It started on the Saturday of the 2002 ALPCA Convention in Niagara Falls. Everyone, including myself, was dismantling their displays and packing up their boxes. I had just given some leftover flakeboard away from the remains of my 15-foot long display, thereby lightening my load for the drive home. I struck up a conversation with Conrad Hughson in a corridor, who commented on my display (Ontario passenger run, 1st prize award, too).
He mentioned that he had brought an Ontario premier’s plate, and happened to have it on him while we were talking. He slipped the plate from its envelope, and my eyes popped out from my head. It was a 73 base with a 1975 sample sticker in near-mint condition. I suspected it was never actually issued, and produced as a replacement, or maybe a police sample. Regardless, it was a bona fide premier’s plate.
After asking what he was looking for, he said he was keeping it for trade toward very specific items. For example, he needed a 1944 Montana windshield sticker, which I didn’t have a hope in hell of ever finding, at least, not in my neck of the woods. I said I would keep a lookout, and emphasized that even though it might take a great deal of time, I would be actively looking for suitable trade items to get the plate I wanted, and I would not forget about it.
Well, a year went by, and you might imagine how many 1944 Montana windshield stickers I located during that time. Somewhere along the line, I asked him if there were any other plates, particularly Canadian ones, that he might accept in trade. He replied with a small list of earlier Ontario plates that he wanted as upgraders for his run, bordering on excellent condition, and suggested any two of them in exchange for the one premier plate I wanted. It wouldn’t be easy to find them, but at least it would be possible. I again reminded him that I would be on constant watch for the plates needed to seal the deal.
I needed to find excellent plates from any two years of 1917, 1918, 1921, 1922, 1926, 1928 or 1929, none of which are great paint years. Even after dipping into my own run, I wasn’t able to find anything in high enough condition. I posted my needs on my site, but I may as well not have—- the only replies I received were questions on why I wanted them, and I wasn’t about to reveal the reason.
Three years into my mission, I located a 1926 shorty that was the nicest I had ever seen; better than any 1926 in any collection anywhere, as far as I was concerned. It had original paint, and looked like it had been made yesterday. I knew it would cut the mustard, so I did what was necessary to acquire it. I sent a picture off to Conrad, and sure enough, he liked it. I was halfway there.
Over the following months, I became mired in a swing-and-miss routine. I would see a plate that I was pretty sure would fit the bill, acquire it, send a picture over e-mail, and discover that the plate I had offered was basically equal to the one Conrad already had. I wound up with a disproportionate number of 1920s plates in my trade stock for that reason. I became more picky as to what I would choose to fuel my upcoming trade. I passed on a half-decent deal for a 1917 plate because it wasn’t as nice as the one I had in my run at the time. I figured that if it wasn’t nice enough to upgrade my run, it would certainly not upgrade the run of a collecting veteran and Hall-of-Famer. However, Conrad picked up a 1917 as an upgrader and sent an image to me for my own interest—- and it was worse than the plate from my run! I could have offered my own 1917 and been done with it.
Five-plus years into my mission, I finally hit paydirt. I located a really nice pair of 1928 plates, and bought them more as an investment for my YOM sales than anything else. The number was clear, and they were in the kind of condition that would make any 1928 Model T owner swoon. They weren’t perfect, and were even a shade under excellent, but it occurred to me that I should let Conrad try one on for size. I shined up the better of the two and sent a picture to him, and to my utter disbelief, he agreed to take it in trade with the 1926 that I had been saving for over two years.
So, to summarize: It took five years of active hunting, but I found a 1926 and 1928 of exceptional quality to swap for the premier’s plate. The 1926 was as perfect as perfect gets, so it was painful to let that one go. As for the 1928, I had to break up a pair of YOM-clear plates that would have fetched a lot of moolah, which was also painful. However, the pain ebbed when I found the premier’s plate in my mailbox, as smooth and shiny as it had been when I had first seen it over five years before. Conrad thanked me for my tenacity, and I keep the plate on the wall where I can see it, as one of my victory trophies. It’s a lot sweeter of a victory when there’s a chase involved!