In early July, the annual ALPCA Convention was held in Arlington, Texas. Although I wasn’t there, I will nonetheless offer commentary on Bruce Lobay's display of plates that were cut apart and reconstructed to appear as a short #1 issue. For a year or two before the convention, Bruce had been asking club members for older plates with the date on either the left or right side, with the digit "1" located right next to it. This display received a lot of attention at the convention and a lot of related web chatter ensued on the plate geek forums. I gather that the display wasn’t entered for judging on the grounds that it contained two absolutely fake plates made from balsa wood. However, had the wooden plates been left home, would it have been eligible for an award? Should it be?
The way ALPCA has “brought me up”, I’ve been taught that fakes are a no-no. You’re supposed to avoid them, surrender them to the club when you get stuck with one, and for heaven’s sake, don’t make them like Repro Bob does. Repro Bob remains the scourge of the plate collecting world because his home-made fake plates get sold, swapped, and lost——and thirty years later, there’s no one left who has kept track of the fact that it’s a fake. Your super-rare 1938 motorcycle dealer plate? It was made in 1983 in some guy’s basement. Do you want to pay $80 for that?
ALPCA’s stance on fake plates is as follows, and I quote: An ALPCA member who offers, in a transaction, any plate not officially sanctioned by the proper issuing authority and manufactured during the period of intended original use as depicted by the validation marking on the plate, tab, or decal as appropriate, is subject to suspension from ALPCA.
This basically means that you can’t offer a fake plate for trade or sale to another collector. It doesn’t actually say anything about creating them (as of 2010 anyway), which is counter to the general attitude of the club. We’ve got people who get up in arms when people sell real plates on eBay with improper date stickers, with the intent of making the plates seem older than they really are, to the end of circumventing the eBay 5-year plate rule. People get hot under the collar about that, and some even want ALPCA to suspend these people. But this isn’t against the rules any more than Repro Bob’s handiwork, and I suppose, the making of the fake-number-1 display.
Those who have no issue with the display are generally of the opinion that no collector would ever be fooled by a chopped, square-shaped, repainted number 1 plate. But what about a beginning collector? Someone young who has read about number 1 plates, but never seen one before. Bruce won't be alive forever, and his bashed number 1 plates may make their way to someone who doesn't know the story. Caveat emptor, they say. That doesn’t sit well with me, and so I agree that fake plates should not be permitted inside the playground fence that is ALPCA. It won’t stop fakes from being made, but at least it will curtail chance that someone might burn themselves.
That bring said, I did enjoy the display. It must have taken a lot of work. Hopefully, Bruce was true to his word: he claimed it was made entirely out of junk plates with missing sections or rust holes that would never otherwise see the light of day on a convention floor. I suppose the fact that it wasn’t eligible for an award is enough of a compromise for me. But with all the work put into them, you can bet they’ll be kept in a collection, and eventually, if they’re not swapped to other collectors, they may be dispersed in an estate sale. And once the buyer lists them on eBay or some other future sale forum, there’s nothing to stop these fakes from being misrepresented as the real thing. Oh, I’m so confused.