This year, I brought my daughter to the Acton swap meet— a compromise to avoid leaving my wife at home with a nursing infant as well as an energetic three-year-old. We made a weekend of it, visiting family friends and having dinner at Chuck E. Cheese the day before. The Sunday of the meet, we arrived at the meet hall at about 7:30, and as has been the case in previous years, the custodian had opened the doors early and eager plate collectors were busy loading their traders onto their tables.
I chose a pair of tables in a corner because there was a power outlet there on which to run Mads’ portable DVD player. The busier I could make her by watching cartoons, the more trading I’d be able to do. We ate a quick breakfast at our tables before I plugged her player in and let her watch her shows. She was a good sport about being taken to a license plate meet, and she occupied herself happily while I quickly rummaged through other peoples’ traders.
After scoring a recent reverse-PRP in a trade with Matt Embro, I set my tables up. I had some new pickings in my trade boxes, including the single 1911 porcelain that I obtained ten years before from the remains of the Bruce Rawlins collection. I had recently upgraded to a 1911 pair in nicer condition, so the time had come to part ways with the single. As soon as I placed it on my table, John Powers asked me to set it aside for him. I was sort of hoping for some “ooohs” and “aaahs” over the course of the morning before moving it, but a sale’s a sale. Joe Sallmen came over and picked up a 1929 dealer plate from me in fairly short order as well—no chance for the rest of the crowd to ogle. I did have a 1944 trailer on my table, but I probably priced it too high—nobody bit.
Speaking of rare trailers that people use as passenger substitutes— boy, there were a lot of 1952 trailer plates around. Bill Thoman had two, and Eric Vettoretti had two more—and I seem to remember seeing at least one more around. Usually, you’re lucky to find just one at a meet the size of Acton, let alone five.
There was a woman at the meet whom I did not recognize, who brought a significant amount of older Ontario plates, both pairs and singles, as well as some petroliana. Eric and I did some YOM prospecting at her table, but her prices were high, most of her plates would have to be restored, and she wasn’t too receptive to haggling. Eric and I tried a joint offer for a few pairs, but the price was too high. We later tried again separately—and I scored some 1957-58 plates to restore, while Eric nabbed some nice older pairs. Aside from that, there was relatively little to see in terms of digging up fresh YOM opportunities. More and more collectors are onto the idea that pairs can sell for more, although Eric and I are still the only ones with websites that offer a steady rotation of guaranteed YOM options. Tim Laughlin was at the meet as well, although he has moved away from the YOM game somewhat to focus more on other things.
Bob Cornelius brought a nice 1967 plate for show-and-tell, number 222-222. I love seeing low, round, or repeating numbers on old base plates. Bob has some great stuff in his collection—I’d love to do a photoessay on his collection sometime.
Bob and I were interrupted by the customary swap meet announcements and group photo. The announcements have become more of an event in the past couple of years. Acton used to be an informal swap meet that Dave Steckley arranged, but it has grown into an anticipated annual event that is hosted by the “Halton Tag Club,” which is an unofficial name at this point, but possibly a sign of things to come. This year, John Powers procured a custom ad sign for the Acton meet to advertise from the roadway and increase walk-in traffic. He also had one made for Don Goodfellow, to be used at the Grimsby meet in the fall. John also brought a plate that said X263… matching his ex-badge number, as he’s a retired police officer. He also brought a neat display of confiscated Ontario plates dating back to the 1970s that bore fake renewal stickers.
It has been decided that those who participate at the meet regularly should be recognized for their efforts, and so this year, all participants are receiving certificates of thanks from John Powers. In a poignant and classy move, a certificate was made up for Sam Samis, of Thedford, who is about as big a fanatic of license plate collecting as you’ll ever find, but is sometimes unable to attend for health reasons. All of us, including old Sam, will be getting our certificates in the mail shortly.
I felt a tug on my shirt and looked down to see my daughter. She said, “Daddy, I’m finished with your show now.” The cartoon DVDs had worn thin and she was getting hungry. It was time to leave, but one more important task was left to perform.
As the meet wore on, it was painfully obvious to me that I had chosen the worst location in the hall. It was jam-packed with people in all the aisles, but hardly anyone ventured to my corner. This isn’t even a large hall, either—it’s about the size of a Tim Horton’s dining room. I had a plethora of plates that I did not want to bring home, so I set up a half-price sale, and yelled at people to come see. It worked, sort of—but there were still lots of good plates left over. Also, my GR8 CR8 was being ignored… probably because the price said 50 cents each. For 50 cents apiece, people surmised, the plates must be in pretty rotten shape, so why bother looking? I actually had some in there that were worth two or three bucks each, but I just wanted them outta the way.
I combined my GR8 CR8 with the remains of my half-off sale, and upped the ante: Everything on this table, thirty bucks. There must have been close to a hundred plates on the table, some old, some new, some rusty, some blue. Thirty bucks was a steal—it’s the kind of thing I would buy if the tables were turned. I had some curious pickers, and some hemms and haws (cheapskates), but then the Man of the Hour revealed himself be Mike Franks as he gingerly reached into his wallet and forked over $30. Sold!
That was it—my daughter needed some lunch and time was getting on, so I packed up the remains of my traders and headed for the highway with my daughter in the back seat.
It’s hard work bringing a young child to a geek meet like this. She was pretty well-behaved, but it’s tough having one eye on her all the time, and I had to abandon some conversations in order to attend to her. I barely had a chance to talk to guys like Paul and Gary. I had to pack buying, selling, feeding, haggling, trading, parenting, gabbing, toileting, loading and unloading all into four action-packed hours. I was exhausted already—and so began the six-hour drive home.