Vehicle registration plates of Pennsylvania

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The U.S. state of Pennsylvania first issued vehicle registration plates in 1906. Until 1979, the embossed date or sticker on the plate represented the date of issue, as opposed to the rest of North America, where it represented the date of expiration. Currently in Pennsylvania, only rear license plates are used for all types except press photographer and official use.

Passenger baseplates 1916 to present[edit]

In 1956, the U.S. states and Canadian provinces came to an agreement with the Automobile Manufacturers Association that fixed the size for license plates for vehicles, except those for motorcycles, at six inches in height by twelve inches in width, with standardized mounting holes. The 1955 (dated 1956) issue was the first Pennsylvania license plate that complied with these standards.

Only plates issued since 1999 are currently eligible for display.

Image First issued Design Slogan Serial format Serials issued Notes
Penna 1916 41580.jpg 1916 Black on orange none 12345 State name abbreviated "PENNA." Keystone logo on left side between PENNA and date.
Penna 1917 53263.jpg 1917 White on brown none 12345 State name abbreviated "PENNA." Keystone logo on left side between PENNA and date.
Penna 1924 103-306.jpg 1924 Dark blue on orange none 123-456 State name abbreviated "PENNA." Keystone logos on either side of date and state name.
Penna 1929 118-909.jpg 1929 Orange on dark blue none 123-456 State name abbreviated "PENNA." Keystone logos on either side of date and state name.
1930 PA passenger plate.jpg 1930 Blue embossed lettering and border on yellow base none 12B34 State name abbreviated "PENNA." Keystone logos on either side of date and state name.
Penna 1934 NN51.jpg 1934 Dark blue on yellow none 12A34, AB12, etc. State name abbreviated "PENNA." Keystone logos on either side of date and state name.
Penna 1938 24U19.jpg 1938 Dark blue on yellow none 12A34 State name abbreviated "PENNA." Serial surrounded by the shape of the state of Pennsylvania.
PA 1951 license plate.jpg 1951 Blue on yellow with yellow state outline none 1AB23
PA 1954 license plate.JPG 1954 Yellow on blue with yellow state outline none 1AB23
PA 1955 license plate.JPG 1955 Blue on yellow with yellow state outline none 1AB23
PA 1956 Plate.jpg 1956 Yellow on blue with yellow state outline none 1AB23
Penna 1957 103873.jpg 1957 Blue on yellow with yellow state outline none 1AB23, 123456
1958 PA passenger plate.jpg 1958 Yellow embossed lettering and infill around state border on blue base none 12345
123-456
A12-345
123-45A
1A2-345 1
Keystone logo in center of lettering. Sticker validation through 1964.
1965 Pennsylvania License Plate.jpg 1965 Blue on yellow with blue state outline none
123-456
A12-345
123-45A
1A2-345
12A-345
000-001 to 999-999
A00-000 to Z99-999
000-00A to 999-99Z
0A0-000 to 9Z9-999
00A-000 to ? 1
1971 Sample Pennsylvania License Plate.jpg

Pennsylvania 1972.jpg

1971 Yellow on blue Bicentennial State '76 123-456
A12-345
123-45A
1A2-345
12A-345
123-A45
000-001 to 999-999
A00-001 to Z99-999
000-00A to 999-99Z
0A0-000 to 9Z9-999
00A-000 to (middle nnn-Hxx series) 1
Awarded "Plate of the Year" for best new license plate of 1971 by the Automobile License Plate Collectors Association, the only time Pennsylvania was so honored to date.
1977 PA.jpg

1979 Pennsylvania License Plate.jpg PA-1979.jpg PA 83.jpg

1977 Blue on reflective yellow Keystone State 123-456
A12-345
123-45A
1A2-345
ABC-123
000-001 to 999-999
A00-000 to Z99-999
000-00A to 999-99Z
0A0-000 to 9Z9-999
AAA-000 to GZZ-999 (changeover to ABC-123 format occurred in October 1979) 1
PA 85.jpg 1983 Reflective yellow on blue You've Got a Friend in Pennsylvania ABC-123 HAA-000 to RZZ-999 1
1987 Pennsylvania License Plate.jpg

2001 Pennsylvania License Plate.jpg

1986 Reflective yellow on blue Keystone State ABC-123
ABC-1234
SAA-000 to ZZZ-999
AAA-0000 to Cxx-#### series - high approximately CEJ-####. 1
PA 00.jpg 1999 Dark blue on reflective white WWW.STATE.PA.US ABC-1234 DAA-1000 to approximately FYC-9994 1
2012 PA.jpg 2004 Dark blue on reflective white visitPA.com ABC-1234 GBA-0000 to present 1

Notes

  • 1 Plus remakes of serials issued on previous bases

History[edit]

In 1958, the state issued its first plate intentionally valid for multiple years, as the 1942 issue was revalidated with metal tabs due to wartime materiel restrictions. It was on this base plate that between 1960 and 1964 that special number plates for station wagons as well as passenger trucks such as the International Harvester Travelall, were issued classed as "Suburban," as was the practice in other states such as New York and Delaware.

1965 marked the issuance of a new base plate superseding the one first issued in 1958. There were no separate class of plate for station wagons on this base plate. This also was the final plate issued by the state that featured the outline of the state. These plates were valid until their replacement in March 1971 (it was then illegal to display the 1971 base until March 15, 1971, and illegal to display the 1965 base after March 31, 1971).

The commemoration of the bicentennial of the American Revolution was marked with the issuance of the 1971 base plate five years ahead of the actual event. The yellow on blue plates featured a representation of the Liberty Bell in place of a dash in the center of the plate with an embossed "BICENTENNIAL STATE ‘76" on the bottom, which caused a bit of confusion as to the actual expiry of the plate.

Beginning in 1977, a new base plate was issued, superseding the previous one. It was blue on yellow with an outline of a keystone used as a dash and "KEYSTONE STATE" replacing the anniversary motto on the previous issue. During the issue of this base, PennDOT changed from a March 31 expiration for all passenger cars to a staggered registration as the 1979 stickers expired in March 1980, which resulted in as few as 6 months registration (September 1980) to as much as 18 months (September 1981), and the fee was prorated for the actual length of the registration period. Unlike previous plates, these used reflective Scotchlite sheeting. These plates, when used over time, saw the yellow paint fade away.

Mid-1983 marked the introduction of a controversial plate, as it used a tourism slogan with implied religious ties to the Society of Friends, more commonly known as the Quakers. The slogan on the yellow on blue plates was "You've Got a Friend in Pennsylvania." Issuance of these plates was quickly dispatched with once Bob Casey, Sr. took office and replaced them with ones saying "KEYSTONE STATE" as well as the old "Pennsylvania" dies (this dating back from the 1977-1983 plates); however, the plates were not recalled. These plates used a "filled in" keystone as opposed to the "hollow" keystone on the 1977-1983 plates. These yellow on blue bases plate also were reflective, however it was the embossed areas that were. This was done using glass beads in the paint as opposed to the Scotchlite sheeting of the previous base plate. In 1991, a fourth digit was added after the plates reached ZZZ-999, resetting itself to AAA-0000 and saw the use of a smaller keystone to make room for the extra digit. The keystone was recycled from both the 1958-1964 and the 1965-1971 plates as a divider.

In 1999, a new base plate was issued replacing all plates issued from 1977 onwards, starting with replacing the 1977-83 yellow base, then progressing through vanity plates, then blue 1983-2002 plates by ZIP Code, starting with towns whose ZIP Codes ending in an even number (such as 18974) then towns whose ZIP codes end in an odd number (such as 17003). The last plates that were to be phased out carried an 8-02 expiration, with the exception of the limited-issue "We the People" 1987 plate, which continues to be valid with registration renewal. However, a very small number of blue-base plates somehow escaped PennDOT replacement and continue to be used with renewal.

The plates were similar to those issued by other states in their use of a gradient fade background (in this case blue on top, white in the center, and yellow on the bottom). The state placed its governmental website in place of a slogan, making the state the first government of any kind to issue license plates with a web address on the plate. This baseplate also used reflective sheeting.

At the time, the Pennsylvania General Assembly passed legislation requiring that a statewide replate be undertaken every 10 years because the previous base license plates had been on the road as much as 22 years, and had deteriorated to the point of being unreadable. Due to the Great Recession at the end of the first decade of the 21st century, that law was repealed in 2008 just in time to avoid the 2009 replate in order to save money.

In 2004, the base plate was tweaked by eliminating the gradient fade, changing the typeface used on the state name and slogan and switching from the state's official website to the state tourism website. A slightly larger, more defined keystone was introduced at that time. A slight change to the dies of some of the letters in the plate number, such as "B", "P" and "R", was made which made the letters slightly more narrow and the serifs more pronounced.

As of 2008, the old "Pennsylvania" type dies used from 1965-1999 (except for the 1983-1986 "Friend" years) is still used on specialty plates such as emergency vehicles.

All passenger types issued from 1999 onwards are valid for display in Pennsylvania.[1]

Temporary plates[edit]

Unlike many states that issue paper or cardboard temporary license plates with a new registration until the permanent registration and plates comes in, Pennsylvania almost always issues the permanent plate right away, with a temporary tag in the rear window indicating the exact date the temporary tag expires, upon which it is removed or when the full-year registration sticker for the plate comes in, whichever comes first. (Some cars do get issued a paper temporary Pennsylvania plate, usually by those who live out-of-state buying a car in Pennsylvania who need the temporary tag until the vehicle title is transferred to the state they live in.) Until April 2000, new plates had a "T" sticker to denote a temporary tag on the plate until the full-year registration came in the mail with the regular registration sticker. Pennsylvania adopted the current system to combat criminals making counterfeit "T" stickers. For plates that already had the "T" stickers but were not issued yet to vehicles at the time of the change, Pennsylvania gave car dealerships and notaries plain white stickers to cover up the "T" tags so that the plates could still be used.

Non-passenger types[edit]

[1]

Image Type Serial format Notes
Blank License Plate Shape.jpg Antique Historic Car 1
12
123
1234
A123
AB12
12AB
Blank License Plate Shape.jpg Antique Motorcycle 1
12
123
A12
1A1
12A
AB1
A1B
Blank License Plate Shape.jpg Antique Vehicle A12B
Blank License Plate Shape.jpg Apportioned Bus BN-12345
PA 2011 APPORTIONED.jpg Apportioned Truck AE (or) AF-12345
Blank License Plate Shape.jpg Bus BA-12345
Blank License Plate Shape.jpg Circus-Carnival Truck B12345
Z
PA Classic Sample.jpg Classic Car 12345, C12345
Blank License Plate Shape.jpg Classic Motorcycle C/L 123
Blank License Plate Shape.jpg Collectible Motorcycle CM123
CV-0000.jpg Collectible Vehicle CV 1234
Blank License Plate Shape.jpg Dealer H (or) J12-345H (or) J Both letters are same. "K" series plates expected by end of 2011.
Blank License Plate Shape.jpg Dealer - Farm Equipment FE1234A
Blank License Plate Shape.jpg Dealer - Multi Purpose MP1234A
Blank License Plate Shape.jpg Emergency Vehicle EV-12345 Some plates have "Emergency Vehicles" legend.
Blank License Plate Shape.jpg Farm Truck FT-1234A
PA FD-00000.jpg Fire Department FD-12345 All Fire Department plates have been recalled by PennDOT and replaced with Emergency Vehicle plates. No longer valid.
Blank License Plate Shape.jpg Fleet Transporter FL1234A
Blank License Plate Shape.jpg Handicapped P/D 1234A
Blank License Plate Shape.jpg Handicapped Motorcycle P/D A12B
PA HE-03055.jpg Hearing Impaired HE-12345
Blank License Plate Shape.jpg Implement of Husbandry IMP-1234
Pennsylvania Limousine License PlateLM-26027.jpg Limousine LM-12345
Pennsylvania Livery License Plate.jpg Livery LV-12345
Pennsylvania Mass Transit License Plate.jpg Mass Transit MT-12345
Blank License Plate Shape.jpg Moped AB123
Blank License Plate Shape.jpg Moped Dealer 1234
PA HH-01271.jpg Motor Home HA-12345
Blank License Plate Shape.jpg Motorcycle ABC12
12ABC
Blank License Plate Shape.jpg Motorcycle Dealer 123A
Blank License Plate Shape.jpg Municipal Government MG-12345
12345-MG
MG-1234A
Blank License Plate Shape.jpg Municipal Motorcycle MG123
MG 12A
PA NX-43771.jpg No Fee/Exempt NX12345
Pennsylvania Official Use Sample.jpg Official Use PA-12345
12345-PA
PA-1234A
Blank License Plate Shape.jpg Omnibus OB-12345
PT-7124D.jpg Permanent Trailer PT-1234A
Blank License Plate Shape.jpg Persian Gulf War Veteran P/G 12345
RT-49800.jpg Repair Towing RT-12345
RE-05011.jpg Repossessor RE-12345
Blank License Plate Shape.jpg Salvage Yard WL-12345
Blank License Plate Shape.jpg School Bus SC-12345
Blank License Plate Shape.jpg School Vehicle SV-12345
Blank License Plate Shape.jpg Special Mobile Equipment SME-123A
Blank License Plate Shape.jpg Street Rod 1234 S/R
Blank License Plate Shape.jpg Taxi TX-12345
Blank License Plate Shape.jpg Temporary In-transit 1234-567
Pennsylvania Trailer License Plate XCG-6033.jpg Trailer XAB-1234
Pennsylvania Trailer Dealer License Plate.jpg Trailer Dealer TD-1234A
PA DT-09667.jpg Transporter DT-12345
2010 Pennsylvania Truck License Plate.jpg Truck YAB-1234, ZBC-1234 Truck plates started with YAA-0000, reached YZZ-9999 in early 2011, new format started with ZBA-0000.
Blank License Plate Shape.jpg Watercraft Trailer / Dealer WD12345

Optional types[edit]

Pennsylvania offers dozens of optional "special organizational" license plates.[2] [1]

Image Type Serial format Notes
Blank License Plate Shape.jpg Amateur Radio call sign
PA-Bucknell-University.jpg Bucknell University B/U-12345
Blank License Plate Shape.jpg Commonwealth Court C/C 1
Pennsylvania Medal of Honor License Plate Sample.jpg Congressional Medal of Honor ABC-CMH Letters are initials of honoree
Blank License Plate Shape.jpg Disabled Veteran DV-12345
Blank License Plate Shape.jpg Expeditionary Forces E/F 1234
PA-Flagship-Niagara-Governor.jpg Flagship Niagara2 F/N 1234
F/N 123A
Awarded "Plate of the Year" for best new optional license plate of 1995 by the Automobile License Plate Collectors Association, the second time Pennsylvania was so honored. Co-recipient with Texas. No longer issued due to poor visibility, but is still valid.
PA-Fort-Mifflin-on-the-Delaware.jpg Fort Mifflin 12345 F/M
PA-Geneva-College.jpg Geneva College G/C-12345
Blank License Plate Shape.jpg Gold Star Family G/S/F 1234
PA-Harleysville-Fire.jpg Harleysville Community Fire Co. 12345H/F
PA-Harmonville-Fire.jpg Harmonville Fire Company No. 1 12345P/T
PA-Hartsville-Fire.jpg Hartsville Fire Company 12345H/F
PA-2011-Jeep.jpg Heritage Jeep Alliance 12345H/R
Blank License Plate Shape.jpg Korean Defense Service Medal 12345 K/D
Blank License Plate Shape.jpg Korean War Veteran K/V 12345
PA-2012-LL.jpg Little League Baseball 12345L/L
Pennsylvania Lincoln University License Plate.JPG Lincoln University L1234U
Blank License Plate Shape.jpg Motorcycle Vanity varies
PA-Mercedes-Benz-Club-of-America.jpg Mercedes Benz Club of America 12345 M/B
PA MS Optional.jpg National MS Society 12345 M/S
PA-National-Police-Defense-Foundation.jpg National Police Defense Foundation 12345 P/F
PA-2012-NYP.jpg New York Press 12345NYP Issued only to those with proper press credentials [3] [4]
PA Planned Parenthood License Plate.jpg Planned Parenthood of Pennsylvania 12345 P/P
Blank License Plate Shape.jpg Operation Enduring Freedom Veteran 12345 E/F
Blank License Plate Shape.jpg Operation Iraqi Freedom Veteran 12345 I/F
Pennsylvania Vanity License Plate.jpg Passenger Vanity varies
Blank License Plate Shape.jpg Pearl Harbor Survivor P/H S1234
PSU A36-75P.jpg Pennsylvania State University A12-34P
Blank License Plate Shape.jpg Persian Gulf War Veteran P/G 12345
PP760.jpg Press photographer PP 123 Issued only to those with proper press credentials
663-POW.jpg Prisoner of War POW-123
PH00-00.jpg Purple Heart P/H 12345
Blank License Plate Shape.jpg Retired Legislator P/A 12345
Blank License Plate Shape.jpg State Representative H/R 123
Blank License Plate Shape.jpg State Senator P/A 12
Blank License Plate Shape.jpg Steel Worker S/W 12345
Blank License Plate Shape.jpg Superior Court S/C 12
Blank License Plate Shape.jpg Supreme Court S/U 12
Blank License Plate Shape.jpg Temple University T1234U
Blank License Plate Shape.jpg U.S. Congress U/S C 1
Blank License Plate Shape.jpg U.S. Senate U/S S 1
Blank License Plate Shape.jpg University of Pittsburgh U1234P
Blank License Plate Shape.jpg Veteran 12345 U/S
Blank License Plate Shape.jpg Veteran Motorcycle V1234
Blank License Plate Shape.jpg Vietnam War Veteran V/W 12345
1987 We The People Pennslvania License Plate.jpg We The People2 U/S 12345 Limited edition issued in 1987 only, but still valid with renewal.
PA-Women-in-Transition.jpg Women in Transition Inc. 12345 W/T
Blank License Plate Shape.jpg World War II Veteran W/W 12345
Pennsylvania Yankees Foundation Sample Plate.jpg New York Yankees Foundation Y/F 12345

2No longer issued, but remain active for drivers who had the plates before they were dropped.

External links[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Penndot brochure "License Plates of Pennsylvania" March 2007
  2. ^ [1].
  3. ^ Penndot brochure "License Plates of Pennsylvania" April 2012
  4. ^ http://www.plateshack.com/y2k/Pennsylvania5/pennsylvania5.htm