A couple of months ago, a visitor to my site mentioned that she had a few older pairs of plates available that she was looking to sell. I’m the kind of collector who’s always on the lookout for improvements to my Ontario run, so I asked her to briefly describe the plates, and to send a picture if she could.
Most of what she had available, while it was in decent shape, wasn’t enough to upgrade my collection. However, she had one pair of plates that had caught my attention: a 1913 pair in indeterminate condition, number 565. A nice number indeed, but I couldn’t really ascertain the condition, due to some flashback in the photo.
I already have a 1913 in my collection which has fairly nice colour, although it has some horizontal cracking on the paint. The number is also on the low side, number 7187. (It is shown in blurred form on the top-page banner of this site… see it?). It would be pretty hard for me to upgrade it. I haven’t really seen one that’s nicer (although I’ve seen a few that are “as nice”).
I photoshopped the image of the 565 pair to see if I could get a better idea as to the condition. I brightened the image, reduced the fill flash, zoomed, changed the tinting, and I still couldn’t figure them out. The colour was intact, but both plates of the 565 pair seemed darker than that of my 7187. There also seemed to be some paint loss in some corners, leaving rust instead. There were some fragments of old newspaper that had once been moist and had dried onto the face of the better plate. It doesn’t appear to have caused any real damage, and I would have to try and remove them without damaging the paint underneath.
I suppose I would have passed on them if not for the three-digit number… that’s a weakness of mine. I’ve been known to downgrade my condition slightly if it means getting a number I like. And I really liked the 565.
We worked out a reasonable deal, and the pair arrived in the mail a few days later. I was gambling that the picture would be exaggerating the flaws of the 565 pair, but really, it was quite accurate. The long and the short of it is, The 565 pair is good-minus, whereas the 7187 single is good-plus.
I’m faced with a conundrum: As it is, I’m more satisfied with the 7187’s condition and would be content to keep it, but I don’t really want to let the 565 pair go without at least trying to brighten them up a bit. However, 1913 is a fragile paint year, and I risk damaging the paint, even if I do some homework before I figure out how to clean them. If I could get at least one of the 565 plates a bit brighter, I would probably add them to my run and sell off the 7187.
But then, my more conservative side urges me not to take the gamble, and just to re-sell the 565 pair. But I find the number hard to let go, and besides, I would almost certainly anger the person who sold them to me.
I’m not really in a rush to decide anything, and I'm going to wait until I get some feedback before making any decisions. I’m not able to attend Acton this spring, which is unfortunate because I would most certainly bring all three plates and ask you fellas who read this column to offer an opinion. If you have any suggestions (especially on tried and tested ways to clean old tins), I’m all ears.
2018 Update: I wrestled with this conundrum for about six months in 2006. I didn't end up going to Acton that year, since my baby daughter was about to arrive any day. I didn't really get a lot of problem-solving feedback from the folks who responded, so I mulled it over very slowly. By the time of the Grimsby meet, in October, I had decided to keep my single four-digit 1913 plate and sell off the three-digit pair. I eventually figured that the pair was a slight downgrader in terms of condition, and the cool number didn't justify the downgrade. I sold the 565 pair in Grimsby, although I don't recall who bought them.
Nowadays, in 2018, I'm actively collecting low-number Ontario passenger plates as a separate run from my more formal passenger collection. If I had the chance again, I would just keep them both. But back in 2006, I didn't have much disposable income. It never crossed my mind to keep the upgrader 7187 single, and the downgrader 565 pair. In any case, I don't have the 7187 single anymore, as I've upgraded to a really bright pair in better condition, although they have a typical five-digit number. The search for a low-number 1913 continues...