I managed to get away to the spring edition of #Barrie this year. I love going there, partly due to its hit-or-miss nature. Sometimes you go and find a “holy crap!” plate. Other times you go and you only find wholly crap plates. This year was sort of an in-between year.
Within a minute of entering, I found an excellent, all-original 1927 Ontario truck plate. The price was pretty good, although not quite a steal.* I picked it up, just to be safe. Shortly after, I landed a half-decent 1919… again, not quite a steal, but still a pretty good price.
*(Spring 2020 - Note from older, wiser Jon: The "pretty good" price for the 1927 truck plate was about $30, which was an excellent deal, even in 2005. I didn't collect truck plates actively at the time. It went straight to my trade box, and I must have sold it at the next swap meet. Never since have I seen a cleaner 1927 truck plate. The lesser example that I now have in my collection is a half-decent substitute, but I wish I had the foresight to keep the one I found on this day.)
The guy in the green mini-bus, Roy Solmes, is generally regarded as the plate king of Barrie. However, I have to agree with my buddy Normy’s coining of the moniker “Roy’s Repaint Roundup.” Roy rarely has older things of interest to me, because he repaints pretty much everything he gets. His tables are filled with 19-teen Ontario tin plates, all glossier than the day they were new, all with altered numbers. They’re so extensively redone that nothing authentic remains for a collector.
I was about to pass over Roy’s stuff again, when I noticed some buckets of plates, and stacks of small Ontario stuff from the 60s. I got to talking with him, and he had bought a collection and was starting to disperse it. The buckets were $10, so I picked one that had some historic vehicles and old quarterly trucks from September 1963… the light green variety that are hard to find in nice shape. My bucket also had a stack of less-interesting March 1969 quarterly plates that were used on a public transit bus fleet. Many pictures I’ve seen show buses of that era with B-suffix plates, like all of mine, for example, 7680-B. I wonder if quarterly March plates were set aside for buses because of the B? I’ve never seen a pic of a bus, prior to the bus quarterly debut of 1973, that didn’t have a B-suffix March plate. I’m probably wrong, but I sees what I sees.
I’m not huge into highway signs, but I nabbed a King’s Highway 3 shield for $20. The sign, coupled with my heavy bucket of plates, necessitated a trip back to the car. I had made some pretty good finds already, and I had only been there for a couple of hours.
I picked up a probably-YOM-clear pair of 1967 plates, which seems to be a hot year for the classic car crowd. As it turned out, the number was indeed clear. I love it when that happens, although I’m able to recognize serial patterns that generally clear. That’s also why I like to take pictures of YOM plates that I see… it gives me a better idea of what clears, and what doesn’t.
Here’s one for the “wasn’t expecting that” files… a rare 1953 Delaware, stainless steel with riveted numbers, complete with month and year tabs. I almost passed the vendor over, as his plate crate had kind of disintegrated and there were oddball types all over his stall. He said his plates were $5 each, so I whipped out a fiver and added the plate to my collection. I’m not planning on trading it… it was one of those magical moments, and I want my collection to be full of stories. (Should have kept the '27 truck.)
About mid-morning, I found a old, one-piece, 4-way traffic beacon. I like signals and I’ve wanted a one-piece beacon for a while, but they’re too expensive on eBay and generally they’re located in the US and can’t be shipped to me in Canada. This beacon would do nicely, if only the vendor hadn’t left his stall. I checked with the neighbours next door to see if they knew the price, and when he’d be back. Their reply was no and yes: Yes, he’d be back by 12:30, and no, they didn’t know the price.
I returned at about 1:15. The vendor still wasn’t there, but the old beacon was gone. I was told that “the guy by the food stands with all the signs and signals” bought it, for $75.
Crap-ola. I knew who the buyer was... I call him "Pricey Sign Guy." He probably acquired the beacon for resale. On my next trip past his stall, my heart sank. There was the little green beacon. Sticker price? $240… Well over three times what he’d spent. I didn't have that much cash. I subscribe to the good-home theory, but it's no fun when some profiteer gets in my way.
It happened to me once before, in Belleville. I was at an auction, just passing through, and I saw an old Ottawa Transportation Commission bus destination rollsign. I’m probably the only guy in East Ontario who actively collects bus rolls, and I really wanted that one, from my city of old. But a well-dressed older gentleman outbid me at the auction, and I couldn't compete any further. It was a spirited affair, and I assumed that he wanted it just as much as I. But then, just a few weeks later in Barrie, there he was, with the same sign, priced at more than double what he paid at the auction. He didn't seem to remember me when he started talking. I reminded him of what he paid. He stopped talking.
The day was nearly done. I had extra time, so had already paid for an extra night of camping, so I could return tomorrow. I went back to my campsite to grumble in the privacy of my own tent. On the way back, I found a scrapped Barrie Transit bus sitting in a clearing on the edge of a sideroad. It had flat tires and smashed windows, and no plates. After dinner, I hiked back to explore the bus, which was a 1982 GM New Look model. It's a good thing I went to have a look, because it had disappeared by early the next morning.
The next day, there were slim pickings. Mostly rusty quarterlies jammed so tightly in their boxes that I needed a crowbar to get them out. On the whole day, I found a so-so 1952 Ontario trailer, a 1920 Iowa, and a 1953 Connecticut. At least they were cheap. A military jet fighter kept flying in circles overhead for some reason. There's a local airport just down the road, so maybe it was part of an air show. I found some classic cars with registered YOM licence plates as I walked through the show field on my way out. Those are always nice to see.
The day was blistering hot, and I needed to cool off. The showers at my campsite, with their coin-op machines and unadjustably warm water, were not what I wanted. Then I remembered Bass Lake, which is just beyond the northwest corner of Orillia. I had gone camping there with my wife a couple of years back, and I remember there was a public beach on the eastern shore. I arrived there after a quick 15-minute drive from the flea market. The beach was smooth and sandy, and the water was cool enough to be refreshing, yet warm enough that I could swim to my heart’s content. The wind was brisk and it dried me off in no time. It was quite pleasant there, so I stayed to watch some kids play in the water and write in my plategeeking journal (one of my strategies for coming up with detailed 2 Cents articles). It wasn’t crowded at all… mostly locals, and only 3-4 other parties aside from myself. It was pushing 6 o’clock, but the sun was still high enough to be warm.
Ironically, the beach was the high point of the whole trip to Barrie. Not that Barrie was a bad time, mind you, it’s just that it was that good of a day to be at a beach. It made up for missing that beacon the previous day. Sometimes, the best things in life aren't things.