I went out to dinner at a local bar and grill the other night, and a swap meet broke out (a fight almost broke out over in the bar area, too, but cooler heads appeared to prevail).
I was e-mailed by local collector Dave Grant about getting some plate geeks together for dinner over the Christmas holiday. I RSVPed, as did several other collectors, many of whom I rarely see. Seven collectors braved the frigid cold snap and met at the restaurant: Dave, Alan Bones, Eric Vettroretti, Mike DeVouge, Joe Sallmen, John Hayes and myself.
It’s not often that this many collectors from the Ottawa area wind up in the same room at the same time. For reasons that involve either work, family, or distance, we tend not to attend swap meets en masse. I decided to bring a couple of odds and ends for show-and-tell… more as conversation pieces than blow-em-away-type rarities (which would make an appearance later courtesy of Joe). “Odd couples” was the theme I chose… I brought a matching pair of 1948 plates that were polar opposites, condition-wise. One plate was absolutely pristine, aside from a couple of light bolt marks—absolutely no rust, no scrapes, no dents—it looked just as it must have the day the paint dried back in 1947. The other, however, was a different story: Absolute roadkill. As John said, it looked as though someone drove over it repeatedly at least 20 times. We theorized that it was involved in a front-end accident, and both plates must have been kept indoors afterward. My other odd couple was a blue palindromic 1971 passenger plate, number 877-778, mated with a blue March-70 truck, number 877-77B. I have had the 1971 plate for a few years, having picked it up at a swap meet. The truck plate came from my exploration of Rideau Antiques a few weeks before. John acquired a two-digit Newfoundland motorcycle plate from the 1930s, which garnered its fair share of oohs and aahs as we looked at it. It seemed oddly out-of-place on a restaurant table, in spite of all the Montana plates nailed to the walls of the venue.
We chatted about Ontario YOM number patterns, ordering of vanity plates, diplomat number codes, which Swiss canton plates are the rarest, and of course, we debated as to the most likely format of Ontario truck plates once the 123-4AB series is exhausted in the next year or two. Fascinating topics for people like us!
Joe had brought a box of plates he had acquired from the Fred Angus estate in Montreal. It was a small sampling of the Angus collection, mostly older Quebec and Ontario plates in astoundingly nice condition, including a number 22 Quebec pair (I forget the year… late 1920s, anyway), some tin Ontario plates from the 19-teens, and lots of other goodies. Joe had conveniently brought a price list for most plates, and after going through the box as a group, we began setting our sights on individual items. I chose a 1914 passenger to upgrade my own collection, plus a very rare short 1952 trailer, which cost more than the 1914, and rightly so. I had been looking for one for years to replace the odd-looking long 1952 trailer plate in my run. This short one had a catchy number, and the condition was excellent. I made a quick walk across the parking lot to a conveniently-loaded bank machine to complete the purchase. Eric scored a really nice 1915 passenger plate, which was the last one he really needed to complete his annual dated passenger run. I was too enamoured with my purchases to pay close attention to what the other guys were thinking of getting, but the teens and 20s plates were getting lots of attention.
It was getting late and the restaurant had been emptying gradually over the past three hours before we collectively realized the time and said goodbye. We snapped a couple of pictures of the “First #Ottawa Region Christmas License Plate Meet” before getting our coats on and venturing out into the frigid night.