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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.  This is a reference only website, no plate sales..


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Posting 8/13/2017

Here's another high number Antique Motorcycle plate.  Plate 05423 was spotted about 3 weeks ago.

 

 


It would be interesting to poll visitors to this website on their opinion of the legacy vs. the redundant Classic Car / Classic Vehicle plates.  These aren't new plates but Bruce Bufalini spotted the plate on the near left, which helps narrow the changeover point.  Based on some research I'm going to suggest that the changeover took place at C27900.

 


Tom Perri recently spotted this Hummelstown Chemical Fire Company No. 1 plate.  This is the first image spotted of this recent arrival.

 

 


This is a more official version of the redesigned Penn State Alumni Association plate now with the small map outline.  An earlier Penn State prototype was posted on July 16.  There is no indication that this redesign is in use yet.

 


Tom Perri also took this street shot of the most recent edition of a University of Pittsburgh plate now showing the map outline in the upper left corner.

 

 


Here's a 1955 Miscellaneous Dealer with the 'X' identifier in the second position.  Spotted as a recent YOM plate

 

 

 


While on the subject of Dealer plates, Steve Ondik provided the image on the far left of a 1958 Miscellaneous Dealer plate with the tab slot.  Next to is is another such plate in the same 14-thousand series without the slot.  Click the thumbnails for larger images.  The plate without the slot is from a previous post and was provided courtesy of Mike at pl8source.

 


It ain't pretty but it's good example of an alpha-numeric '54 Motorcycle plate with a two-digit number.  The series would follow the progression from the start of 1 to 9999, then A, A1, A2, etc. to Z999, although I can honestly say I've only ever once seen a single letter Motorcycle plate and that was likely a vanity.

 


This is a 1918 Tractor Dealer plate.  These were white on black.  Tractor Dealer plates are tough to find in almost every year.  We are fortunate to have this second photo of a 1918 plate in addition to the TX13 plate previously posted.  The length of the plate depends on the number of characters in the serial number.  Thanks go to Eric Tanner for sharing this image.

 


Next is this 1922 Tractor Dealer plate also from Eric Tanner.  Again we are fortunate to have a TX+2 digit plate and now a TX+3 digit plate.  The colors were brown on cream.  Note the legend Tractor Dealer is spelled out.

 


Last of this plate type is this 1928 Tractor Dealer which helps fill the gap for that year, again thanks to Eric Tanner.  This is the only Image of a '28 Tractor Dealer plate I have, with many years having no photos or descriptions.   By 1925, if not earlier, the word Tractor had been eliminates; however, the TX prefix continued to be the identifier.  Tractors on the other hand used E for engine up thru 1927, then TE for traction engine beginning in '28.

 


This 1928 Judiciary plate is believed to be the first year for such plates, and with no identifying markings other than the J, the plate could easily be mistaken for a Passenger plate.  Later in 1928 there were passenger plates with alpha characters, but all are believed to be in the first position.  Thanks to Eric Tanner for this photo.

 


Here is a very nice Format 3 white on green porcelain, 1913 plate, both front and rear views of the plate.  This plate is not a re-fired 1912 base since it has the correct rear markings of the 1913 plates.  The re-fired plates had a different style of rear marking that was used in 1912.  This plate measures 6" by 13".  Other sizes included 6" by 8", 10", 12" and 14".  This plate was provided by Steve Ondik.

 


Here's another porcelain plate image from Steve Ondik — this one being a 4-digit 1914 Passenger.  There were as many as seven plate sizes depending on the length of the serial number.  There was also a truck series issued to cars without the truck weight band since too many plates were produced, or not enough trucks were registered.  Still in need of a 3-digit and a 6 digit plate photo.

 


Here's a very nice 4-digit 1915 Passenger plate measuring 6" by 12" and is one of six sizes used that year.  These were issued in pairs and were manufactured by the Brilliant Manufacturing Co., Philadelphia.  1915 was also the final year for Pennsylvania to issue porcelain plates.  Thanks to Steve Ondik for the image.

 


I've made some changes in cataloging Passenger plate from 1924 thru 1929.  Alpha-numeric plates have been separated from those that are all-numeric.  Certain alpha plate formatting is subject to verification.

Here's a pair of 1926 Passenger plates from Jeff Hinkle.  Alpha numeric passenger plates were first introduced in 1923 because passenger plates needed a serial format beyond six numeric characters.  The new format was A, A-1 to A-99, then A-100 to A-999, eventually A-1000 to A99-999.  The alpha character prefix went as far as the C-series.  1926 was the first year that the alpha character was smaller than the numeric characters, a practice that continues to this day.

 

 

 


This 3-digit 1928 Passenger 'shorty' was provided courtesy of eBay seller Kope2112.  The 'shorty' plates measured 6" by 10" and the serial number ran from 2 to 9999.  Alpha-numeric Passenger plate photos are needed for 1928.

 

 


This pair of 1929 Passenger plates on the far left was provided by Steve Ondik.  The 5-digit plate series shown here measures , 6" x 13".  Like most plates during that era, the length of the serial number determined the length of the plate including 6" by 10' and 6' by 15' sizes.

Next is a pair of 'shorty' 1931 Passenger from Jeff Hinkle.  Beginning in 1930 and continuing in 1931 and beyond, the maximum serial number was reduced from 6 to 5 characters which allowed the largest plate size to be reduced from  to 15' down to 12'.  This was accomplished by reconfiguring the serial progressions. 

 


With these 2005 to 2017 plates we're approaching the end of the Passenger plate series with these visitPA plates.  At the very end of 2004 PA introduced this updated edition of the passenger plate which consisted of dark blue on white with solid bands of blue on the top and yellow on the bottom, series began at GBA-0000 and likely ran to KLE-9999.  There were no I-series plates.  Legend consisted of PENNSYLVANIA screened across top and visitPA.com screened across bottom. Plates are referred to by many as visitPA plates or solid band plates.  PennDOT uses the term Family of Plates.  At the end of 2016, PennDOT discontinued issuing validation stickers.  Some 2017, and even 2018 stickers are in use on Passenger vehicles but were issued before 2017.  Plate credits left to right above, my photo, Jordan Irazabal, Ryan Battin and Steve Ondik.  I'd like to see a plate in the KLE-series.

Here are several vanities.  While it may be tempting to apply for a 1- or 2- character plate, they are not easy to come by, nor are they inexpensive.  On the other hand if the combination you want is available, go for it — up to 7 characters, a space or dash are permitted but not both, and the requested combination not be deemed offensive.   These are just a few examples above.  Plate credits left to right, Jordan Irazabal, my plate, Steve Ondik and Ryan Battin.  By the way Steve Ondik's I QUO10 is meant to display characters not normally seen on PA plates like the letters I, O and Q, also note that the alpha characters are smaller than numeric characters.  The EV-17954 looks like a vanity remake or an earlier Emergency Vehicle plate.

 


Like the Passenger plates above, Truck plates in 2005 also took on the new look of the visitPA base.  The series started off at YSA-0000, and after hitting YZZ-9999 went to ZBA-0000 and progressed to ZKH-9999 in 2017.  After hitting ZKH-9999, a plate design took place where the sticker well was eliminated and in its place a small PA map outline was added.  Check back next week for more on the latest design.  At the end of 2016, PennDOT discontinued issuing validation stickers.  Some 2017, and even 2018 stickers are in use on Trucks but were issued before 2017.  Credit for the ZBA-4665 goes to Grant M. and to Ryan Battin for the ZJC-4382 photo.

 


Posting 8/6/2017

Here's the second of these Official Use plates spotted in the past two weeks.  Both have been spotted on smaller Department of Transportation aka PenndDOT vehicles.  These plates have piqued my curiosity as to which other state agencies will follow suit.  I can easily picture the PSP patch where the PennDOT symbol is.

 


This high number Repossessor plate was recently spotted by Bruce Bufalini.  The Repossessor plate (my spellchecker does not like that word) is one of PA rarest of the Dealer types; however, PA has a few other limited issues plates including Moped Dealer, Trailer Dealer and Watercraft Trailer / Dealer.  The Repossessor series started at RE-05000 on September 1, 1999, making this the 1,257 plate issued in 17 years.

 

 


Here's a car show image from Bruce Bufalini.  It's been interesting to watch this latest progression of Antique Vehicle plates.  This is the latest high in this series where we've already seen the use of the letter 'I' not long ago.  The letter 'O' will be coming into play soon if they're not already in use, but the letter 'Q' will not be used.

 


Both of these 40000-series Classic Vehicle plates were recently spotted by Bruce Bufalini.  The one on the far left has the sticker well, while the one on the near left has the small map outline in its place and is the new high.  The lower number plate shows the normal left hand plate legend.  The high number plate now has the legend reduced in size.  Based upon some research it appears that the change to the map base likely occurred at C40900.  What is not clear is whether any plates immediately prior to C40900 had the sticker well removed.

 


Another photo from Bruce Bufalini.  I like Bruce's description as "near the end of the non-redundant street rods."  If you recall once the plates hit the 7000 mark, they also went Street Rod redundant with that that term being used twice on the plate.

 


I don't get it.  Organizational plates are not cheap, and personalizing one gives it a healthy price tag,  Then  why add a plate frame that covers up the name of the organization that the plate represents?  If you can't identify this plate you're not alone.  This unusual PA Society of Professional Engineers was spotted by Ryan Battin.  While this plate type has been around for a couple years, no standard issue numeric plates have been spotted so far.

 


These are not new photos.  They are older images of Person with Disability plates issued soon after they first came out on the www base.  Note the PD on the far left plate is taller than the PD on the near left plate, also the wheelchair symbol is larger.  Ryan Battin spotted PD5946A which had the larger letters and symbol.  This helps identify the changeover point — now believed to be PD6000A.

 


Here's a little 1920 Passenger plate trivia.  According to 1920 Motor Vehicle Registration Records, the number block from 1-000 to 1-199, was registered to, or reserved for the PA State Highway Department. It is unknown if all state-owned vehicles were registered to the PA State Highway Department. It is also unknown if there were additional blocks of numbers reserved for automobiles or trucks.  There was likely no other indication or legend on the plate indicating official use or state ownership.

 


This 3-digit vanity plate was recently spotted by Nick Tsilakis.  This plate picture fits into the current Passenger vanities and also the Passenger History section which is nearing completion.  While this plate was issued between 1999 and 2004 it continues to be a valid plate.

 

These, and a number of other plates from the www era from 1999 till 2004, have been added to the Passenger Plate History page.  These plates are still eligible for revalidation.  This series started at DAA-0000 and ran into the FYC-series before switching to the visitPA base and continuing the progression with GBA-0000.  The ASY-6899 plate is a remake of an earlier plate.  Most of these early remakes were made with the small keystone separator, even though such plates were actually vanities.  The 95 plate is courtesy of Bill Jesse.

 


When the state began issuing Truck plates on the www base in 1999, series began using 3 letters followed by 4 numbers starting at YAA-0000 and progressed into the YRR-series before switching to visitPA base and continuing the progression at YSA-0000.  These plates are still eligible for revalidation.  The YAA image is courtesy of Steve Ondik.

 


With the addition of these two plates, only 1939 is needed to complete the Bus run from 1924 to the present.  These are two important additions to Bus plates to fill what had been empty spaces up to now.  Except for the colors being reversed, these 1932 Bus and 1933 Bus plates are formatted alike.  The only legend indicates the state and year, but the real identifier is the letter 'O' in the prefix position.  Note the smaller size of the letter, helping to identify it as a letter and not a number.  These plates measure 6" by 12"; however, it is believed that plates with O+1 to O+3 digits would have been on 6" by 10" bases.  These plates were provided by Eric Tanner

Here are a couple more oldies including this 1949 Bus plate with serial formatting much the same as the plates above, but with a 2-digit year, the legend Bus at the top and the state shortened to PA.  I have no photo, but other years at least as far back as 1946 indicate that the serial numbers progressed into the OA000 series.  1949 photo from Drew Steitz.  The 1964 to 67 Bus multi-year plate continues to use the 'O' prefix but with 5 numeric characters eliminating the need for an additional alpha character.  This plate photo was provided by Steve Ondik.

 


Posting 7/30/2017

What do we have here?  John Clark spotted this previously unknown version of an Official Use plate.  Back in February the state announced that Official Use plates would be getting a new look to bring them into the family of plates.  It was also announced that state agencies would have the option of using their own logo in place of the coat of arms shown previously.  With 14 state-supported universities, and numerous state government agencies, the various renditions should be interesting.  The plate shown here has a 'T' prefix and is sporting a Dept. of Transportation (PennDOT) logo suggesting the 'T' identifies that department.

 


Albright College has had a plate program since about 2005, but now is giving their plates a new look on far left.  It appears that some 140 plates have been issued on the original format.  Note the presence of the small map outline in place of the sticker well.  It is not known if any of the newer plates are in use yet.

 


Mount Aloysius College joins the organizational plate program with an entry of their own.  No plates appear to be in use as of this posting.  Mount Aloysius College is a small Catholic liberal arts facility located in Cresson, Cambria County, PA, a beautiful area but cold and snowy. 

 


The East Brandywine Fire Company, Chester County, now has a license plate program.  As of this posting no plates are in use.

 

 


The ever-changing phases, or maybe that should be faces, of the visitPA base, and the Flyers Wives Charities / Charity plate.  On the far left (F/L01652) has Flyers Wives Charities as the legend, with sticker well and sticker, the center plate (F/L01753) has no sticker well and the legend has been changed to Flyers Wives Charity, now singular.  Finally the F/L01779 plate has the new small map outline — all of these changes in a span of less than 130 plates.  While there is an element of enjoyment in identifying and tracking these changes, it is also challenging and a little frustrating.

If all of that weren't enough, we also have vanities of the first two formats.  Plate photo credits as follows: F/L01652, from Brittany; F/L01753, from Tom Perri; F/L01779, from Jordan Irazabal; F/L10000, from Jeff Lawson and F/LSANDI, from Jordan Irazabal.

 


Devan Ciemiewicz provided this image of 1967 Governor's Inaugural plate #88.  According to Eric Conner's website, Pennsylvania Politicals, http://www.pennsylvaniapoliticals.com/, fewer than 100 of these plates produced, and they were issued to auto dealers and used on cars in [Governor] Shafer's inaugural parade.

 


Just a side note, I've been working on developing a Passenger Plate History Page since January of this year.  It's close to being finished, but in actuality it will never quite be finished.  So far about 475 plates and related images have been posted, but with many plate images still needed.  Just this week several of these older 'gaps' have been filled.  While my name may be on this website, it is the hundreds of friends and contributors who have made the site what it is today. Thank you.

 


Here a very nice porcelain 1911 plate to help fill the Format 4 space.  This was made available courtesy of eBay user Americana1900.  Plates were made in 5 different sizes that year, ranging from 6" by 8" for 1- and 2-digit plates up to 6" by 14".  This plate measures 6" by 13".

 


Next is another beautiful plate, this being a 1912 Format 3 wood grain porcelain from another eBay auction by Don Bucchi, of Greensburg, PA.  This plate also fills a gap in the plate progression.  1912 also used the same 5 sizes of plates, again with this plates measuring 6" by 12".  Nearly 59,000 plates were issued in 1912.

 


Eric Tanner sent this image of this very fine 1934 Passenger plate.  On first impression one might wonder how a single letter plate could be; however, there was a run of what I refer to Format 2, from A to Z, then A1 to Z999 on 6" x 10" plates.  This certainly would have allowed for single letter plates; however, Eric notes that this plate is the only single letter plate know to exist from that period.  Quite a find!  Under Format 7 there was another series of AA to ZZ & AA1 to ZZ99 plates authorized.  As far as who could get these plate, that's another matter.  I'm sure 1- and 2-character plates were not just issued randomly, or just pulled off the stack and given to the next customer.

 


This very nice 1953 Passenger Format 6 plate is from Steven Filipowski.  All standard plates, i.e. passenger, truck, dealer etc. in 1953 were short measuring 6" x 10".  This plate is about as close to mint condition as a 64-year old plate can be.  With plates size limiting the plate to 5 characters, it required 13 different serial formats to cover the number of passenger registrations.

 


This is not only a display of a pair of low number plates but also quite a display of validation stickers.  These are courtesy of Tim Gierschick.  The two photos on the left are actually the same plate.  The far left photo shows stickers from 3-84 to 3-93, while the center photo shows stickers from 3-89 to 3-98.  How was this done?  After the plate filled up with 10 stickers, a sheet of plastic was put over the plate and additional stickers were placed on the plastic right over the sticker beneath it.  Eventually that plate was replaced with a yellow-on-blue Keystone State plate, and more stickers were added with the 3-99, 3-00 and 3-01. 

 


As the passenger series progressed forward into the 1987 thru 2000 run, the series picked up at SAA-000 after the "Friend" series stopped in the R-series.  The "Friend" legend was replaced by the Keystone State legend.  The plates shown here are just at different points in the progression, including the final plate produced in that series courtesy of Eric Conner.  Note the use of the large keystone separator.

As the series continued, it was expanded to 7 characters around 1992, still 3 alpha characters, but now followed by 4 numbers, and separated by a small keystone.  The series progressed into the CEG series before switching to the www plates as the replacement process started at DAA-0000 in 1999.  The AAA-0000 is courtesy of Eric Conner.  BVN-3312 and CEC-1808 are thanks to Steve Ondik.  

 


Eric Tanner provided this picture of this pair of white on black 1918 Truck plates.  PA began issuing Truck plates back in 1914.  At the time they were issued in pairs, and by the vehicle weight class.  On the far left there were 1 to 5 stars arranged vertically indicating the weight rating, with the pair shown here being Class 4.  The 'C' prefix was used on all truck plates during 1918 and 1919, the 'C' was then followed by 1 to 5 digits.  Generally lower numbered plates were assigned to lower weight class trucks.  From information gleaned from Eric's website, 4-star plates were in a weight class of 10 to 15 thousand pounds.

 

 


Posting 7/23/2017

Spotted this Antique Motorcycle plate in my recent travels.  According to Tom Perri's PA Plates website, the serial number is some 1000 plates above the last reported high, suggesting that antique motorcycles are popular.  These are permanent plates with no sticker.  This current plate style was first seen on the road in June of 2013 with an expected starting point of 01000, which took the place of the white-on-purple 2- and 3-character plates with the map outline.

 


Here's the latest Omnibus plate courtesy of Ryan Battin.  No sticker — but this plate series has not yet caught up with growing list of plates without sticker wells.  Omnibus plates have always been somewhat of a mystery, but the first plates with OMNIBUS as the legend were blue-on-yellow and date back to 1974 where they started at OB-10000.  That same numerical sequence continues to this day with the plate shown here.

 


Steve Ondik snapped this photo of an Apportioned Truck plate, which happens to be  a new high number.  For additional history on PA's Apportioned Truck plates, back to their beginning, click here.

 

 


This is the first of its kind on this website.  It's also a personalized version of a Fraternal Association of Professional Paramedics plate.  These plates have been in use since early 2016, with 30-some plates issued.  Thanks to Tom Perri for the plate photo.

 

 


This nice low number West Shore EMS plate was spotted by Nick Tsilakis.  Like the Paramedic plate above, the plate frame really doesn't add to its appeal.  West Shore has had plates since 2010.  This plate was spotted by Nick Tsilakis.

 

 


This Pennsylvania Fraternal Order of Constables plate.  This is believed to be their one-and-only plate at this time, although the plate has only been around for a few months.  Tom Perri spotted it on their website.

 

 


The long run of Pennsylvania Passenger plates has brought us up to the 1983 to 1987 period.  Toward the end of the '77 to '83 run, a new alpha-numeric serial progression emerged starting at AAA-000 and ran into the GYK series.  The '83 plates, now yellow on blue, and sporting a whole new legend, picked up at HAA-000, with the legend being "You've Got a Friend in" along the top and "Pennsylvania" along the bottom.  The only sticker well was in the lower left corner.  From the HAA-000 starting point the plates ran into the RWP-series before another change took place in 1987.  It should be noted that plates on the '77 base could still be revalidated up to the full plate replacement which began in late 1999.  The same can be said for the 1983 thru '87 plates, as both series were valid concurrently. 

If you wanted to make more of a statement, vanity plates with up to 6 characters were available.  The use of a space or a dash was also permitted, but not both.  The two plates on the far left are from Ned Flynn, while the ANITA4 plate photo is thanks to Tom Perri.  I can't speak with much authority on low number plates during this period but I do know that the lowest numbers were still under the control of the Governor.

 


Moving next to 1984 to 2000 Truck plates we have the same yellow-on-blue coloring as Passenger plates, but the legend has been flip-flopped from the previous base.  The plates also have been reduced to one sticker well, now in the lower left.  The plate alpha-numeric series continued on from the previous base, picking up in the 36000-CD series.  This CD series ran until it was in the CJ series, when it was brought to a halt.  I have a vague recollection from a news report that there was a computer issue with too many 'C's.  That does not make a lot of sense, but many news stories fail the litmus test then and now.  While I was interested in plates at the time, I didn't perform any due diligence in checking out this event.  Hopefully someone will have a better account of what actually took place and why.  To continue issuing plates a new alpha-numeric was released starting at YA-00000, the Y prefix did not change until the series hit YZ-99999, then came ZA-00000 and the Z-issue ran into the ZV series.  This plate series and the previous blue-on-yellow truck plates were were both in use simultaneously and could be renewed up to the point where the www base replaced all remaining prior issues. 

 


 

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John McDevitt, Walnutport, PA

ALPCA #4376

 

 

 

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