Plates update: July 2015

The past month has been fairly eventful. I have been in the process of expanding my personal collection of Pennsylvania plates. My goal is to (eventually) complete a display showing the full history of PA passenger plates from the early 70s Bicentennial base onwards, as well as a history of Commercial/Truck (not Apportioned) plates from about the same time period. I figure there’s enough to make for a sizable collection, at least for a start.

Here is a part of my collection as it is right now – there are some old Illinois plates and three other PA plates not pictured. The three absent PA plates are on my “family wall,” as they all belonged to…you guessed it, my cats. Naturally.

My small (but growing) collection of PA plates as of 9 July 2015.

You might have noticed I have five motorcycle plates as well. I mentioned several posts ago that my friend’s boyfriend’s father was going to throw away a bunch of old stuff, including license plates, and she said “wait, I know a guy.” I got those motorcycle plates plus three old Illinois passenger plates, the three gradient plates here, and the You’ve Got a Friend plate as well.

I have since added the 1992-issued AAE-1539 plate (which is likely a tad older than I am), and the Bicentennial Z11-354 (which is definitely a lot older than I am). There’s also this…

Issued around 1976 or 1977. In use until the replate in 2000. Never would have guessed…

I can only assume this was on eBay because the seller knew somebody would buy it for some reason. That somebody is me, and the reason has to do with historical significance and not much more. See, when a state does a mandatory re-plate, it’s generally an expensive undertaking, which is why PA decided against doing another in 2009-2010, and why they’re likely to stick with that decision for at least another five years or so.

However, by 1999, there were still quite a number of plates like this one on the road, having been in use by that point for well over twenty years. Given that in Pennsylvania we can transfer our active tag to our new car, or even between immediate family members (say you get daddy’s old car when he got a shiny new one, but didn’t want to pay an extra $28 for a new plate), plates can stay on the road for a very long time – even once they’re effectively illegible, which is of course the main complaint law enforcement brought to the DMV when the latter was considering a statewide re-plate. For all I know, 621-66P above was Exhibit A.

The stickers are piled so high that they are raised higher than the serial itself, and of course the adhesive doesn’t last forever, so I decided to have a look underneath. On top of the right pile is a 2-00 sticker, and on the bottom of that (far as I can tell) is SEP, from when PA issued two stickers for month and year. On the top of the left stack is 2-99, and as you can see in the photo, a partially-ripped 79 sticker is visible way underneath. I believe the blue one directly below that is a 78 sticker, which is probably the oldest one there. That means this plate was in use for over two decades. The owner had this plate nearly as long as my parents have had children. That’s kind of weird to think about.

Of course, it wouldn’t quite be PennDOT without some weird rules, so there are some limitations to transferring active tags. When our Suburban was totaled in Hurricane Sandy, my mother transferred its DFR tag (issued new in 2000) to her replacement, a used TrailBlazer that bore that plate until IT was totaled in March of this year. When she got her new Murano, though, the dealer told her they couldn’t transfer the tag despite it being active and legible. Who knows. It couldn’t be because of total loss of the previous vehicle. Maybe because the TrailBlazer was used? The world may never know.

Well, speaking of plates that have seen better days, there’s this one…

I honestly don’t know if it’s the older 3M sheeting or what, but it seems many of the DD- series plates look worse than others…

Seriously, how does that happen? It looks like somebody took a blowtorch to the plate. It looks like a geographical contour map or something.

And here’s a plate that didn’t have to be replaced, but certainly needs more stickers. Seven more, to be precise.

I wonder what happened to the original two plates for this callsign…

A 2008 sticker on an in-use, valid plate in 2015. That’s a new record for my sightings.

M/C1143 seen near Doylestown on 10 July 2015

Armed Forces Reserve plates like this one are an oddity for Pennsylvania. First, of course, is the fact they’re still issued on the old “www” gradient fade base. The only other plates issued as “new” on this old base are uncommon types like Circus/Carnival Truck, Commercial (and non-commercial) Implement of Husbandry, Apportioned Bus,  and Hearing Impaired, as well as the Armed Forces Reserve plates – Air Force (A/F0000), Army (A/R0000), Coast Guard (C/G0000), Marine (M/C0000), and Navy (N/R0000). There are also a number of Special Organisation plates (which these Reserve plates are considered to be) still on the old gradient fade base.

The other characteristic of these Reserve plates that makes them unusual for Pennsylvania is the close spacing of the prefix and serial (actually, there’s pretty much no spacing whatsoever) and the lack of leading zeroes on four-digit serials. Oh, and there’s no logo of any sort. On this base, logos were embossed rather than screened. This probably just means that these plates represent a design scheme that PennDOT turned out not to like as much as they thought, as all other special organisation plates feature a logo far to the left with the prefix directly following, and then a five-digit serial with leading zeroes (or starting with a 1, 2, 3, 4 etc if the prefix exists elsewhere). Alternatively, the logo will be on the left, followed by the serial, and the letters become a suffix on the far right.

I imagine the reason Pennsylvania issues these Reserve plates on the www base is the same as why we issue the other plates I mentioned – they over-estimated demand, and made far too many plates. That’s why the current Apportioned Bus high is only B/N-03102, up from B/N-01777 at the end of 2010. For comparison, normal Apportioned plates (for long-haul trucks, tipper lorries, and such) have progressed from AF-30000 to AG-38834 in about the same time.

There’s also the question of who actually wants these, seeing as I imagine they’re equally eligible for the U.S Marine Corps plate, which comes on the visitPA base, has a full-colour screened logo, and can be personalised as well. Go figure.

Still, uncommon sighting.

Second-issued “new” Tiger plate spotted in Newtown Square on 16 July 2015.

Speaking of plates that aren’t very nice to look at, here’s the second-lowest of the redesigned Tiger plate. This “family of plates” VISA card design replaced the old full-graphic version in summer 2013, and nearly 2500 have been issued as of this post. Proceeds go to support the Philadelphia Zoo, hence the P/Z suffix and “Support Your Zoo” legend. I guess the Pittsburgh Zoo drew the short straw?

For reference, here’s an older Tiger plate I saw a few days earlier.

Old, full-graphic tiger plate with A000A format.

Originally, I thought this was a neat find because it used both a zero and the letter “o,” but realised it was just the sun fooling me and the last letter is in fact a “C.” The letter “o” is typically not used on Pennsylvania’s standard-issue plates, except as a part of a prefix or suffix on special issues, such as the Combat Action Badge (40000 C/O) or International Union of Operating Engineers (O/E 00000).

There was, however, an “o” used on this older (fully graphical) version of the Tiger plate. Since the dies are different sizes, it apparently wasn’t confusing…even though the same dies are used on all the other PA plates that don’t have the letter “o.” Huh.

Nearly the high. Almost.

I drove to Abington and back the other day. It was awful. It would not have been so bad if I had our EZ-Pass (seriously, get one). Whilst stuck at the Mid-County Interchange for about 45 minutes, I saw this. It’s nearly the current high, except it’s not – the highest photographed so far is JXF-9302, and I’m sure we’re higher than that by now.

I really wanted a JX* plate, but the tag agency at which we finalised the purchase of my new (used) car had yet to run through their stock of JW*, so I ended up with this:

My new plate.

Yes, I’ve got a Volkswagen. It’s a lot different from my old Spark, namely in that it is larger and faster, and probably safer and more reliable too, seeing as this has got 125K miles and the Spark hardly made it to 18K before blowing up. My girlfriend also notices it’s quieter at speed, which is cool because even with the big diesel engine there’s less road noise than in the Spark.

This plate is temporary, though, as I plan to finally get my vanity in the near future. Speaking of which, I’ve seen some of those as well.

You don’t say.
Most people would probably read this as “avid reader,” so I shall as well.
This person works in theatre. Or on a ship. Or in construction. I don’t know. This parking lot is shared by Lowe’s, Best Buy, and DSW, so it’s anybody’s guess.
DMV only allows you seven characters? Make a supplemental sticker. Problem solved. Clever.
Seen in Chinatown, of course.

Gamers love Chinatown.

And now onto New Jersey. I was at Island Beach State Park on the 24th, which was a nice day trip and a nice drive as well. I had some pretty decent luck seeing plates, too, and even managed to photograph one (at the beach itself). On the way, I did see the Temporary high – J700***, but couldn’t get a photo and didn’t get the whole number. I can at least say they’re into the J7***** series, though.

Current New Jersey high, G58-FSB, seen 24 July 2015 at IBSP.

New Jersey seems to move through plate series pretty quickly, or maybe that’s just me since I don’t live there. PA goes pretty fast too, in fairness. The series advanced from Z99-FPZ to A10-FRA late last month, since Q is not used on regular passenger plates. Now we’re in FS*.

Speaking of New Jersey’s passenger issue…they don’t use Q, nor U, I, or O, but they’ll use A and E. With three alpha characters, then, there’s plenty of opportunity to make words. Now, I don’t know about you, but there are some words I wouldn’t necessarily want to have bolted to the back of my car by legal mandate.

U48-FEC seen 24 July 2015 at IBSP.

Yep, it says FEC. Don’t worry, though – they’ve also issued FAC, FAK, and FEK, all of which I have seen at least in passing. I got cut off on I-295 by a big black Acura wielding a FAK plate. Classy.

Seriously, are people at the New Jersey MVA just more mature or open-minded, or oblivious, or what? It gets kind of hard to justify “mature” when you see plates like this, though:

Y90-FAP seen 24 July 2015 in Tom’s River.

Yes, that says exactly what you think it does. If you don’t know what it means, go ask a teenage boy.

What I said when I saw the plate above.

Well, okay, I didn’t say “twenty-nine f.”

Aww, sorry to disappoint you. Also, sorry that it’s blurry. Not sure why that happened.

Let me emphasize again that these are all normal, sequential passenger plates. Pennsylvania, of course, has also issued word plates like this in the past, especially back when we used vowels (A and E, specifically) in the second position – ACT, AWW, BAD, BAE (which was not an English slang term back then), BED, BAT, CAT, CAB, DAD, DEB, EAR, EAT, and so forth. Oh, and YAH, YAK, YAM, YAP, and YAY on truck plates. I’ve at least seen YAK on the road.

Someday I hope to have a decent collection of “word plates.” For now, the closest I have is an Illinois plate from the mid-80s with serial OX-2020, where the same die is used for the zeroes and the “o.” Weird. We were issued APT in 1994 with our brand-new Jeep, but I have no idea where any of the old plates are. My parents don’t either. Knowing my family, they have not been thrown out, but that doesn’t mean hunting them down will be easy. We’re also apparently cleaning out my grandmother’s attic because she’s probably got a lot of junk up there (or just cool stuff), and there’s a chance she has some old plates as well. My aunt might have some Virginia plates from when she lived there, and my brother apparently has a Florida plate somewhere (I don’t know why, and I didn’t ask).

Hopefully, then, my collection will expand. Slowly, probably, but it’s a start.

This one’s starting to show its age quite a bit.

I’ll leave you with this one. Even though it was only issued in 2008, this plate’s sheeting is bubbling badly. Many older plates from the AAA-10A series still exist on the road in decent condition, albeit with some background fading, and of course there are still some of the “buff-on-blue” plates out there, perfectly legible. I guess 3M must have had a few bad batches of sheeting in the past. Some of the older PA www plates are really looking rough now, mostly in the early D-series. This was slightly before the changeover to Avery sheeting, but incidentally issued around the same time as NJ was issuing 3M-sheeted plates (they still are, of course) of the sort still legible but faded.

The world may never know.

Also – what causes such dramatic bubbling? Long periods of direct sun exposure? It’s New Jersey! People go to the beach! There’s gonna be sun. Go figure.

Plates update: late May through mid-June 2015

Given I no longer drive as far (or, indeed, as often) as I did earlier this year, I’m not presented with as many opportunities for plate-spotting. That said, my girlfriend tends to make plans that require me commuting at rush hour, so what I lack in opportunity I make up for in volume…

First, though, I am pleased to say I have finally gotten my very own “plate wall” underway! These two photos show the extent of my collection at present.

My “plate wall” (including some of my photographs and a few other decorations)
My “family plate wall,” reserved for…my family’s plates. Top – our old Suburban and our old TrailBlazer, issued August 2000; Middle – my father’s first Infiniti – which was totaled – issued October 2006; Bottom – my Spark, which was also totaled :’-( …issued August 2013.

You may have noticed there are some Illinois plates there. That’s because there are some Illinois plates there. 🙂

See, I have this great friend who is a fantastic listener and a very understanding, open-minded individual in general. She’s also a scientist and is prodigiously intelligent, but none of that really explains where I got these plates.

In fact, every plate in the first photo (that is, the ones that aren’t from my family’s cars or my car) were gifts from this friend of mine. Her boyfriend’s father – clearly a motorcycle enthusiast – found these in his garage and was going to throw them away. My friend said something to the effect of “wait, I know a guy,” and, well, here we are.

Taken with flash – these plates my friend gave me were sitting in a garage for some time, based on the dust and dirt obscuring the reflective sheeting.

I cleaned them all and now, thanks to advice from a member of the wonderful License Plate Collectors group on Facebook, have (finally) mounted them to my wall. Those binder rings are a genius idea. I used to clip them to my ears long ago before I actually had real piercings, so why I didn’t think of them for this use I’ve no idea. XD

Now, onto my recent spottings. These are in chronological order.

Silver Star high, spotted 3 June 2015. The Silver Star is the third-highest US military honor, awarded for “gallantry in combat against an enemy of the United States of America.”
Hard to make out (sorry!) but this is JWS-2705, spotted in North Wales, PA on 15 June 2015. At the time of this post, this serial is the current PA passenger high.
LM-29370 spotted in Newtown Square, PA (my hometown, and a mile or so from my house at that) on 17 June 2015. At the time of posting, this serial is the current Limousine high.

I should note that, within the last several months, I have spotted no fewer than five consecutive limousine highs (according to both and – LM-29251 in February, LM-29328 and LM-29344 in May, and now LM-29354 and LM-29370 in June.

Interestingly, all but the latter (pictured above) have been on Über cars. For those who aren’t aware, Über is a sort of app-based black cab service, providing direct competition to more established yellow cab companies. Since yellow is a hideous colour, it’s no surprise companies like Über are so rapidly dominating the market.

Also, your everyday “cabbie” is at best a suspicious sleazeball with a thick accent and a strong smell of at least one kind of spicy foreign food about him. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but…well, it’s a bit odd when you always smell like you’ve spent all day just sitting inside A Taste of India, despite not working there…and not being of Indian descent.

I digress. Oops! Sadly, those are the only highs I really have for now. The last few weeks have been uneventful at best. So, to (hopefully) make up for it, here are some non-high still-interesting plates!

BN-02162 spotted in Norristown traffic on 15 June 2015. These Apportioned Bus plates are not very common, as evidenced by the fact the current high is BN-03102 and the plates are still issued on the old gradient-fade “www base.”
00021-M/S (National Multiple Sclerosis Society) spotted 12 June 2015 in downtown Media, PA. Although this is 60 less than the current high, it’s a relatively uncommon plate (this was most likely issued way back in 2011) and this is the lowest serial yet photographed (that I’ve located.)
As somebody of primarily German descent whose family owns a lakefront cabin in the Poconos, I approve of this vanity plate. ;)
You don’t say?! Also, um…isn’t SE the lowest trim level? I’m currently driving a Dodge Charger SE and feel no need to flaunt it. Of course, that could be because it’s a dreadful car. To its credit, this Focus sold very fast, whilst the BMW that had been there for a week prior is STILL for sale today. ;)
Just a neat vanity – Z-9. Spotted in Rose Tree, PA on 28 May 2015.
Yet another entry into my collection of self-righteous Prius vanities. This particular plate may seem innocuous at first glance, but it takes only a tiny bit of knowledge to know this in fact refers to the Prius’ “regenerative braking” system…just as much knowledge, in fact, as is required to understand the Prius is actually a horrid car that is ironically awful for the environment! :D
Another Prius vanity. “53 MPG.” Uh-huh, suuuuuure. My old Spark cost half what your hideous hybrid demanded, cost less at the pump, and had a significantly lower environmental impact! Oh, and the Spark was also never recalled for trying to kill its occupants with unstoppable throttle activity. ;)
I know I included this in my last plate post, but it just fits so well with the previous two vanities… I’m willing to bet real United States dollars that this person hasn’t the foggiest clue what carbon dioxide actually does to the atmosphere, how it’s produced, and why buying a disgusting-looking hybrid won’t actually offset jack shit. You want to lower CO2 emissions, starting at home? Spay/neuter your pet(s). Hell, neuter yourself. Stop reproducing, stop buying shit you don’t need, and definitely stop giving money to companies like Toyota who are killing the environment AND their customers…at the same time. :o

Well then. Um, here are some plates that aren’t from Pennsylvania.

Maryland House of Delegates plate, Baltimore and Howard Counties, spotted 6 June 2015 at an estate sale in Newtown Square, PA. Coincidentally, the town of Newtown Square, MD is in Maryland district 12A and thus represented by this very delegate (and two others)!
…really? So glad your fetish for the military-industrial complex and dreadful excuses for off-road vehicles has helped you “shed the pounds,” but still, it’s already plastered on the side of your car. Ugh.