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Pennsylvania License Plate History & Images

John McDevitt, Walnutport, PA

ALPCA #4376

 

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Posting 7/15/2018

Due to time away at the ALPCA convention in Valley Forge this past week, this will be a shortened edition.

 


First new style Commonwealth Official Use plate photographed.  This was on a state-owned pickup truck used by the PA Game Commission.  Some state agencies have opted to use their own logo such as PennDOT and the Turnpike Commission, but apparently the Game Commission has chosen to go with the more generic state coat of arms version.  It is unknown at what point this change took place, but PA-0409B was still on the white on blue base.

 


Here's another example of the recently 'discovered' PA Turnpike Official Use plates.  So far only PennDOT and the PA Turnpike have opted to use their own logo on Official Use plates.  Compare this to the plate above that uses the more generic coat of arms insignia.

 


The vanity plate photo on the far left we recently taken by Bruce Bufalini.  Nick Tsilakis pointed out the use of the bold visitPA.com legend, which happens to be the same as is being used on the Teen Driver plate in the center.  Compare this to the normal visitPA legend of the 89 vanity and other standard issue plates.  The Teen Driver and 89 plate photos were from Ryan Battin.

 


This is a 1927 'O' series Bus or Omnibus plate.  Click the link and go to the top of the section for an explanation of this plate type.  This O+4-digit plate measures 6 inches by 13 inches.  Plates with 'O'+3 or fewer digits measured 6 inches by 10 inches and did not use the dash separator.  Thanks to Drewski for the use of this plate photo.

 


Here's a needed 1956 Used Car Dealer plate.  At the time there were letter prefixes designating dealer types — A for New Car Dealer, B for Used Car Dealer and C for Transit Dealer. There were also X plates for Miscellaneous Dealers, but the X could be in any of the first 3 positions.  This picture is thanks to Rodd Day, and was passed along to me by Eric Tanner. 

 


This is a 1935 Format 1 Passenger plate.  Format 1 was all-numeric from 1 or 2 up to 99999.  I have several 2, 3 and 4 digit plates but this is the first all-numeric with 5.  Plates up to 4 characters were 6" by 10" and 5 digit plates were 6" by 12".  Both 10 and 12-inch plates were used in most of the serial progressions that year.  Thanks to eBay user Yosteveyo for the use of the photo.

 


Here's a very nice 1931 R-Class Truck plate.  Clayton Moore had this plate and another up for grabs on eBay as a matching pair.  Plate size was 6 inches by 12 inches and there were 4 serial formats — R0A00, R00A0, R000A and 0R0A0, whit this plate being part of the second group.

 


This is a 1945 R-Class Truck plate.  For that year the R-Class employed 4 serial progressions including R000A, R00A0, R0A00 and R00AA of which this plate is a part.  Therefore all truck plates were 5 characters in length, and were 6 inches by 11 inches in size.  Thanks to Peter Cohen for sharing his photos.

 


The formatting of this 1947 Truck plate is much the same as the plate above; however, for 1947 there were now 5 serial formats — R0A00, R00A0, R000A, R00AA and R0AA0, with this plate being part of the last group.  Again the plates were 6" by 11", still issued in pairs.  More kudos to Peter Cohen for the photo.

 


Posting 7/8/2018

Here's the latest high Bronze Star for Valor plate.  It's also the second one spotted with the small map outline.  The map outline would have arrived between 00148 and 00167.  The real mark of distinction is not the map or the plate, but the award reflected on the plate.  It is also is not the same award as the Bronze Star.  Thanks to Brendan Sherry for the photo, and thanks to the owner of the plate for his (or her) service to our country.

 


Here is another plate that distinguishes the owner as having served in the U.S. Navy.  These veteran 'branch of service' plates go back to 2009 with some 2500 navy Veteran issued.  They are also popular as personalized plates as shown here.  This plate also shows the map outline.  Another thank you to Brendan Sherry for the photo.

 


Here's a link to a news article about Honoring Our Veterans license plates.  If you are not aware, these HV plates have been available to PA motorists since late 2012 — no need to be a veteran.  The cost is $36.  They are available in full size and motorcycle size plates, and also can be purchased as vanities.  Proceeds benefit the Pennsylvania's Veterans' Trust Fund.  Thanks Larry.

 


Two weeks ago we featured the two Repair Towing plates on the far left, and this week the latest plate on the near left.  The RT-70730 still has the sticker well, the RT-71818 has no sticker well, and the latest image of the RT-72026 now shows the map outline.  Based on inventory records, it is believed that those with sticker wells ended at RT-70899, then those without sticker wells extended to RT-71899, with the latest version starting at RT-71900.  Thanks to Kat Keegan for the use of this new photo.

 


Here's a new high number FFA Association plate.  This plate type has been on the road since 2006.  Plate check suggests that the issued high is actually 00078F/A, so there is a very good chance that no plates have been issued with the small map outline yet.  This plate was spotted by David Wilson in East Lancing, Michigan.

 


Here's a vanity edition of a Mayflower Descendant plate.  This is a very new organizational tag with no prototype image available.  A vanity check of this plate type shows only 1 standard plate in use — seems a little odd.  The formatting of standard plates would be 00001M/D.  Thanks to John Fedorchak for the image.

 


On the far left is a recent traffic shot of a Temple University Alumni plate taken by Julian Marrero.  It's an eye-catching vanity plate with just a single character.  A couple friends have commented on this plate design, wondering why Temple didn't choose to go with the school colors when they redesigned their plate.

 


As time goes on, and more-and-more plates are added to fill the needed plate gaps on this website, it also becomes tougher to find plates to fill the remaining holes.  This 1926 Passenger plate helped to fill one of those gaps, and is currently on eBay offered by Greg and Peg from Aged2PerfectionStore1.  Alpha-numeric passenger plates began in 1924, and in 1926 the size of the letter characters were made smaller than numbers for the first time.

 


Here's a very nice looking 1954 Tractor plate.  Note the use of the leading 0 as this series started at 0001.  As has been the practice after hitting 9999, the alpha-numeric series was used with a single letter in the first position.  Click the link to see a couple examples.  Plates measured 6" x 10".  Thanks to Tim Gierschick for sharing his photos.

 


In 1956 all full size PA plates were standardized at 6 inched by 12 inches in size  Since that time that has remained the standard size for U.S. plates.  Despite the increase in plate width, 1956 Tractor plates retained the same 4-character formatting, with the alpha-numeric plates likely running into the S series.  Thanks again to Tim Gierschick for sharing his Tractor plate photos.

 


Here's a very nice 1939 S-Class Truck plate which I'm sure has been refinished.  The S weight class that year used four serial progressions including S000A, S00A0, S0A00, S00AA, with this plate being part of the last group.  All truck plates were 5-character and all measured 6 inches by 12 inches.

 


Next up is this trio of 1940 R-Class Truck plates.  The R weight class, which is the lightest weight class, consisted of three serial progressions including R000A, R00A0, R0A00 all of which are shown here.  The far left photo was taken at a truck show, the center plate was spotted at Jerry's Classic Cars & Collectibles Museum in Pottsville, and the third was kindly provided by Peter Cohen.

 


Like the other plates shown above, 1942 Truck plates started with the R-Class for the lightest weight and ran through the ZZ-Class for the heaviest, although the 2-letter prefix / 3-axle classes almost seem non-existent.  Within the 1942 ranks there were four different serial progressions for the S weight class.  All plates were 6" by 12".  Another thank you goes out to Peter Cohen for photos from his collection.

 


In 1944 Truck plates saw a reduction in plate size from 6" by 12" to 6" by 11".  The format shown here, R0A00, was the third of four formats used that year for the R-Class.  The other included  R000A, R00A0 and R00AA.  All truck plates, regardless of class, used a 5-character serial number.  More thank you to Peter Cohen for photos from his collection.

 


Posting 7/1/2018

I don't normally post editorials on this website, and it is not my desire to take on PennDOT, but a recent investigative report made me see red.  PennDOT is actually selling drivers' personal information, including names, addresses and driving history.  In fact, since fiscal year 2016, PennDOT has made $88.9 million by selling your data.  But when I have contacted PennDOT with legitimate questions about the format of a registration plate, I was summarily told that to answer my question would violate confidentiality, which it clearly would not.  It was a ploy to stonewall me.  Apparently if you have enough money, all things are possible.

 


It's not a great picture, but it does show that the sticker well is gone on this Dealer plate.  Based on an inventory report, the dropping of the sticker well appears to have started at K46-500K.  Can't say when the map outline will appear.  I find it both challenging and frustrating how these changes are taking place.  Tracking such changes is not easy.  Of course we've already seen the small map outline on a Dealer vanity.

 


A week ago I spotted a new Antique Vehicle serial progression, and this week I came across the first issue of that new series.  This series took the place of the 0A00 series after reaching 9Z99.  The use of these plates appears to be growing at an increasing rate.  Total antique vehicles registered in 2010 were 127,000, and 181,000 at the end of 2017. 

 


Over the past several weeks we've seen plates in the 0R00, 0S00, 0V00, and 0Z00 all with with the small map outline, while it appears likely that the entire 0W00 series does not have the map.  With the plate shown here we now know that the 0X00 series has the map.  So far no 'T' series plates have been spotted, and no 'U' series plates were issued. 

 


'Tis the season for spotting so many Antique Vehicle and the occasional Antique Motorcycle plate.  The current format and plate size date back to around May of 2013.  The current plate series started at 01000 and has progressed at least as high as the plate spotted here by Bruce Bufalini.

 


This Share The Road vanity was recently spotted.  This is part of the Special Fund plate group.  It may be a little hard to see because of the shadow, but this plate does not have the sticker well, and no map.  As for the Share The Road plates with the standard serial numbers, it is difficult to say for sure whether plates with stickers wells are still being issued.  Anyone have anything additional about sticker wells or map outlines on these plates?

 


Here are three different generations of Municipal Government plates all still on active duty.  There are actually more variations if you include the white on blue without the letter suffix, followed by white on blue with the MG in the suffix position.  And if you want to back to the 1971 to '76 issue, the first series of yellow on blue Municipal plates.  Photo credit for the center and right plate goes to Jeff Lawson.

 


This is a 1935 'shorty' Passenger plate.  A 3-digit plate was needed to fill a gap in the photo gallery.  For 1935 there were some 8 different serial formats, and 7 of the 8 formats were made up of both 6 inch by 10 inch, and 6 inch by 12 inch plates.  Credit for this plate goes to 8 year old Josh Vanchure.  

 


Here's a 1937 Passenger plate where we see the start of the state map outline on Passenger plates.  This feature continued on Passenger plates until the Bicentennial plates came along in 1971.  That feature is still in use today on Municipal Motorcycle plates.  Again for '37 both 10 inch and 12 inch plate sizes were used.  This is also the year with a short run of plates with keystones flanking the 1937 PENNA.

 


I've always been fond of plates in the '34 to '37 era with their neatly arranged and easy to identify, PENNA, TRACTOR and 1936.  1936 Tractor plates were all numeric, beginning at 1 and extending to over 4800.  All Tractor plates were 6" by 12".  Thanks to Clayton Moore for sharing a group of his tractor plate.

 


By 1941 Tractor plates saw a number of changes.  The map outline border was added to Tractor plates in '38, and beginning in '41 the expiration date was added to the top border as 3-31-42.  The serial progression ran from 0001 to under 9999.  All such plates were 6" by 12".  Another thank you to Clayton Moore for this photo.

 


Next up is this 1945 Tractor plate also thanks to Clayton Moore.  Note the use of the leading zero in the serial number which started at 0001.  It is not confirmed whether the serial sequence extended into the alpha-numeric series, i.e. A001, etc.  One source indicates that the progression ended in the 6000 series, while another suggests it extended into the alpha-numeric series.  Plates measured 6" by 11".

 


Next up is this 1946 Tractor plate from Tim Gierschick.  These were similar in size and other features to the '45 plate above.  The obvious difference its the reversal of the pant colors.  We also know that in '46 the alpha-numeric series was used as we just posted plate B434 last week from Clayton Moore.  Click the link above to see more plates.

 


The final Tractor plate for this week is this 1947 alpha-numeric format.  I'm sure in the post war era, there was a big shift away from horses for draft work on farms, and a switch to more modern tractors, thus an increase in the number of Tractor registrations.  A lot has changed since then, today's farm tractors rarely use plates.  Those few that do, have Implement of Husbandry or Commercial Implement.  I've only seen one Implement of Husbandry on a farm tractor, the others I've seen were on anhydrous ammonia trailers.  Thanks to Tim Gierschick for this image, check back next week for more.

 


Here's a very nice 1935 R-Class Truck plate.  This plate was part of the first R-Class serial progression which ran from R000A to R999Z, then the final letter moved one space to the left for the next series.  This process continued until the letter was shifted just next to the R.  At that point the process went to a 6 character plate using R00-00A as the format.  The 6 character plates increased the size from 6" by 12" to 6" by 15".  Thanks again to Peter Cohen for this plate image.

 


We finish up with an S-Class 1936 Truck plate.  Like the '35 plate above, this is also the first sequence of the S-Class, with a similar series of progressions, and also with a 6-digit overflow run which required the use of 15 inch plates.  Another thank you to Peter Cohen for providing this, and many other truck plate images.

 


Posting 6/24/2018

If you are a regular on my website, PAPL8S.com, you are probably also aware of Tom Perri's PA Plates website where he tracks the highs of all of the current PA plate types.  The web address is PAPlates.com/.  We both use the term PA Plates, and I do post highs, so there could be some confusion.  Anyway, Tom just recently did a major update.  If you haven't been there, check it out!

 


This is a new high number Penn State Alumni Association plate showing the third iteration of the Nittany Lion.  This current version was first seen in July of 2017.  This version always had the small map outline.

 

 


Here is the latest Antique Vehicle plate showing a new serial progression.  The previous format likely ended at 9Z99 then switched to the new progression, 00A0, as shown here with the letter shifting one place to the right.  The letter in this series is the last character to advance.  This plate was spotted at the Macungie Truck Show.

 


Here is a pair of personalized Antique Vehicle plates spotted on opposite ends of PA.  Both plates have the most current features of the small map outline where the sticker well used to be.  These plates allow up to 4 characters.  The SNO plate was seen at the Macungie show, and the SCWS plate was photographed by Bruce Bufalini, in Irwin, PA.

 


I spotted both of these plates a few minutes apart at the Macungie Truck show.  The far left plate is an Apportioned Truck without the sticker well and without the map outline, while the near left plate has the small map outline.  For now I'm going to put the changeover point at AG-73000, but my confidence level in that number is not high.  Doesn't PennDOT realize that there are people out here who need to track this stuff?

 


Here's another pair of with and without plates, in this case the far left Repair Towing plate has the sticker well and the near left plate does not.  No sign of the small map outline yet.  The RT-70730 was spotted months ago but not posted.  The other plate is a new high.

 


Here's a new high Press Photographer plate that was issued within the past few months.  It still retains the sticker well.  These plates are stockpiled in the warehouse, and with so few plates being issued, it may be quite a while until these are seen with the map outline.  The few that have been seen with the map outline were vanities or remakes.  Thanks to Chris Post for sharing this photo.

 


This is a 1933 Format 5 Passenger plate.  That group included the serial progression of 000A to 999Z9, so there were both 4 and 5 character plates.  This plate measures 6 inches by 12 inches, while plates with 4 or fewer characters were 6 inches by 10 inches. Credit for this plate photo goes to Glenn Timmons.

 


On Fathers' Day we visited Jerry's Classic Cars & Collectibles Museum near Pottsville.  There were quite a few plates on display, mostly passenger and a few truck, and mostly from PA.  I photographed this needed 1939 Format 9 Passenger plate.  The serial progression was 1AA0 to 9ZZ99, so both 10 and 12 inch sizes were used.

 


This is a 1949 Format 8 Passenger which included the serial progression of AA10 to ZZ999.  All plates that year measured 6 inches by 11 inches.  Serial number were either 4 or 5 characters.  Something I seldom mention is that the plate expiration date is in the top border. This plate was from the Macungie Truck Show.

 


Also from Jerry's Classic Cars & Collectibles Museum I came away with this unusual 3-character 1955 Passenger plate photo.  Plates with fewer than 4 characters that year were considered a non-standard issue.  Standard plates had 4 or 5 characters.  All passenger plates that year were 6 inches by 10 inches.

 


Next in the lineup are several Tractor plates beginning with this 1928 - not bad for a 90 year old plate.  After 1927 the E prefix on Tractor plates was replaced with TE as the E was needed for passenger plates.  The TE stood for Traction Engine.  It appears, but is unconfirmed, that all such plates, even those from TE1 to TE-999 serial numbers, were 6" by 15" in size.  Thanks to Clayton Moore for the plate photo.

 


Here is a pair of 1946 Tractor plates showing both Format 1, all-numeric, and and Format 2 alpha-numeric serial numbers.  The serial numbers were were all 4 character.  All plates measured 6 inches by 11 inches.  The far left plate was photographed at a truck show, and the near left photo is thanks to Clayton Moore.

 


On the far left is a restored John Deer R tractor, which was a large 2-cylinder tractor with a hand clutch.  This 1949 Tractor plate is the last of such plates for this week — more next week.  This is also a Format 1 plate which runs from 0001 to 9999.  An alpha-numeric plate photo is still needed for a number of different years.  Like the '46 above, all '49 plates were 6 inches by 11 inches.  Thanks to Tim Gierschick for this photo.  I want the tractor!

 


This is a 1933 Class T Truck plate.  All Class T plates follow this serial progression, T10-000.  All plates are 6 inches by 15 inches, and are yellow on dark blue.  1933 is one the early years of 3-axle plates.  As I understand it, 3-axle referred to a truck with a single front axle and tandem or dual rear axles.  Those plates use an RZ to ZZ prefix, and appear to be extremely rare.  Thanks to Peter Cohen for this image.

 


Here are two additions to the 1934 Truck series plates.  The far left is a Class R series running from R0A00 to R9Z99, and was one of four serial progressions for that weight class.  For the U Class there was only one progression, that starting at U000A.  The R Class photo was from a recent truck show, and the U Class is from Peter Cohen, with my appreciation for all his photographic help.

 


Posting 6/17/2018

Here's a very nice photo of a recent Organ Donors Save Lives vanity plate.  Note the map outline attesting to its newness.  The Organ Donor plate was one of the first plates to use the color graphic format.  They were first seen on 10/27/2004.  Since that time almost 1,900 plates have been registered.  Thanks to Bruce Bufalini for sharing this image. 

 


On the far left is a recent photo of a NASCAR 88 Dale Jarrett.  It would have been issued for the 2004 or 2005 racing season, and it is the highest number documented so far.  The sample plate on the near left represents a 2006 variation of the 88 graphic possibly due to a change in sponsorship.  So far it has not been determined how many of the 2006 plates were issued, if any.  With so many unanswered questions about NASCAR plates, the final history may never be written.  Thanks to Jeff Lawson for the 0173 photo, and Paul Bagnarol for the sample. 

 


This pair of sequential Municipal Government plates are believed to be the latest reported high numbers.  As you may recall, this new Municipal plate format started at M/G9000J, and was first seen in early February 2017.  Thanks to Steve Noll for the photos. 

 


This Severely Disabled Veteran plate was spotted by Nick Tsilakis who remarked that this may be a remake of an old base or the owner is a Trekkie.  Both the Disabled Veteran and Severely Disabled Veteran vanities seem popular, as I'm sure there's a story behind each one.

 


Sorry, it's barely recognizable, but it is a new high Permanent Trailer plate.  This plate type made its debut back in 1997 with its yellow on blue colors.  The plate type until recently always had a sticker well but never had a sticker since the plates are permanent, but for the last 10 months the plates have the small map outline in the upper left.

 


Clayton Moore has shared a group of older Tractor plates including this 1920.  The legend TRACTOR along the bottom of the plate makes identification easy. The 'E', for Engine, is another identifying feature which had been used on all Tractor plates since they started in 1914 up through 1923.  It appears that all 1920 Tractor plates measured 6" by 16", with the original colors being white on black.  Click the link above to see several others. 

 


Here's a 1921 Tractor also from Clayton.  This plate had been on this site previously under a different owner.  The 'E' prefix and 6 inch by 16 inch size is the same as the 1921 plate above.  After the serial number hit E1-000, a dash separator was added.  Plate colors are black on yellow.

 


Do you recognize this as a 1927 Tractor plate?  The E is the identifier, short for engine or traction engine — an early term. They're kind of rare, rare enough in fact that this is only the second 5-character plate I've seen from 1927.  So in spite of there being a hole in the plate, it's a great find, and does help to confirm plate size and formatting.  Thanks to Clayton Moore for the use of his plate photo.  Check back next week for more of Clayton's plates.

 


The 1930 Truck plate is likely one of the most difficult to collect, or even identify.  There is no legend saying Truck, and no weight class prefix letter as in earlier or later years.  The final 2 letters designate weight class for 1930.  In this case this is a Class R, which was authorized to run from 01AA to 999FZ.  The R thru ZZ class system was still in place but identification was much more cryptic, and not shown on the plates.  This plates measures 6" by 12", but 4-character plates were 6" by 10".  Thank you to Peter Cohen for sharing this plate photo and so many others.

 


Next in line is this 1931 Truck plate.  Apparently the 1930 experiment with puzzling serial numbers was discarded in favor of a more logical system.  The new formatting used the weight class as the prefix, in this case R, then used another letter in the number in order to hold the plates to 5 characters.  The colors were yellow on dark blue, and all plates are believed to be 6 inches by 12 inches.  Another gracious thank you to Peter Cohen for sharing this plate photo.

 


By 1932 Truck plate size went back to 6 inches by 15 inches.  All plates contained 6 characters, with the first character representing the weight class.  So the T-class, as shown here, would have run from T10-000 to under T50-000, however the plates were likely authorized as high as T99-999 if needed.  This is another Peter Cohen plate photo.

Just for fun, here's another pair of 1932 plates.  The plate legend is the same, the 'T' prefix is the same, but has a different meaning.  If you haven't figured it out, these are Trailer plates.  Since the 'T' prefix did double duty, the number of digits is the deciding factor.  These trailer plate photos were provided by Eric Tanner.

 


 

 

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John McDevitt, Walnutport, PA

ALPCA #4376

 

 

 

 

 

                  

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