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Pennsylvania License Plate History & Images

John McDevitt, Walnutport, PA

ALPCA #4376

 

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Posting 5/27/2018


I had to look twice at the photo when John Clark sent me this Official Use plate image on the far left.  Back in February of 2017 PennDOT announced that they would bring Official Use plates into the 'family of plates' giving them a new look.  It was also stated that other state agencies would have the option of using their own logo in place of the generic coat of arms which still has not made its debut.  Up to this point only PennDOT has been issuing agency-specific plates.  Examples to the left.  Now we see that the PA Turnpike has followed suit.  Note the logo and U suffix where the PennDOT plates use T.  Other state agencies could follow.  

 


Here's a new high number Official Use plate.  This is part of the series issued to passenger vehicles which also means that two plates would have been issued.  Sometime in the future these are expected to switch over to the visitPA 'family of plates' format with a flat screened coat of arms.  Thanks you to Bruce Bufalini for the use of this photo.

 


Here's a new high Motorcycle plate.  The current alpha-numeric progression is 0AA00, but notice the use of the letter I in the serial number.  That is one of the letters that is not normally used in serial progressions, but lately the letters I and O have also been seen on Antique Vehicle plates as well.  Thanks to Ryan Battin for this interesting photo.

 


This is the latest high Antique Vehicle plate.  These plates have been around since the 1950s with many changes in formatting over the years.  The Z on this plate would suggest that this serial format is about to shift.  I'm thinking that 00A0 could be the next progression.  Another thank you to Ryan Battin for his timely photo updates.

 


This is a new high Apportioned Bus plate.  This plate type switched to the visitPA base at BN-04000.  But unlike most other plates that made that switch, these plates retained the dash separator instead of the expected keystone separator.  Not sure when the sticker well go away, or the addition of the small map outline.

 


My crystal ball suggested that by this point the Apportioned Truck series would have been using the small map outline, but not yet.  It's hard to say for sure, but the plate does not appear to have a sticker well.  This is a new high recently spotted on the dirty rear end of a dump truck.

 


Here's a recent street shot of a new high number Dealer plate.  It does not appear to have the small map outline yet.  So far the map outline has only been seen on a Dealer vanity plate.  I'm not going to speculate on the presence or absence of the sticker well.  Thanks to Bruce Bufalini for the use of this photograph.

 


This is a new high Severely Disabled Veteran plate, now in the 96000 series.  Don't look for these plates to take on the visitPA look.  The design and coloring of both the Disabled Veteran and Severely Disabled Veteran plates are spelled out in the legislation that authorized these plates.  Another thank you to Bruce Bufalini for the use of this photograph.

 


I took this Operation Enduring Freedom Veteran plate picture back in March, and then missed posting it.  The serial number, 1090Y, makes this a vanity plate.  The plate features the Afghanistan Campaign Medal.  This plate type has been available since 2005.  According to Tom Perri's PA Plates website, the high is 01798E/F.

 


We're adding a few more older trailer plates this week starting with this 1947 Format 1, all numeric (0001 to 9999) plate.  There were also three additional alpha-numeric sequences.  Click the link above to see examples of the other three serial formats.  All trailer plates were 4 characters and all were 6 inches by 11 inches.  Thanks to Bob Connison for this photo.

 


This is a 1949 Format 4 Trailer plate.  Format 4 consisted of the run from 00A0 to 99Z9.  There was a total of 5 formats used that year.  All trailer plates had a 4-character serial number, and all measured 6 inches by 11 inches.  Thank you to Bob Connison for this photo. 

 

 


Here's a complete run of 1950 Trailer plates.  The all-numeric Format 1 plate on the far left was provided by Michael Wiener of Bestplates.  The G548 is a format 2 plate and is thanks to Bob Connison.  These are both new additions to this website.  The three remaining plates were previously posted but are being shown here to show all 5 formatting sequences for 1950.  Note that the serial progressions starts with all-numeric, then with each succeeding plate the alpha character shifts one space to the right.

 


Posting 5/20/2018

Here's the first image of a Eureka Volunteer Fire and Ambulance plate.  They are located in Stewartstown, York County, PA.  Their tag program has only had plates on the street for a couple months, with about 5 in use.  Thanks to Arthur Levine for the plate photo.  Unfortunately the photo did not capture the upper portion of the plate.

 


Here are two National Ovarian Cancer Coalition plates.  This group has had plates on the street since mid-2012. The current reported high is 10103C/S.  The far left plate was recently photographed by Bruce Bufalini, near left plate picture was taken a couple years ago by Tom Perri, but never posted.

 


It looks like a new organizational plate is in the works called Mayflower Descendant.  Can't find much information on the plate yet, but it may be a creation of the Society of Mayflower Descendants or Pennsylvania Mayflower Society.  No prototype photo yet.  The serial coding on the plate will likely be 00000M/D.

 


Back in March of this year it was announced that a new PA National Guard plate would soon be available.  Apparently it is now available with about 7 plates registered so far.  The image on the left is a prototype and is one of the 'active duty' (AD) series of veterans' plates.

 


Here's a new high number School Vehicle plate.  This plate type has seen a lot of variations over the years.  So far ten variations have been identified since they first transitioned to the www base.  Note the presence of the small map outline which is believed to have started at SV-26800.  Thanks to Bruce Bufalini for sharing this photo.

 


This is a recent issue Amateur Radio plate — note the presence of the small map outline.  These plates have a long history, dating back to 1956.  The plates show the radio call letters of the owner, which can have A, K, N or W as the first letter.  They always contain a number in the second or third position to indicate the region of which PA is in region 3.  For additional information click the link above.

 


Here's the earliest cardboard Temporary plate photo I have.  It's dated 1949.  At least for now I'm going to treat this format as being the original design.  One feature that makes this design different from the next are the dashes between the Ts and PENNA.  The next design had the T's with PENNA without dashes.  I'm hoping that as more examples come to the forefront, more details can be recorded.  Thanks to ebay seller Pat Damico / Libertysales2 for the use of the photo.

 


Here's an all-numeric version of Temp tags used from around 1968 to around 1974.  When I said all-numeric, I'm not counting the first T which appears to be a static, not advancing character.  This version spells out the word TEMPORARY above the serial number, then above that feature are spaces for the following data: Issued; Make; Serial and Expires.  Thanks to Bob Connison for the use of this photo.

 


While this plate may look similar to the Temporary above, the T has been replaced with a number that is now part of the serial number The word TEMPORARY is now at the top between the bolt holes.  The data line is now below the word temporary and includes additional fields which are: Issued; Year; Make; Model; Serial; Expires; Dealer I.D.  Another thank you to Bob Connison for the use of this plate photo.

 


This is a 1940 Format 2 Trailer plate.  Format 2 plates were authorized from A000 to Z999, which does not necessarily mean the series was fully utilized.  Format 1 was all-numeric.  All trailer plates were 4 characters, and all were 6 inches by 12 inches.  Thanks to Bob Connison for sharing a group of older trailer plate photos.

 


Next in the  lineup is this 1944 Format 1 Trailer plate.   That format included numbers from 0001 to 9999, all of which were 4 digits.  Note the use of a leading zero.  All alpha-numeric formats were also 4 characters, and all plates were 6 inches by 12 inches.  Thanks to Bob Connison for sharing his older trailer plate photos.

 


Next comes this 1945 Format 4 Trailer plate.  Format 4 included the serial progression of 00A0 to 99Z9.  All trailer plates were 4 characters since 1938; however, for 1945 the plate size was reduced from 6 inches by 12 inches to 6 inches by 11 inches.  Again my appreciation for all of Bob Connison's help.

 


This 1946 Format 1 Trailer plate is the last of this type until next week.  Format 1 included 0001 to 9999.  Again all plates were 4 characters.  There were 4 serial number progressions used that year, and the plates measured 6 inches by 11 inches.  Thank you Bob Connison.  Check back next week for more older trailer plates.

 


In the years following World War 2, the increasing number of car registration led to a growing number of serial progressions.  For 1948 Passenger plates there were 10 such groupings with this plate being part of Format 6.  Some progressions used both 4 and 5 character serial numbers.  All plates measured 6 inches by 11 inches.

 


Here is a 1950 Format 8 Passenger plate.  Format 8 consisted of the series AA10 to ZZ999, so both 4 and 5 character serial numbers were issued.  All plates measured 6 inches by 11 inches.  1950 used a total of 11 serial format progressions.  Click the link above to see examples of each.  Still needed are several 4-character examples.  Thanks to Michael Wiener for the use of this photo.

 


Posting 5/12/2018

Very sad news — long time friend and fellow license plate collector Steve Ondik has passed away after a long struggle.  If you didn't know him personally, you will likely recall his name associated with many contributions to this website.  Rest in peace Steve.

 


This is a fairly recent Antique Vehicle plate judging by the number series progression and the map symbol.  It is not a high however.  The high plate, 3W34, does not have the map symbol and it does not have the sticker well.  We still don't know why a later plate would be missing the most current features.

 


Here's the latest photographed high Collectible Vehicle plate.  The first batch of these newer style plates runs from CV1600 to CV1699 and dates back to 2014, but so far only about forty-some plate have been issued.  This is why this plate still has the sticker well and no map.  The plates will likely remain so until the CV1700 mark is reached.

 


This Severely Disabled Veteran vanity plate was spotted recently.  The standard issue has D/V followed by a 5-digit serial number, the vanity format usess the same D/V with up to 5 letters, numbers, a space or dash.  One unique feature of the Disabled and Severely Disabled Veteran plate is the retention of the original plate coloring, no visitPA family of plates here.

 


Here's the latest high Pennsylvania Hunting Heritage plate as recently spotted by Bruce Bufalini.  The plate type dates back to 2014 and appears to have widespread appeal.  The plate shown here does not yet have the small map outline.  It is also available in a personalized version.

 


We start this week's oldies off with this 'shorty' Format 3 1939 Passenger plate.  Format 3 included the series 1A00 to 9Z999 which included both 4 and 5-character plates.  4-character plates were 6-inch by 10-inch, and 5-character were 6-inch by 12-inch.  Thanks to ebay seller Powerfullhammer for the use of this plate.

 


This is a 1944 Format 9 Passenger plate.  Format 9 was the last run for the year and the progression would have been 1AA0 to 1AA99, then 2AA0 to 2AA99, finally ending at 4NB8.   4-character plates were 6-inch by 10-inch, and 5-character were 6-inch by 11-inch.  They were issued as singles due to the war.  Thanks to Michael Wiener at Bestplates for the use of the photo.

 


Here is a 1949 Format 6 Passenger plate.  That format used a serial progression starting at 000A0 and going to 999Z9.  All plates were 6 inches by 11 inches that year.  This plate was spotted at a recent car show, and was being used as a YOM (year of manufacture) plate.

 

 


This is a 1956 Format 2 Passenger plate.  For this format the serial progression ran from A100 to Z9999, so both 4 and 5 character plates were part of the equation.  1956 also saw the standardization of plates at 6 inches by 12 inches.  Thanks to ebay user Powerfullhammer for the photo.

 

 


This is the earliest cardboard Temporary plate photo I have.  This plate is dated 6-26-57.  Considering the fact that this plate has progressed to a U-prefix, and an early all-numeric plate in the ALPCA Archives suggests that these plates may date back to 1941, this could be the earliest format for these cardboard temp plates.  Thanks to ebay seller Harlots.n.hussies for the use of the image.

 


The more of these late '50s to late 60s vintage cardboard temp tags I see, the more it appears that the order in which they were made has little to do with the order in which they were issued.  I'm going to suggest that this round of plates started with a 6-digit, all numeric format, then when that series became full it went to an alpha character in the first position, then in the second position, for example: 123-456, A12-345, then 1A2-345.  I'm only referring to the plates with T PA T as the top legend.  For this reason I'm going to group them by alpha-numeric sequence but then also list their known or approximate issue date.  Thanks to Bob Connison for these photos, with a couple more from Bob next week.

 


This is a 1938 Format 1 Trailer plate which included the all-numeric run of 0001 to 9999.  There was a second sequence of alpha-numeric plates starting with A000.  All plates were 4 characters and all measured 6 inches by 12 inches.  Bob Connison sent me this photo and was kind enough to send me a bunch of Trailer images that will be posted over the next few weeks.

 


This is a nicely refinished 1920 Class 2 Commercial or Truck plate.  Information on weight classes is very sketchy; however the first digit in the serial number is believed to designate the class.  The term 'Commercial' was used to designate a Truck in the early '20s and then again from 1968 to '77.  This plate measures 7 inches by 13½ inches.  The extra one inch in height is due to the placement of plate legend at both the top and bottom of the plate.  Some 16 inch plates (see below) were 6 inches high since the extra length allowed all of the plate legend to be placed along the bottom, while other 16 inch plates had the legend at both the top and bottom and were 7 inches high — confusing.  Thanks to Peter Cohen for the photograph.

This is also a 1920 Commercial plate, but this one is a Class 3.  Like the plate above, it contains 5-digits, but unlike the plate above it is on a 6- inch by 16-inch base, and therefore the entire legend fits along the bottom of the plate.  Another big thank you to Peter Cohen for the photo.

 


Posting 5/6/2018

When PA finally embarked on a major plate replacement initiative in September of 1999, the first passenger plates to be replaced were those 1977-base yellow on blue plates.  See License Plate Replacement Fact Sheet.  The replacement plates were reportedly the first plates in the U.S. to have a web address on the plate.  The plates also used flat screened legend and  fading color bands.  While the plates were completely new, the alpha-numeric serial numbers picked up at DAA-0000 after the previous yellow on blue base ended at or about CEG-3865.  The plate shown here is one of the first issued replacement plates still on the road, and in pretty decent condition.  Thanks to Jeff Lawson for the photo.

 


Here's a unique Penn Alumni, that's the University of Pennsylvania if you're not familiar.  Their plate program has been around since 2005.  The current reported high is 00448U/P according to Tom Perri's highs website.  Thanks to Matt Boyer for this attention-grabbing vanity photo.

 

 


This is likely the second National Wild Turkey Federation plate issued when the program started back in 2002, and it's still on the road today.  This plate program has never moved into the next generation of graphic formatting, and I have never seen an actual sample plate.  Thanks to Nick Tsilakis for sharing this image.

 


Here's the latest image of a Rosedale Technical College plate.  This plate program has an interesting history.  The program began back in 2012 with the legend 'Rosedale Technical Institute'.  Then in 2016 the facility changed its name and logo.  It is unconfirmed, but possible, that both the original 2012 format and the 2016 update are in use.  Both styles of the plate use the same serial progression of 00000R/I.  Click the link above to see photos of both variations.  Thanks to Bruce Bufalini for sharing what is also the current new high.

 


Here's a new high number Villanova University plate, now sporting the small map outline.  The previous high, according to Tom Perri's PA Plates website, was 00442V/U and did not appear to have the small map.  You may also recall older Villanova University Alumni Assoc. plates on the www base.  They had the V/U in the prefix position.  Many of those older plates are still in use.  Thanks to Jaska Börner for the use of this plates

 


This is a 1956 Miscellaneous Dealer plate with the X-identifier in the first position.  The X could also be in the second or third position, click the link above to see variations.  Also plates toward the end of the run began using narrower dies often referred to as '57 dies.  Thanks to Arthur Levine for the plate photo.

 


This is a needed 1935 Format 8 Passenger plate.  The serial progression ran from 0AA to 9BD99, which would have allowed for 3, 4 and 5 character versions.  The 3 and 4-character plates measured 6 inches by 10 inches, while those with 5 characters were 6 inches by 12 inches.  Thanks to ebay user Powerfullhammer for the photo; however, I recently purchased this plate from him.

 


Not beautiful, but it does show the short version of a 1937 Format 8 Passenger plate.  Short version means 4 characters with the serial format from AA10 to ZZ99 and 6" x 10" while 5 character plates had an additional digit and measured  6" x 12".  Another thank you to Powerfullhammer for the use of the photo.

 


Here's a 1947 Format 7 Passenger plate.  This series went from 0000A to 9999Z.  Some other series had 4-character plates; however, both 4 and 5-character plates were 6 inches by 11 inches in size.  Thanks to Arthur Levine for this photo.  Still need a Format 9  (1AA00 to 9ZZ99) plate to complete the '47 run.

 


This Temporary Cardboard 1970-issue has been added.  I'll be the first to admit my knowledge of these temp-tags is limited, but they do deserve coverage.  Since these plate don't have any natural date legend, and since they may lie on a dealer's shelves for an extended period, it's not easy to give the plate a year unless the hand-written portions are legible.  This plate is dated 1970 and was issued on to a Cadillac ambulance.  The image came from Andy Vereen.

 


This is a 1939 Format 1 Trailer plate.  Format 1 included the serial progression from 0001 to 9999, then the next progression started at A000 with the letter advancing last.  All serial numbers contained four characters and all plates measured 6 inches by 12 inches.  Thank you to Peter Cohen for sending me a group of older trailer plates.

 


Next is this 1949 Format 2 Trailer plate.  Format 2 included the series A000 to Z999.  The first series was all-numeric from 0001 to 9999.  All together there were 5 serial formats used that year.  From 1945 through 1952 trailer plates were all 6 inches by 11 inches.  The source of this photo is unknown.

 


Next is this very nice 1951 Format 2 Trailer plate.  The Format 2 progression again ran from A000 to Z999, and followed the initial all-numeric run.  By 1951 five digit plates came into use toward the end, it is unknown if any were issued prior to 1951.  I have no 5-digit photos.  Again thank you to Peter Cohen for the older trailer plates.

 


Posting 4/29/2018

Here's the latest Conserve Wild Resources - River Otter plate.  I thought it was strange that the only two plate photos I have are well over 01000.  I did some checking and find that very few plates below R/C01000 have been issued.  I'm not going to speculate as to why this is the case, but it does suggest that plate sales have not been as brisk as the plate number shown here might suggest.  Thanks to Steve Ondik for the photo.

 


This Philadelphia Animal Welfare Society plate photo was provided by Jeff Lawson.  I only have two additional images of this plate type, as a result, this is the low number.  These plates date back to 2015.  Somewhere around 164 of these plates have been issued so far.

 


This Teen Driver vanity plate was spotted recently by Bruce Bufalini.  Apparently not too many teen drivers want to be identified as such.  This plate type made its debut in 2013, and since that time only about 70 plates with a numeric serial number have been issued.  With sales that weak, I'm surprised they are still available.

 


This recently spotted Permanent-Trailer plate is the latest reported high.  Note that this plate does have the small map outline.  That feature was previously spotted as far back as August of 2017, and is believed to have come about at PT-500D0.  Vanities are not permitted.  Thanks to Bruce Bufalini for the use of the image.

 


This pair of plates was spotted on the front of a vehicle.  Apparently the owner likes PA rail trails and Delaware beaches.  The PA Rails to Trails Conservancy plate program dates back to 1997, then they were reissued on the www base in September of 2001.  Again in 2007 the plate was given a facelift and now appears on the visitPA base with color graphics.  Of course those who choose to keep their plate on the www base could do so.  The newest edition is also available as a vanity.  The photo shown hers is courtesy of Jeff Lawson.

 


This is a 1927 Bus plate.  The first character is the letter 'O'.  Between 1926 and 1929 there were actually two types of Bus plates.  There were plates with the 'O' prefix as shown here, and there were also plates with an 'H' prefix.  From 1926 to 1929 omnibuses that carried passengers for hire and not required to have a certificate of convenience were designated by an "H" prefix. This also included buses that were not registered for hire before 1/1/1914. In 1929 a new law was passed requiring all buses to have this certificate and thereby ending the "H" prefix plate. After this, all common carrier and for hire buses used the "O" prefix until 1968 when the "BA" prefix came into use.  Thanks to Drewski for the use of this photo.

 


These are two very welcome additions to the 1934 Passenger display.  On the far left is a Format 2 plate which consists of the progressions A to Z999, in 6" x 10", and A1000 to Z9999, 6" x 12".  The near left plate is a Format 8 which consists of series of AA100 to ZZ999, all of which are 6" x 12" in size.  I want to thank ebay user Powerfullhammer for the use of these photos.

 


Here is a pair of 1949 U Class Truck plates.  While these are both from the same weight class, they represent two of the four serial progressions used that year.  Click the link above to see additional '49 truck plates and an additional U-class format.  The far left plate is thanks to Jde609 and the other is from Peter Cohen.

 


Here's an addition to the 1951 Truck plate display.  It's a Class T weight class of which there were two serial progressions including T000A, T00A0, with this plate being a part of the second group.  Still need photos for the W to the ZZ class.  Thanks to ebay-er Suzelush1 for the use of the photo.

 


Truck plates for 1952 were very similar to the '51 series with the obvious reversal of the colors, and plates were issued as singles rather than in pairs.  The plate shown here shows one of the six serial formatting progressions - R0AA0 to R9ZZ9.  Thanks to ebay user Bennyjoebob for the use of this photo.

 


Here's a U-weight class 1957 Truck plate  Several changes are evident here, for starters the serial numbers of all truck plates are now 6 characters, thus simplifying the serial progressions.  The additional space for 6 characters came from the plate width being standardized at 12 inches, and the use of a narrower font.  Thanks to from Suzelush1 for the use of this plate photo.

 


 

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John McDevitt, Walnutport, PA

ALPCA #4376

 

 

 

 

 

                  

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