Pennsylvania motorcycle license plate

Rick Kretschmer's License Plate Archives 

Pennsylvania motorboat license plate

A Pictorial History of Pennsylvania License Plates

Motorcycle and other similar plate types dated 1914 to present

 

This page provides a narrative history, with accompanying photos, of various types of motorcycle license plates issued by Pennsylvania from 1914 to the present day.  Also covered on this page are various similar small plate types, including those issued to motorbikes, mopeds, and motorboats. 

Latest noteworthy updates to this page
  • December 31, 2016  –  Added photos of 1963 and 1966 motorcycle plates. 
  • August 16, 2016  –  Replaced ATV dealer plate photo with that of one I've added to my collection. 
  • June 26, 2016  –  Added a photos of a fade base moped dealer plate.  Updated discussion of 1931-1936 motorboat plates. 

Introduction

From 1906 to 1909, Pennsylvania license plates indicated that the driver, not the vehicle, was licensed, so there was only a single plate type during those years.  Although dealer plates were introduced in 1910 (necessary because dealer plates by nature are not vehicle-specific, and during 1910-1919 the VIN number was otherwise enscribed on most plates), it wasn't until 1914 that common non-passenger plate types such as truck, trailer, and motorcycle were introduced.  That's where this page begins. 

My "Pictorial History" pages are intended to be a supplement to the information found in the ALPCA Archives.  I am providing additional details and additional photos not found in the archives, and clarifying information when appropriate. When the ALPCA archives cover a subject in great detail, I do not repeat that detail here.  I sincerely hope that you find this information useful. 

If you find an error or have additional information, or can provide a plate or a photo of a plate that I'm missing, please send me an e-mail.  There's a link to my e-mail address at the bottom of every page.  Please note that all plates shown that are credited to another person, or that are photos of plates in actual use, are plates that I am still seeking for my own collection. 

Pennsylvania motorcycle, motorbike, and moped plates (dated and/or stickered types)

Motorcycle plates, 1914-1915
1914 motorcycle
(Francis plate)

State-issued Pennsylvania motorcycle plates made their debut in 1914.  Prior to then, motorcycle owners were required to furnish their own license plates.  Like all other plate types, 1914 and 1915 motorcycle plates were made of porcelain. 

Motorcycle plates from these two years had the state abbreiation Pa in the top left corner, and the four-digit year displayed vertically below.  There was always a single lead zero in the serial number.  I can only guess that this was done in order to distinguish motorcycle plate numbers from car and truck plate numbers, but this practice was discontinued after 1915.  These plates were 4 1/2 inches high, and the length varied depending on the number of serial digits. 

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Motorcycle and motorbike plates, 1916-1933

Like all other Pennsylvania plate types, motorcycle plates were changed from porcelain to embossed steel for 1916.  Motorcycle plate paint colors were the same as passenger car plates and all other plate types throughout this period.  Plate height continued to be 4 1/2 inches, with the plate length varying based on the number of serial digits.  The state abbreviation Pa was stacked either above or below the two-digit year on either the left or right sides of the plate.  These elements were on the left side during 1916-1918, 1920-1924, and 1933; they were on the right side during 1919 and 1925-1932.  The state abbreviation was above the year during 1916-1925 and 1931, and below the year during 1926-1930 and 1932-1933. 

1917 motorcycle
(Francis plate)

1924 motorcycle
(Francis plate)

1933 motorcycle
(Francis plate)
Regular motorcycles

Through at least 1929, serials were all-numeric, without any lead zeroes, and could have up to five digits.  Possibly beginning in 1930, and definitely by 1931, serial numbers had a maximum of four characters, and could either be all-numeric or have a letter prefix. 

Motorcycle dealers

These are known to exist as early as 1923.  Like full-sized dealer plates, motorcycle dealer plates were identified with a letter "X" in the serial number during these years.  I believe the "X" was always a prefix. 

Motorbikes

I believe that what was called a motorbike was actually a motorized bicycle.  It's a bit unclear whether motorbike plates were issued prior to 1934, and if they were, what these plates looked like.  According to some accounts, motorbike plates in 1933 and prior had a letter "O" prefix, which was full-sized and looked like a lead zero in some years, and which was smaller than the numbers in other years.  Such plates are in fact known to exist from 1922, 1927, and 1933.  Like regular motorcycle plates, these have no legend to identify the plate type. 

On full-sized plates, the letter "O" prefix was used on plates for commercial passenger vehicles such as buses and taxis; beginning in 1927 it was smaller than the numbers.  Therefore, it's not completely unreasonable to conclude that "O" prefix motorcycle plates were for commercial motorcycles. 

Commercial motorcycles

According to one report, commercial motorcycle plates were introduced approximately in 1930, and were supposedly identified only with a letter "C" prefix in the serial through 1937.  These do exist, and they didn't have any legend to identify the plate type, either.  However, this format also fits the description of a regular motorcycle plate, so I'm not totally convinced that C-prefixed motorcycle plates were anything other than regular motorcycle plates.  It's also possible that "O" prefix plates are commercial motorcycle plates.  Another report states thart commercial motorcycle plates weren't introduced until 1938, and there's no question about the existence of 1938 plates. 

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Motorcycle and motorbike plates, 1934-1937

For 1934, Pennsylvania began the practice of clearly identifying all plate types other than passenger car plates with a legend indicating the plate type, and motorcycle and motorbike plates were no exception.  The serial number dies were also also changed for all plate types, including motorcycles and motorbikes.  Plate dimensions were 8 inches long by 4 1/2 inches high. 

Motorcycle and motorbike plate paint colors were the same as passenger car plates and all other plate types through 1936.  Although 1937 passenger car plates switched to the state outline design and a lighter shade of blue, 1937 motorcycle and motorbike plates, like all other non-passenger types, continued with the previous design for one final year. 

1934 motorcycle
(Francis plate)
Regular motorcycles

Motorcycle plates were identified with the letters "M/C", which were stcaked vertically on the right side of the plate in 1934 and 1935, and on the left side in 1936 and 1937.  On the opposite side of the plate, the two-digit year and the state abbreviation Pa were each stacked vertically.  Serials had a maximum of four characters; they were numeric up to 9999, and then used a letter prefix. 

Motorcycle dealers

Motorcycle dealer plates lost the "X" in the serial number, and now instead were identified by the stacked letters "M/C/D".  The stacked letters were in the same position as on regular motorcycle plates. 

Motorbikes

Beginning in 1934, motorbike plates were readily identifiable.  They looked exactly like motorcycle plates, except that they had the stacked letters "M/B" rather than "M/C" on the side of the plate.  Serials were all-numeric, and did not use a lead zero. 

Commercial motorcycles

Commercial motorcycles are reported to have continued to be identified with a letter "C" prefix in the serial number.  However, this format also fits the description of a regular motorcycle plate.  The same stacked letters "M/C" used on regular motorcycle plates were also used on C-prefixed plates.  Therefore, I'm not totally convinced that C-prefixed motorcycle plates were anything other than regular motorcycle plates.  I've never seen an O-prefixed motorcycle plate from the years 1934-1937. 

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Motorcycle and motorbike plates, 1938-1957

In 1938, the state outline design introduced on 1937 passenger car plates also began to be used for all other plate types, including motorcycles.  Expiration dates were introduced on 1941 motorcycle plates as was done for full-sized plates. The expiration date was always March 31 of the following year, and was embossed with tiny characters placed along the top edge of the plate.  Motorcycle plates continued to be 8 inches by 4 1/2 inches in size. 

As with full-sized plates, new motorcycle plates were not issued in 1943, but rather the 1942 plates were validated for use in 1943 by means of an add-on tab, colored black on red.  While the tab used on full-sized plates was roughly square-shaped, the motorcycle version was a narrow strip applied to the top of the plate, as shown below. 

1943 motorcycle
1943 motorcycle
(Francis plate)
Regular motorcycles

With this plate design, the plate type legend "M/C" was stacked vertically, now consistently on the right side of the plate, while the two-digit year and the state abbreviation were each stacked vertically on the left side of the plate.  Serial numbers were limited to a maximum of four characters, and could be all-numeric or have a single letter prefix followed by up to three numeric digits.  If the "C" prefix ever had any special meaning in the early-to-mid 1930s, by 1938 it was just like any other letter prefix used on regular motorcycle plates. 

Motorcycle dealers

Motorcycle dealer plates continued to be distinguished from regular motorcycles with the stacked letters "M/C/D" on the right side of the plate.  Serials were always all-numeric. 

1949 motorbike
1949 motorbike
(Francis plate)
Motorbikes

Motorbike plates were readily identifiable; they looked exactly like motorcycle plates, but had the stacked letters "M/B" rather than "M/C" on the side of the plate.  Serials could be all-numeric, or beginning no later than 1947, could have a letter prefix.  This plate type was last issued in 1949. 

Note that motorcycle-like plates with the stacked letters "M/B" dated between 1955 and 1963 are not motorbike plates, but rather are motorboat plates.  These are addressed separately, below

Commercial motorcycles

There's no question that this plate type existed by 1938.  It had the stacked legend Comm / MC / PAyy on the left part of the plate, where "yy" indicates the two-digit registration year.  Serial numbers could be up to three numeric digits.  This type was issued through 1949, and was then discontinued. 

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Motorcycle plates, 1958-1964

In 1958, for most plate types, Pennsylvania introduced base plates that were to be used for multiple years.  On motorcycle plates, the two-digit year "58" was stacked vertically at the bottom left corner of the plate, with tab slots on either side that were never used.  By sometime in 1959, new issues of this base did not have the tab slots.  At the top left corner was a blank space were renewal year stickers were placed, beginning in 1959.  The state abbreviation was lengthened to Penna and was relocated to the top edge of the plate where the expiration date had been previously.  These dated '58 plates were colored  yellow on blue 

1962 motorcycle
1962 motorcycle

1963 motorcycle
1963 motorcycle
Regular motorcycles

On regular motorcycle plates, the stacked plate type "M/C" continued to be placed vertically along the right edge.  The 1958 base was renewed with passenger car stickers through 1962.  A new base was employed for 1963 and replaced the 1958 base.  The 1963 base was identical to the 1958, except for the stamped year, obviously, and the absense of any tab slots.  Even the colors were unchanged, and were again  yellow on blue .  The 1963 base was renewed with a passenger car sticker in 1964, after which it was replaced with another new base for 1965. 

All-numeric and alpha-prefix serial number formats such as x000 continued unchanged from previous years on both the 1958 and 1963 bases.  However, because these plates were used for multiple years, additional formats were pressed into service as well.  On the 1958 base, these included 000x, 0x00, and 00x0, issued in that order.  On the 1963 base, only 0x00 was used after the all-numeric and alpha-prefix formats were used up. 

Motorcycle dealers

The stacked letters "M/C/D" continued to be placed on the right side, and serial numbers continued to be all-numeric throughout this period.  Motorcycle dealer 1958 base plates were renewed with stickers for 1959 through 1961.  A new base was issued in 1962 with the embossed year in the lower left corner; this was renewed with a sticker for 1963.  In 1964, another new dated base was issued, but was used only for one year.  The 1962 and 1964 bases were also  yellow on blue  and were identical to the 1958, except for the stamped year, obviously, and the absense of tab slots. 

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Motorcycle plates, 1965-1970

Similar to other plate types, 1965 motorcycle plates were undated.  The entire left side of the plate was therefore blank.  Colors were  blue on yellow , which conformed to passenger car plates and were opposite from the motorcycle bases used since 1958.  Otherwise, the 1965 motocycle base plates were of the same design as their immediate predecessors. 

1965 motorcycle
1965 motorcycle

1966 motorcycle
1966 motorcycle

1970 motorcycle
1970 motorcycle
Regular motorcycles

The 1965 base was renewed through 1970; renewal stickers were again placed in the upper left corner of the plate, and were the same as passenger car renewal stickers.  On this base, the all-numeric format and all of the possible one-letter serial formats were used and exhausted, and beginning in about 1966, a new format x00x was pressed into service and was then also exhausted.  Then, probably in late 1967, a five-character serial format 0x000 was introduced.  This longer serial required that the stacked "M/C" plate type identifier be removed, and instead the legend Motorcycle was added along the bottom edge of the plate. 

1970 motorcycle dealer
1970 motorcycle dealer
(Sowers photo / plate)
Motorcycle dealers

1965 motorcycle dealer plates had similar changes as regular motorcycle plates; they were undated and had the stacked letters "M/C/D" on the right side.  However, rather than renewing the 1965 base with stickers, new motorcycle dealer plates were issued annually.  The 1966 through 1970 plates had an embossed two-digit year in the bottom left corner, similar to the 1962 and 1964 motorcycle dealer plates.  Beginning in 1967, the stacked letters were changed to "D/L/R", and the embossed word Motorcycle was added to the bottom edge of the plate.  Motorcycle dealer plate colors matched those of regular motorcycle plates. 

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Motorcycle plates, 1971-1976

Motorcycle plates issued between 1971 and 1976 were colored  yellow on blue , and had the legend Motorcycle at the top and the state abbreviation Penna at the bottom.  The state map outline design and plate dimensions continued unchanged from previous bases. 

1973 motorcycle
1973 motorcycle,
one-letter format 2 of 3

1976 motorcycle
1976 motorcycle,
two-letter format
Regular motorcycles

The 1971 base was undated, and was used without a sticker during the first registration year.  The plate was valdiated with passenger car stickers for 1972 through 1976.  The initial serial format on the 1971 base was 0x000, and then formats 00x00 and 000x0 were subsequently introduced and exhausted.  Late in the life of this base, a new format x000x was pressed into service.  This format was only issued for natural 1976 registrations on this base, and on the ones I've seen, the first character was an "A" or a "C".  I don't know whether any were made with a first character of "B", but it's likely there were. 

1973 motorcycle dealer
1973 motorcycle dealer

1976 motorcycle dealer
1976 motorcycle dealer
Motorcycle dealers

1971 motorcycle dealer plates cotinued to have the stacked letters "D/L/R" along the right edge, and have all-numeric serials.  However, the 1971 plate had an embossed, veritcal "71" in the lower left corner, and was used for only one year.  New plates with embossed years were issued for 1972, 1973, and 1974.  In 1975, an undated base plate was issued but was used with a 1975 sticker.  I believe that these weren't renewed with a subsequent sticker in 1976, but rather a new undated plate with a 1976 sticker was issued. 

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Motorcycle and moped plates, 1977-2000

Motorcycle plates issued between 1977 and 1983 were colored  blue on yellow , and had the state abbreviation Penna at the top and the legend Motorcycle at the bottom.  The state map outline design and plate dimensions continued unchanged from previous bases.  Moped plates were introduced in either 1977 or 1978, and were similar to motorcycle plates except for the plate type legend at the bottom of the plate, and the serial format. 

1977 motorcycle
1977 motorcycle,
one-letter format 1 of 3

1990 motorcycle
1990 motorcycle,
three-letter format
Regular motorcycles

The blue-on-yellow 1977 base progressed throught the same three single-letter serial formats as did the 1971 base, but when these were exhausted in the early 1980s, a new 0xx0x format was introduced.  On the latter format, the first letter was always an "A" on this base.  This base was probably last issued in 1983 with a natural 1984 expriation date.  However, it could continue to be renewed through 2000. 

The 1977 base with serial format 0x000 may appear to be identical in appearance with plates issued between 1968 and 1970 in this same format.  However, while the earlier plates were painted yellow, the 1977 base was made with reflective yellow sheeting.  Unstickered yellow plates in this format, such as the example shown at left, were only valid for use during the 1977 registration year; the base introduced in 1968 was always used with stickers. 

1978 motorcycle dealer
1978 motorcycle dealer
(Sowers photo / plate)

1988 motorcycle dealer
1988 motorcycle dealer
Motorcycle dealers

1977 motorcycle dealer plates cotinued to have the stacked letters "D/L/R" along the right edge, and have all-numeric serials.  However, the 1977 plate had an embossed, veritcal "77" in the lower left corner, and was used for only one year.  A similar plate with an embossed year was issued for 1978.  In 1979, an undated base plate was issued with a 1979 sticker, and then validated in subsequent years with additional stickers through 2000. 

1984 moped

1984 moped
Regular mopeds

Moped plates were introduced in 1977 or shortly afterwards.  On the yellow 1977 base, they're quite similar to motorcycle plates, except that the serial number formats are different, and they have the legend Moped at the bottom edge.  It appears that serial formats Ax000, 000Ax, and 000Bx were issued in that order. 

Apparently, moped plates were never made on the blue base introduced for motorcycles in 1983, and the yellow 1977 base continued to be issued for new moped registrations through 1999, with natural expiration dates through 2000. 

1979 moped dealer
1979 moped dealer
(Brewer photo / plate)
Moped dealers

Moped dealer plates were also made on the yellow base, but apparently not on the subsequent blue base.  These looked just like motorcycle dealer plates except for the Moped legend at the bottom.  Serials were all-numeric.  A dated 1978 plate was issued; those issued in 1979 and subsequently were undated and were validated with stickers.  I don't know if there was a 1977 moped dealer plate. 

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Motorcycle plates, 1984-2002

Motorcycle plates issued between 1984 and 2000 were colored  yellow on blue , and had the legend Motorcycle at the top and the state abbreviation Penna at the bottom.  The state map outline design and plate dimensions continued unchanged from previous bases.  It would seem that moped and moped dealer plates were never issued on this base, but rather continued to be issued on the blue-on-yellow base. 

1989 motorcycle
Regular motorcycles

In 1983, the colors of newly-manufactured motorcycle plate were reversed to correspond with changes made to passsenger car and other plate types.  The locations of the state abbreviation Penna and plate type Motorcycle were flipped for the same reason, so the state name now appeared at the bottom of the plate.  The only serial format used on this base was 0xx0x, and the serial numbers continued uninterupted from the previous base, starting in the mid-A series.  This base was last issued in 2000 with natural 2001 expiration dates and got up to about the late-S series; it could be renewed through 2002. 

Motorcycle dealers

I have no information about motorcycle dealer plates being issued on the yellow-on-blue base.  They very well may have been, however. 

1991 motorcycle vanity
1992 motorcycle vanity
(Phillp P. photo / plate)
Motorcycle vanity registrations

Vanity motorcycle plates were introduced on the blue base, although I don't know exactly when.  A maximum of five characters were allowed, plus either a space or dash separator if desired. 

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Motorcycle and moped plates, 2000-present

The tri-color fade base was introduced in 1999 with 2000 expirations, and was a general replacement for both the yellow and blue bases then currently in use.  With the introduction of this base, Pennsylvania motorcycle plate dimensions were changed from the old 4 1/2" by 8" size to the new 4" by 7" size, to which states around the country were gradually converting. 

2006 motorcycle
2006 motorcycle,
fade base version 1

2008 motorcycle
2008 motorcycle,
fade base version 2
(Sowers photo / plate)

2008 motorcycle
2008 motorcycle,
stripe base version 1

2010 motorcycle
2010 motorcycle,
stripe base version 2

2012 motorcycle
2012 motorcycle,
stripe base version 3

2014 motorcycle
2014 motorcycle,
stripe base version 5
Regular motorcycles

The tri-color fade base was issued between 1999 and 2005 with natural expirations between 2000 and 2006.  It continues to be renewed today.  Regular motorcycles have the letters MC embossed at the bottom center of the plate.  The only serial format on this base was xxx00, which began with serial AAA00 and continued to the late N-series.  Initially, the serial was offset to the right to allow placement of the expiration sticker along the left edge.  Later, somewhere in either the very late G-series or the H-series, the serial was centered, and bikers were apparently instructed to place the sticker in the lower left corner of the plate. 

In conformance with changes made to passenger car and other plate types, the tri-color solid band (or stripe) base was introduced in 2005 with natural 2006 expirations.  The letters MC continued to be embossed at the bottom center of the plate to identify the plate type.  Serials continued where they had left off on the fade base, in format xxx00 starting in the P-series.  In the summer of 2009, plate number ZZZ99 was issued, and a new format 0000x was introduced. 

In the spring of 2010, reportedly somewhere in the middle of the 0000L series, a revised base was introduced with the web site address LiveFreeRideAlive.com screened at the bottom, replacing the previous embossed MC.  However, this web address, along with the placement of the serial characters, leaves no place on the plate for placement of the registration sticker without covering either the state name, the embossed serial number, or the web address.  This design was used until somewhere in the middle of the 0000T series. 

In about July 2011, motorcycle plates again began being issued with the embossed letters MC at the bottom of the plate, starting in the midst of the 0000T series.  However, these plates differ from the earlier solid band base "MC" plates in that the serial characters are more widely spaced, with less space between the serial characters and the edge of the plate.  This is actually much more noticeable of a difference than you'd think.  The letters "MC" also appear to be slightly larger and more widely spaced than before. 

In about June 2012, the 0000x format was used up, and motorcycle plates were issued in format x0000, continuing the wide spacing of the plate number characters.  This format also ran out of numbers, and so another new format 0xx00 was introduced in about July 2015. 

Vertical motorcycle plates

In March 2014, the state began offering motorcycle plates that are oriented vertically, rather than horizontally.  Unfortunately, I don't have a photo to show you, but trust me, these are strange looking and hard-to-read plates.  They're the same size as regular motorcycle plates, but have the blue and yellow bands along the short sides of the plate.  The state name is spelled out in full, but uses a much smaller font in order to fit.  The letters MC at the bottom of the plate are screened, not embossed.  The plate numbering format is M0x0C, with the first and last letters constant, and the characters stacked one atop the other.  It appears that both numeric digits advance before the variable letter does.  The dies for the serial characters are much, much smaller than those used on regular motorcycle plates, leaving much white space along both sides of the plate, and obviously making the plate number rather difficult to read.  Vanity plate numbers are also available on vertical plates. 

2009 motorcycle
2009 motorcycle
dealer, fade base
(McDevitt photo of
plate in actual use)


2009 motorcycle
2009 motorcycle
dealer, stripe base
(McDevitt photo of
plate in actual use)
Motorcycle dealers

Motorcycle dealer plate have the embossed letters MCD at the bottom center of the plate.  On the fade base, serials were all-numeric and four digits, and started at 7000 so as not to conflict with the earlier base(s) still in use.  The solid band base was introduced in about 2006, and on it the serial format is 000x, with the letter advancing after all of the numbers have advanced. 

2012 moped
2012 moped
(plate in actual use)
Regular mopeds

On both the tri-color fade base introduced in 1999, and the tri-color solid band (or stripe) base introduced approximately 2007, moped plates have serial format Bx000 and have the embossed letters MP at the bottom edge of the plate to identify the plate type.  The fade base was used for serials in the BA through BL or possibly BM series; apparently all of these had the serial number offset to the right to allow placement of the registration sticker along the left edge. 

The solid band base began in the BN series, and does not provide space along the left edge for the sticker; proper sticker placement is in the lower left corner.  When the Bx000 series was exhausted in mid-2013, moped plate numbers continued into the Cx000 series.  It appears that the spacing of the serial characters on moped plates was not changed as it was on motorcycle plates. 

2011 moped dealer
2011 moped dealer
(Irazabal photo)
Moped dealers

On the tri-color fade base introduced in 1999, moped dealer plates have a four-digit numeric serial that began at 4000, and the embossed letters MPD at the bottom edge of the plate to identify the plate type.  To date, there have been no moped dealer plates spotted on the tri-color solid band base. 

2005 motorcycle vanity
2005 motorcycle
vanity
(Bodie plate)
Motorcycle vanity registrations

Up to five characters are permitted, plus either a space or a dash.  The letters and numbers on some five-character vanity plates, such as the one shown at left, were offset to the right, but others were not.  In mid-2010, these also began appearing with the legend LiveFreeRideAlive.com.  I'm sure these are now once again being made with the embossed letters MC at the bottom.  Vanity plate numbers with up to five characters are also available on vertical motorcycle plates.  Probably those cannot accommodate a space or dash on five character plate numbers. 

2008 veteran motorcycle
2008 veteran
motorcycle
(McDevitt photo of
plate in actual use)
Military veteran motorcyclists

This plate type was introduced in late 2004 on the tri-color solid band base.  It's similar to regular motorcycle plates, but the serial format is V0000, and the legend Veteran is embossed at the bottom center of the plate.  The registration sticker goes at the bottom left corner, as there's no space to the left of the serial number on these. 

2010 handicapped motorcycle
2010 handicapped
motorcycle
(McDevitt photo of
plate in actual use)
Handicapped motorcyclists

This plate type was introduced in late 2007 on the tri-color solid band base.  The plate has the wheelchair symbol screened on the left side of the plate, with the very small letters "P" and "D" above and on either side of the wheelchair symbol.  The serial format is P00x.  What's odd about this plate type is that it has the word Motorcycle screened at the bottom of the plate, rather than the embossed letters "MC". 

Prior to the introduction of this plate type, a handicapped motorcyclist would have used a regular motorcycle plate with a state-issued wheelchair symbol sticker affixed to the lower right corner of the plate. 

Pennsylvania motorcycle plates (undated and unstickered types)

There are several special types of motorcycle plates that have never had embossed dates or date stickers applied.  They're permanently registered plates.  Further, they haven't been subject to periodic replating, and changes made over the years have been subtle.  For these reasons, they don't fit very well in the previous section that arranged plates according to date ranges, and so I've placed them in a section of their own. 

Antique motorcycles
antique motorcycle
Antique motorcycle,
version 3d
(McDevitt photo of
plate in actual use)


antique motorcycle
Antique motorcycle,
version 3e
(plate in actual use)

An antique motorcycle is defined by the state of Pennsylvania as having been manufactured more than 25 years prior to the current model year, and which is substantially in conformity with manufaturer specificaitons and appearance.  Antique motorcycle plates are permanent and are issued for the life of the vehicle while it is owned by the same owner, and therefore do not use expiration stickers.  However, they're only valid for occaisional use. 

Antique motorcycle plates were introduced in the late 1960s or very early 1970s.  Like full-sized antique vehicle plates, they had very few changes made over the years, until recently.  Antique motorcycle plates issued through mid-year 2013 were always 4 1/2 inches by 8 inches, had the state map outline, colored  white on purple , had the legend Antique running vertically down the left side of the plate, and had the very small legends Penna and Motorcycle at either the top or bottom edges of the plate.  Serials numbers were never more than three characters.  Serial formats, according to fellow plate historian John McDevitt, were issued in this sequence:  x00, 00x, 0x0, xx0, and x0x.  The bolt holes were moved further apart somewhere in the middle of the x00 series.  As bolt holes on regular motorcycle plates were moved further apart some time in the mid-1980s, likely this happened on antique motorcycle plates then as well. 

Antique motorcycle plates began to be issued on the tri-color solid band base beginning in about May 2013.  These new antique motorcycle plates are 4 inches by 7 inches in size, use a five-digit numeric serial format reportedly starting at 01000, and have the words Antique MC screened along the bottom of the plate.  On this base, vanity plate numbers are allowed. 

Classic motorcycles
classic motorcycle
Classic motorcycle
(McDevitt plate)

A classic motorcycle is defined as being more than 15 model years old; otherwise, all of the criteria and regulations are the same as for an antique motorcycle, described above. 

Classic motorcycle plates have only been issued within the past few decades.  They were apparently not yet being issued in 1986.  These plates have been essentially unchanged since their introduction.  They've always been 4 1/2 inches by 8 inches, had the state map outline, colored  purple on white , had the legend Classic running vertically down the right side of the plate, and had the very small legends Motorcycle and Penna at the top and bottom edges of the plate, respectively.  The only serial format used to date is C/L0000

Sometime between 2013 and 2015, classic motorcycle plates also began to be issued on the tri-color solid band base.  These new classic motorcycle plates are 4 inches by 7 inches in size, and have the words Classic MC screened along the bottom of the plate.  The numbering format continued and numbering was uninterrupted from the previous base, starting at about plate number C/L0900.  On this base, vanity plate numbers are allowed, but, so I've been told, the C/L prefix letters must remain. 

Collectible motorcycles

(no picture available)

A collectible motorcycle is defined by the state of Pennsylvania as having been substantially modified from the manufaturer's specifications and appearances, and maintained in "show" condition.  This is apparently regardless of the vehicle's age.  Collectible motorcycle plates are permanent and are issued for the life of the vehicle while it is owned by the present owner.  However, they're only valid for occaisional use. 

Collectible motorcycle plates were introduced in 2000, and have remained unchanged during this time.  They're 4 1/2 inches by 8 inches in size, have the state map outline, are colored  yellow on black , and had the very small legends Collectible and Penna at the top and bottom edges of the plate, respectively.  The only serial format used to date is CM000

Municipal motorcycles

(no picture available)

Municipal motorcycle plates are issued to motorcycles owned by local government agencies.  Most typically, they would be used on police motorcycles.  Municipal motorcycle plates have always been 4 1/2 inches by 8 inches, had the state map outline, had the very small legends Municipal and Penna at either the top or bottom edges of the plate, and had a five-character serial that begins or ends with the letters "MG". 

1974-1976 municipal motorcycles

Municipal motorcycle plates were introduced in the mid-1970s and were colored  yellow on navy , with Municipal at the top and Penna at the bottom, and serial format MG000.  These were replaced in 1977 during the statewide general reissue. 

1977-present municipal motorcycles

Municipal motorcycle plates issue between 1977 and 1984 were colored  navy on reflective white , and had the legends Penna at the top and Municipal at the bottom.  Initially, the serial format was MG000 and then later was 000MG.  At some point, the plates with format MG000 were replaced; however, those with format 000MG are still in use today. 

1984-present municipal motorcycles

Beginning in 1984, newly-issued municipal motorcycle plates were colored  reflective white on navy , and this time had the legends Municipal at the top and Penna at the bottom.  The serial format was initially again MG000; this format was exhausted in about 2007, and a new format MG00x was introduced and continues to be issued today. 

Pennsylvania motorboat plates

For a little over three decades, from 1931 to 1963, Pennsylvania issued metal plates for motorboat registrations.  These plates were always issued in pairs, and were intended to be mounted on the left and right sides of the boat hull.  I've included these boat plates on this page because for a number of years they closely resembled motorcycle and motorbike plates, and are often confused with both of these plate types.  Note that 1934-1949 small plates with the stacked letters "M/B" are in fact motorbike plates, not motorboat plates, and are addressed in the motorcycle plate section above. 

Motorboat plates, 1931-1936

During these years, motorboat plates looked completely different from any type of Pennysylvania land vehicle license plate.  Motorboat plates from these years can be identified with the stacked letters M/B/L, which apparently stood for "MotorBoat License".  These letters ran vertically down the left side of the plate.  From 1931 to 1933, the state abbeviation and issue year ran vertically down the right side of the plate, in the format P/a/y/y (where yy indicates the last two digits of the year).  An undated plate was used from 1934 to 1936; this plate had the state abbreviation Penna running down the right side.  Motorboat plates were 6 inches high and 12 inches long during these years; this is the same size as current passenger car plates. 

One collector informed me that he believed motorboat plates from these early years were only issued singly; however, I've since seen a matched pair of 1932 motorboat plates, supporting my understanding that they've always been issued in pairs. 

1931 –  black on yellow  1933 –  white on maroon 
1932 –  black on white  1934-36 –  black on white 
1932 motorboat
1932 motorboat
Regular motorboats

Regular motorboat plates had all-numeric serial numbers, apparently starting from 1. 

Motorboat dealers

Motorboat dealer plates have been reported as early as 1933.  It's not known whether they were used before then.  These are identified by their "X" serial prefix. 

Motorboat plates, 1937-1954

During these years, motorboat plates continued to look completely different from any type of Pennysylvania land vehicle license plate.  Motorboat plates from these years can be identified with the stacked letters M/B/L, which apparently stood for "MotorBoat License".  These letters ran vertically down the left side of the plate.  Across the top of the plate was the state abbeviation and issue year, in the format Penna 19yy (where yy indicates the last two digits of the year). 

1937 –  white on red  1943 –  black on yellow  1949 –  yellow on red 
1938 –  white on navy  1944 –  red on white  1950 –  red on white 
1939 –  white on green  1945 –  white on red  1951 –  white on navy 
1940 –  black on white  1946 –  navy on white  1952 –  navy on yellow 
1941 –  yellow on red  1947 –  white on navy  1953 –  white on green 
1942 –  white on navy  1948 –  yellow on green  1954 –  white on navy 
1945 motorboat
1945 motorboat
(Moore photo / plate)

1949 motorboat
1949 motorboat

1952 motorboat
1952 motorboat

1953 motorboat
1953 motorboat (fiberboard)
(Moore photo / plate)
Regular motorboats

Regular motorboat plates had all-numeric serial numbers, apparently starting from 1.  Plate dimensions changed over the years.  Between 1937 and 1946, motorboat plates were 5 1/8 inches high by 9 1/2 inches long.  Unlike land vehicles, motorboats were issued actual plates in 1943, rather than add-on metal tabs.  Five-digit serial numbers made their debut in 1947, and from 1947 to 1949, motorboat plates were made 5 1/8 inches high by 11 inches long, in order to accommodate longer serial numbers.  Apparently all motorboat plates were made in this longer size during these three years, even those with serial numbers less than five digits.  1950 through 1954 plates were reduced in size to 4 1/2 inches high by 8 inches long, the same size as motorcycle plates at the time.  1953 motorboat plates could be made of either fiberboard or metal. 

1939 motorboat dealer
1939 motorboat dealer
(plate owner not known)

1949 motorboat dealer
1949 motorboat dealer
(plate owner not known)
Motorboat dealers

Motorboat dealer plates had an "X" serial prefix, but otherwise looked just like regular motorboat plates. 

Motorboat plates, 1955-1963

Beginning in 1955, motorboat plates began to strongly resemble motorcycle and the previous motorbike plates, and used the same state map design and expiration date embossed along the top edge as did motorcycle plates.  Motorboat plates even began to use the stacked letter code M/B, which had been used to designate motorbike plates in the 1930s and 1940s.  However, in most years, motorboat plate colors were completely different than Pennsylvania license plates used on land vehicles.  Motorboat plates were last issued in 1963. 

1955 –  white on red  1958 –  white on red  1961 –  yellow on navy 
1956 –  white on olive green  1959 –  navy on yellow  1962 –  white on light purple 
1957 –  white on navy  1960 –  black on white  1963 –  white on red 
1962 motorboat
1962 motorboat
Regular motorboats

Regular motorboats had the stacked letter code M/B, which had been previously used on motorbike plates in the 1930s and 1940s, above the stacked two-digit year, along the right edge of the plate.  The expiration date, always March 31 of the following year, was embossed along the top edge, and the state abbreviation Penna was embossed along the bottom.  Serial numbers were all-numeric, apparently starting from 1, and could have up to five digits. 

1958 motorboat dealer
1958 motorboat dealer
(plate owner not known)
Motorboat dealers

Motorboat dealer plates had an "X" serial prefix, but otherwise looked just like regular motorboat plates. 

Pennsylvania snowmobile plates

1974 snowmobile dealer
1974 snowmobile dealer

Metal snowmobile plates were only issued for one year, 1974, and only specifically for snowmobile dealers.  These resembled motorcycle dealer plates, and so I've included information about them on this page. 

1974 snowmobile dealer plates were  white on navy ; the state map outline design and 4 1/2 inch by 8 inch plate dimensions were the same as for motorcycle plates.  These had the legend Snowmobile at the top, the state abbreviation Penna at the bottom, and the stacked letters "D/L/R" along the right side.  Serials were most likely only numeric.  Like motorboat plates, these were issued as matched pairs.  It's unknown (to me) how these were supposed to be used or displayed. 

Pennsylvania all-terrain vehicle plates

I debated whether to include all-terrain vehicle (ATV) plates on this page, since they don't resemble motorcycle plates and they're clearly marked as ATV plates.  Obviously, I decided to go ahead and do so.  ATVs are off-road vehicles, and these plates are issued by the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR).  Despite that, ATV plates are easily recognizable as having been made at the same facility that makes license plates issued by the Department of Transportation. 

2005 all-terrain vehicle
2005 Class 1 ATV,
serial format 1
(Sowers photo / plate)

2006 all-terrain vehicle
2006 Class 1 ATV,
serial format 2

2011 heavy all-terrain vehicle
2011 Class 2 ATV,
serial format 1
Regular all-terrain vehicles

Regualr ATV plates were apparently introduced sometime around 2001.  They've always been colored green-on-reflective-white, and 4 inches by 7 inches in size, the same as contemporary motorycycle plates.  These plates have the embossed text PA-DCNR at the top, and use a sticker indicating the expiration month and year.  The serial dies are also the same as are used on motorcycle plates.  Expiration dates are indicated on stickers which are unique to ATV plates. 

Class 1 ATVs are the most common; these vehicles are up to 50 inches wide and up to 800 pounds.  Class 1 ATV plates have the embossed legend ATV at the bottom center.  Serial formats were initially 0000x, with the variable letter in the range of A through W.  Subsequent formats were 000x0 followed by 00x00.  There is seemingly contraditory evidence regarding the letter ranges used for Class 1 vs. Class 2 ATV plates in the second serial format. 

Class 2 ATVs exceed 50 inches in width or 800 pounds.  Class 2 ATV plates have the embossed legend ATV-2 at the bottom, and initially used serial format 0000x, where the variable letter is limited to the range X through Z.  It seems that a second format 000x0 is now being used for Class 2 ATV plates.  I'm not clear whether the same X through Z range is reserved for Class 2 ATV plates in this format or not. 

2006 all-terrain vehicle dealer
2006 ATV dealer full-sized plate
All-terrain vehicle dealers

For reasons which I do not understand, all-terrain vehicle dealers were issued full-sized plates between about 1986 and 2005.  I presume these plates were meant to be used on ATVs rather than street-legal vehicles.  These were colored green on white and were non-reflective, but they used standard Pennsylvania serial dies and state name dies.  The vertical legends DLR and ATV run down the left and right sides of the plate, respectively.  Serial numbers were four digits and all-numeric.  Early issues have a sticker along the bottom edge that reads Dept. of Env. Res. in block letters, while more recent issues have a corresponding sticker with the large letters DCNR and the full name of the agency in much smaller characters. 

In 2006, the full-sized ATV dealer plates were replaced with small plates similar to the regular ATV plates described and shown above.  These are also green on white in color, and have the embossed text PA-DCNR at the top and ATV Dealer along the bottom.  Serial numbers are four digits and all-numeric.  The plates are validated with the same stickers used for regular ATV plates. 

Page credits

Thanks to those who have directly contributed to the information on this page:  John McDevitt, Brandon Sowers, Clayton Moore, Kelly Brewer, Phillip P., and Jordan Irazabal. 

McDevitt, Sowers, Moore, Brewer, Phillip P., and Irazabal photographs are presumed to be copyrighted by John McDevitt, Brandon Sowers, Clayton Moore, Kelly Brewer, Phillip P., and Jordan Irazabal, repsectively, and are used with permission.  Francis, Bodie, and McDevitt plates are from the collections of Jeff Francis, Lou Bodie, and John McDevitt, respectively. 

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