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.
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…
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…
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.
A 2008 sticker on an in-use, valid plate in 2015. That’s a new record for my sightings.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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:
Yes, that says exactly what you think it does. If you don’t know what it means, go ask a teenage boy.
Well, okay, I didn’t say “twenty-nine f.”
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.
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.