than 500 of these plates have been issued with the series starting at WD00500.   Click the link above to see a couple more of these elusive plates.


Here's a VW Passat sedan with a current Omnibus plate and huge label of School Students on the hood and trunk.  I guess it's legal, but the regulations seem a bit confusing, at least to me.  To read the Fact Sheet on Bus, School Vehicle, Lime, Taxi registrations, etc. click here.


Eric Conner took this picture of this very low number PA District Kiwanis International plate.  Only about a dozen of these plates are in use, so great find.



Here's a University of Scranton vanity plate, likely showing the year of graduation.  The University of Scranton has been in the plate business since 1995 was a couple different iterations.



We continue to post additional Dealer images on a weekly basis from Bob Connison.  This nice pair of 1951 New Car Dealer plates shows the second alpha character, in this case an 'H' in the 4th position instead of in the 5th spot which is where the series started.  This just means that once A999Z was reached, the next plate would have been A00A0.  The first 'A' is a non-advancing character.  Click the link above above to also see a plate in the A000A series. and the 'X' series.


Next is this first image of a 1952 New Car Dealer plate also from Bob Connison.  For 1952 the plates were reduced in size from 6" by 11" to 6" by 10".  Other formatting appears unchanged from prior years.

Still very much needed is any kind of C-series Dealer from the late 40s or early to mid-50s.  Do they even exist?


This very nice 2-digit version of a 1950 Motorcycle plate was provided by Harry Campbell.  The number series started with 1 and followed the standard progression of all numeric followed by an alpha-numeric run.  Click the link above to see additional formats.


Great news from Harry Campbell.  He, with collaboration form Todd Mickinak, has kindly provided more than 20 additional Motorcycle plate photos, including a bunch of Motorcycle Dealer plates.  Watch for these plates over the coming weeks.

The first one of these is this 1956 Motorcycle plate in the alpha-numeric series.  This series was used after the 1 to 9999 plates had all be issued.  Click the link above to see a 3-digit and a 4-digit example of '56 Motorcycle plates.



Last week at the ALPCA Trexlertown, PA meet I get a few pictures of old tractor plates.  This 1950 Tractor plate is considered a low number as the series began at 0001.  This plate belongs to Tim Gierschick.  Tim has a very nice collection of older PA tractor plates.  Also take a look at the Tractor Plates section on this website.  It included every year from 1914 up thru the 1977 thru the '83 run except for 1927, '29, '32 and '33.



Posting 6/5/2016


Desperately Seeking The following current PA plate types were all issued on the previous base before the 1999-2000 changeover, yet that issue appears to have vanished without a trace, no plates, not even a picture.  These include: Apportioned Bus (BL-00000), Commercial Implement of Husbandry, (CI0000H), Fleet Transporter (FL0000T), Lincoln University (L0000U) and Watercraft Trailer Dealer (WD00000).  If anyone has knowledge of the existence of any of these plates, please help us establish and preserve the plate's history.  Help!


Legislative update House Bill 150, which proposes a Share the Road registration plate, was presented to the Governor on 6/1 for his signature.


It appears that the Rose Tree Fire Company No. 1 of Media, PA, has or soon will have, 14 plates on the street.




This photo was taken a few months ago but it is still the current high Severely Disabled Veteran.  These plates switched to being partially flat screened at about D/V92500, and were first seen around June of 2013.



The Vietnam War Veteran plate on the far left with the hand-painted medal was recently spotted.  The newer, updated plate of the same type was spotted a few months ago by Jeff Lawson.  Note that the plates are fairly close numerically which helps to narrow down the transition point which appears likely to be at or about V/W09400.


This Flourtown Fire Company image was snapped by Jeff Lawson.  These plates were approved back in 2008 and the organization has at least 43 plates on the street according to Tom Perri's highs website —



This Pennsylvania Hunting Heritage plate was spotted a few days ago.  It appears to be a new high, and selling well.  They have been out since late June of 2014.  I still can't Photoshop shadows out of the image, LOL.



As we continue to add older Dealer plates to the history section, we begin with this 1949 Used Car Dealer plate.  Note the non-advancing 'B' as the first character, and the final A suggesting this was likely the 627th or 628th plate in that series.  Once plate B999A is reached, the next plate would be B000B or B001B.  Again I want to thank Bob Connison for sharing this and many other old dealer plates.


Here is another pair of '49' Dealer plates.  These are part of the 'X' series, and this pair of front and rear plates has the 'X' in the second position.  The first run would have had the 'X' in the first position.  Click the link above to see several additional 1949 Dealer plates.  Again thanks to Bob Connison for helping to fill in so many gaps in the Dealer series.


This week's ensemble of goodies from Harry Campbell includes this 1941 Motorcycle plate.  This particular plate would have been from the alpha-numeric run started after the all numeric high of 9999 was reached.  Some 12,275 plates were issued so the series likely extended into the C-series.  The formatting has essentially been the same since the the 1938 changes came about.  Anyone have an all numeric version of this plate?


Also from Harry Campbell is this 1947 Motorcycle plate.  This is an all-numeric serial; however, according to BMV records, some 26,000 plates were issued that your.  It appears that motorcycles surged in popularity following the war.  The 26-thousand figure likely included Motorbikes which may have accounted for some 11-thousand of that 26-thousand total.

At this point I am very happy to say that the Motorcycle Plate History Section now has at least one plate for every year issued beginning with 1914, and at least one plate for every format change for the undated plates beginning in 1971.  While this is certainly a milestone, it would never have been possible without the help and contributions of so many friends and supporters.  It's always nice to get an email from a someone you don't know, saying they enjoy the website, and they have pictures of plates I could use.  As I have said in the past, the website is not about me, it's about the hobby, the plates, the history, the stories, the sharing, and the collaboration of friends. Thank You.



Posting 5/29/2016

Another pair of new high Passenger plates — the one on the far left from Jason Embee, and the  KCZ plate is thanks to Kyle Kuser.



Legislative update House Bill 150 which proposes a Share the Road registration plate, has received concurrence from the House on Senate amendments.  It is now expected to go to the Governor for his signature.  When this occurs, the law will take effect in 60 days.

In other legislative news — there has not been any movement since April 13 on House Bill 1154 to repeal the elimination of registration stickers.


From time to time questions come up about similar plates.  To my knowledge these are all novelty vanity plates that were sold by the Bureau of Motor Vehicles or PennDOT.  I don't know the years of the yellow on blue plates but they use two different bases representing different periods.  The Flagship Niagara plates were made available to use up extra bases after the plate was discontinued in 2-97.  The Flagship Niagara novelty plates were embossed with 6-96 so they couldn't be legally used.  A number of blank Flagship Niagara plates were also released.  The JCT plate was provided by Heath Labasik, the other plates are from my collection.


The very image of a very nice Legislator / House of Representatives plate was shared by Kyle Kuser.  HR plates were reissued in 1965, then they received a facelift in 1966.  This facelift included the word Legislator and also had the HR prefix enclosed in a keystone.  Click the link above to see more examples, and to see images of the 1965 plates.


1946 brought about major changes in the formatting of Dealer plates.  Instead of all plates bearing the legend DEALER and the letter 'X', now there were NEW CAR DL'R with A000A formatting, then USED CAR DL'R with B000A formatting.  Also, still in the mix were the X-series DEALER plates as in previous years.  We also know that at some point in time PA issued a C-series Dealer plate with C000A formatting.  This plate was later referred to as a Transit Dealer, the meaning of which is unclear.  Could it have been as early as 1946?  A collector friend claims to have one from 1954, but I have not yet seen it.  If such plates existed, they must have been issued in such low numbers that few if any have survived.  Any help with this would be much appreciated.  Bob Connison has been kind enough to provide these 1946 Dealer plates.  The first letter in the series indicated the type of plate.  This letter did not advance.  The 3-digit number series would advance first then the final letter so that after reaching A999A, the next plate would be A000B, and so on, the final letter could also to the fourth position such as A00A0 if the first series ran out of combinations.


Next to be added to the Dealer section is this pair of 1948 Dealer 'X' plates.  The 'X' series was (later) referred to as Miscellaneous Dealer, although this term never appeared on the plate up thru 1965, the final year of the 'X' series Dealer plate.  Both the '46 above and the '48 were 6" by 11".  Click the link above to see a Dealer plate with the 'X' in the second position, and a couple of New Car Dl'r plates. 


This week the M/C plate addition begins with this 1937 Motorcycle.  This plate follows the same general format as the previous year except for the color reversal.  Old DMV records show that some 12,195 plates were issued, therefore, plate serial number likely extended into the 'C' series of the alpha numeric plates.  Thanks to Harry Campbell for the image.


1938 signaled a major change with the addition of the state map outline.  This familiar format was first seen in 1937 on passenger plates and the following year every it was added to all other plates except boat plates.  The map outline is still issued to this day on Municipal Motorcycle plates and possibly Collectible Motorcycle plates., and still in use, but no longer issued, on several other small plates.  Aside from the map, the '38 Motorcycle plate formatting followed the previous layouts with some minor rearranging of components.






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Images and photos are always welcome.  Please send to:

John McDevitt, Walnutport, PA

ALPCA #4376