This year, the fall Tinchasers’ license plate swap meet changed locations slightly, from St. Catharines to nearby #Grimsby, about 20 km west along the highway. We’re still in a church, but instead of a towering hall with stained glass and built in the 1920s, we’re in an annex with a much lower ceiling and fluorescent lights. The hall, from the inside, is quite similar to the shuffleboard room we use in Acton for the spring meet. I enjoy any swap meet I attend, but there is an “aura” about the old church on Henry street that I will miss… it’s by far the coolest venue I’ve ever experienced for a swap meet.
I drove solo from Ottawa after work on Friday and stayed at the home of our meet host, Don Goodfellow (quite an apt name, if you ask me), who kindly opened his door to me. I slept well in his older farmhouse among the orchards and vineyards, as the late-October rainstorm howled throughout the night. We woke early and drove for 20 minutes through the darkness along the bottom of the Niagara escarpment until we reached Grimsby at about 7:30.
Just because Don hosts the meet doesn’t mean he’s the first one there. A few conspicuously-parked vehicles loitered in the lot as Don went inside to unlock the hall… plate geeks are early to rise no matter where you go, or what time of year it is.
I grabbed a table near the main entrance and began unloading my boxes. I brought more to trade this time than usual, including two milk crates full of bargains. I decided that Grimsby was the best place to disperse the remaining plates I had acquired last spring in Barrie. One crate was just a dollar box for run-of-the-mill stuff, while the other was full of YOM-clear 1964 pairs that I had been sitting on all summer. I had sold some, and had hoped to keep them as a perpetual supply of 1964 YOM stock, but things took a turn for the unexpected late this summer when the MTO pulled the rug from under me.
Motorcycle registrations have just exhausted the 123A4 series, and the MTO decided that they would next start using 1234A for motorcycles, although there are quite a few conflicting registrations with that combination… that same format was used for trailers up to the mid 1980s, and this is the first time that the MTO has ever done a second run-through of a serial pattern since going to renewable plates in 1973. Apparently, numbers that are still vacant are going to be assigned to motorcycles. That was bad news for me, as all the 1964 plates I had were in the 1234B series. Although my 64s are all YOM-clear as of this writing, they won’t be by the time we convene for Acton next year. Too bad——although I’ve already made my money back from buying them, I was hoping they’d be a cash cow for a while. No collector would have predicted that the MTO would start recycling numbers from a series that had already been issued. Sadly, this sort of approach means that much of the present YOM market is essentially going to be killed off. Even fewer numbers will clear, and YOM values will skyrocket even more than they already have. I’m prepared to enjoy the party while it lasts. I could go on, but this column is about Grimsby, not the YOM market. I’ll write about that in a few weeks.
I had surprisingly little action on my crates, even after I dropped the price to 50 cents each. I sold a few, but the majority came back home with me. Usually, when you announce a half-price sale, people trample each other to buy your stuff. This time, the low-end buyers were rather thrifty. Even Mike Franks was turning his nose up! It was my high-end stuff that garnered the most attention: Some recent yellow dealers and my early 50s sample plates were all picked up, even though I had priced them accordingly. I remember a couple of years ago, I had a low-number 1913 pair on my table for a decent price, and nobody bit. I’d guess that it depends on the weather, but it always rains whenever the Tinchasers’ meet is held.
I didn’t buy anything for my actual collection, as I’ve become a little picky. I did pick up some pairs that I can probably resell. Unfortunately, I got a little caught up in the moment and didn’t look at both plates in the pairs I was buying. They were tied together and bagged, and the top plate was in excellent shape for two of the pairs, but after I brought them home, the mates proved to be in substantially inferior condition, to the point that two of them need to be repainted. Dang.
For a small meet, there was a diverse selection of plates available. There were some rare international types, some US graphic plates, some super-rare Canadian military base plates (hope you enjoy them, Terry!) and, or course, a plethora of Ontario passenger, plus some uncommon non-passenger types. One plate that caught my eye was an apparent test plate or prototype from 1932, with the number MY-32- (yes, that’s a dash as the final character). Plates of that era should have one or two letters followed by three or four numbers. I took a closer look at it, and determined that it was professionally repainted (it was sprayed with a bronze colour on the back side). The paint was glossy and I held it so that the light would reflect from the surface. It was then that I noticed the surface around the trailing dash was not perfectly flat. It was pretty close to being flat, and I didn’t notice the disturbance in the metal until trying the light trick—I couldn’t even sense it by touch. It appeared that the plate was originally a regular passenger plate, with a number like MY-326, where the 6 had been pounded flat and a second dash had been embossed in the same spot using a hammer—the strike depth wasn’t as prominent as that of the first dash, and the size of the dash itself was slightly different. What appeared at first to be a rarity was, in fact, a doctored plate.
A new collector by the name of John Powers has been bitten by the plate bug. John is also known as the “#Butterfly Man.” as his life-long passion has been collecting and displaying butterflies. He came to Acton last spring and started looking for plates with butterflies on them. In the ensuing six months, he has managed to collect butterfly plates from all over North America, and he’s nailed all of them. He has became keenly interested in license plates, and inquired at the Ministry of Transportation of Ontario (MTO) if they would be interested in commemorating Ontario’s plate history in the form of a poster. They declined, citing the cost. John set out designing his own poster and hired a private firm to print them. The posters were unveiled as a surprise at the Grimsby meet—each attendee received one free of charge! Additional posters are supposed to be available from www.volumesdirect.com, but I have so far been unsuccessful in finding the item there. Pictured here are John Powers and Gary Edwards, who provided some of the photos for the poster.
The morning wore on, and by 11 am, people were beginning to pack up. It’s too bad, because the meet was advertised to end at 2pm, and there were a few walk-in first-timers who drove from out of town who assumed that 11 am was well within the hours of operation, and they were wondering why the hall was half-empty. It doesn’t look good when that happens. I wish there was a way to entice people to stay a longer time at smaller swap meets. There seemed to be fewer collectors this year at the new location. Folks like Bob Cornelius, Jim Becksted, John Rubick, Dave Wilson and Matt Embro were all absent this time around. Hopefully that’s just a coincidence, and we’ll see those fellas again in coming years. And of course, it must be said that a meet isn’t quite the same without Manny Jacob and his great displays (things haven’t been the same since you left for Manitoba, Manny).
Once the hall was empty, at around 12:30, I stuck around to help Don pile the tables and chairs—it was the least I could do after staying at his place as a guest the night before. It didn’t take long, and soon I was on the road to downtown Toronto for some lunch at a place I love, but can almost never visit. Downtown is always good for spotting plates—I saw a provincial judge plate (PJO-series) parked on a street near the restaurant.
And that, in a nutshell, was Grimsby. Time for many of us to hibernate! Only six months until Acton…