Ugh, I despise winter… more and more every year.
This weekend marks the halfway point between the fall plate meet in Grimsby and the spring meet in Acton… Grimsby was three months ago, and Acton will be held in three months. There’s a frostbite warning here in Ottawa this week, just like last week. Statistically, the final week of January is the coldest before the average weekly temperature begins to trend upward. I’m counting the days until the snow is melting in the sun, and I can sweep four months’ worth of salt and grit from my garage floor. There will be a baseball game on the radio, and just maybe, I’ll have a chance to find some plates at a yard sale. Maybe it’ll even be warm enough to work on my plate restorations. Until then, of course, I can only wish.
In early December, I came across a 1957 motorcycle plate on eBay with a home-made metal expiration sticker tab bolted to it, and a 2010 expiration sticker. I’ve been pursuing a legitimately-used YOM plate for some time now. I asked the seller if there was an ownership slip with the plate. Of course, that was wishful thinking, and of course, there was no such slip included that could marry the plate to its purported YOM use. Then, I hatched a plan—I went to the ServiceOntario website and ordered an unofficial plate abstract for $12, which would tell me the make and model of vehicle in the months before the plate expired. Sure enough, when the abstract came to me, it confirmed that this ’57 cycle plate had been legitimately used for YOM on a red '57 Harley model 120. Not only that, but the valtag (sticker) number was also included in the report, and it matched the picture on eBay. Having spent $12 to successfully explore my hunch, I didn’t want to let the plate get away, so I bid the daylights out of it and won the auction for more than I’d hoped. But I’ve secured a very tough type for my Ontario run—how many YOM cycles are out there? Not a lot.
Later in December, I went to dinner with a few other collector friends. It was a small gathering, with me, Eric Vettoretti, Alan Bones, John Hayes, Rob Berman and Joe Sallmen having a mid-evening meal and a coke / beer / coffee. As casual as things were, collectors can always be counted on to bring a little show-and-tell along. Eric played his trump card and brought his two-digit 1911 porcelain to show us… the only two-digit known (I played the “small potatoes” card and brought a three-digit porcelain). Our server was unfazed as she gingerly replaced drinks while not placing the glasses atop our plates. I traded a set of 1981 dealer plates to Eric for a ’73 diplomat plate… the dealer plates might be a show accessory on his recently-purchased 1981 Delorean.
Also in December, I began going through a large number of recently-discovered photographic negatives belonging to my grandmother. The pictures were mostly of people, but I did find an interesting one of my then-young grandfather and his 1939 Studebaker coupe (or it could be a ’40, as the front end was unchanged for either year). He worked at the Fairchild Aircraft factory in Longeuil, Quebec, where he met my grandmother. There’s no front plate on the car, which would date the picture between 1942 and 1949, but he had returned to Ontario by 1946.
Another one of the few pictures featuring cars in the negative stash was of my father at Wasaga beach, Ontario in the summer of 1957. They stayed at the Bellayr cottages and basically hung around on the beach. In many of the pictures, there were cars parked on the beach between the Bellayr office and the lake.
I came across one more, which I was able to date by way of the license plate. It was of my great aunt Betty, who lived with her husband and daughters in Montreal. She’s posing with her new Austin 850, which she named “Jigger.” The 1964 Quebec plate is clearly visible on the rear of the car, which correctly appears off-white in the monochromatic image, as 1964 Quebec plates were yellow.
In January, I happened to be on eBay just before dinner when I instinctively pulled the trigger on a “Buy It Now” auction without thinking once, let alone twice. I bought a 1984 Royal Motorcade plate, with red characters and the huge crown decal splitting the year down the middle. Of course, I know a great deal when I see one, but I also wanted it because it had evidence of use—there were slight bolt marks on the bottom holes, which would probably have been made because the plate was affixed to a motorcade vehicle. I have another one of these plates in my collection, but there are no traces of use. Additionally, the crown decal of the eBay plate is larger than the one I previously had, and the plates didn’t nest within each other exactly, which might seem to indicate that there may have been more than one production run for these plates—perhaps they ran off others afterward to give away as commemoratives for VIPs who contributed in some way to the Royal Tour. I photographed the plates side-by-side for the “oooh” factor.
After this excellent and fortuitous purchase, I played another YOM hunch in the same manner as my ’57 motorcycle plate. A collector had a 1969 plate—which looked a bit rough—but did have a single expired sticker on it. The price was low enough to be in gambling range, so I bought the plate, and ran the abstract. The number on the plate came back as a trailer that was plated in 1990, which meant that this plate could never have been used for YOM. The sticker doesn’t appear to have been “jumped” from another plate, so my conclusion is that somebody just placed their sticker on it and maybe drove around with an improper plate—either not knowing or not caring how YOM works in Ontario. In any case, it’s not a true YOM, so I wrote the plate’s story on the reverse side with a sharpie and threw it in my collection box. It’s a conversation piece at most.
A conversation piece isn’t all bad, since at this time of the year, there isn’t much else to do.