October is a wonderful month because it brings three important occasions—Thanksgiving, Halloween, and the annual Tinchasers’ Plate Meet. It’s a nice way to close out the collecting season, which tends to go into winter hibernation, at least in my part of the world. Also, I had just put my ’71 Super Beetle, Greta, away for the winter, and the swap meet was a nice way to dull the pain.
Eric Vettoretti and I made the trip together from Ottawa on Friday night, driving through the driving rain in his new 2010 Toyota Venza. The tires held their grip pretty well, although we had lousy visibility and dealt with heavy traffic for much of the drive. We arrived safely in Grimsby and stayed at a Super 8 on the highway.
We arrived at the hall just after 7:30 and it was already open, with earlybirds carting their traders into the hall. I did my best to get set up as soon as possible so I could browse, although I always wind up with people checking out my stuff before I’m quite ready (it was I who wanted to check out others’ trade boxes before they were quite ready).
Bob Cornelius read my previous article about Greta and her 1971 YOM plates, and just for fun, he brought a small collection of low-numbered 1971 plates to show me. They started the numbering sequence at 1000, so Bob’s plates are lower than might meet the eye. He brought number 1002, 1004, 1008, 1012 and 1020. I myself have 1010 in my collection, and I used to have 1005. Dave Steckley has 1006, I believe. These pairs were issued to senior provincial cabinet ministers back in the day, and someone was lucky enough to get the turn-ins when they all expired at the end of 1971.
I wound up being more of a buyer this time around, which is a different role than I had been playing at swap meets for the past couple of years. I was purchasing Canadian plates on behalf of the Canadian Science and Tech Museum in Ottawa, which they will be using in an upcoming display. I also found a few things for my collection. I didn’t move as much trade stock to other collectors as I had in the past couple of years, which I found surprising. It all depends on the mood of the crowd, I guess.
My first couple of purchases came courtesy of Matt Embro and Mike Franks. Matt somehow winds up with lots of good recent plates at his trade table, and I picked a late-issue PRP truck plate that was one used by Matt’s own rig. Matt also had a red dealer plate, but I didn’t get to his table quite in time. Mike Franks furnished me with a few Canadian plates for the museum, and he also had an early Trillium graphic plate, which I bought. It was the kind with the coarse screening job that doesn’t actually look like a trillium, or any other flower, from far away. Later issues feature a more finely-screened image with well-defined colours that display well from a distance.
It turns out that Joe Sallmen picked up Matt’s dealer plate for his collection. Eric chatted to him about his find, and Joe revealed that it upgraded one that he already had in his collection (not at the swap meet) so they made arrangements for Eric to take it for his own collection.
I brought a small run of 1940-1945 Toronto bicycle plates to the meet that I had obtained during the summer. My 1944 sold right away. I wound up trading three others to Martine Stonehouse for a stack of old ALPCA literature. I still had the 1941 available by the meet’s end. It was probably my favourite of the bunch, with a red background and white numbers. Most other bike plates in Ontario followed the provincial plate colours (green on white for 1941).
Bill #Thoman alerted me to the fact that a tall, bearded gentleman had entered the hall. Bill had spoken to this man at the fall Barrie auto market the previous month, and it turned out that he was the one who had the strange green 1945 sample prototype plate hanging on display (see previous column for a picture). He had brought the plate with him and was soliciting offers. I was previously told that it wasn’t for sale, but time changes the mind.
I tend to have a big appetite for stuff like this, and Bill and Eric know this. They were actually talking me up to the seller, saying that I’m really into this era and would give the plate a good home. I went over and took a look at the plate, and made what I felt was a high, but affordable offer. The seller said that he’d have to take my contact information down because he still wanted to show the plate to another person in London. I made a snap decision at that moment:
I have had a pretty good year in terms of plate sales—doing the YOM circuit as well as selling single plates to other collectors. The whole rationale for getting into YOM in the first place was to make my plate hobby (addiction?) self-funding. For many years I had been spending new money to add to my collection, and the niche I have created within the YOM market helps me justify overpaying for a plate if I really want it… so I went for it.
“How much would it cost me to just take the plate home today, now, without waiting for the other guy?”
The response: “You tell me.”
Not what I was going for. I thought I already had made a handsome offer, but I figured I’d raise it enough to catch his attention memorably. So I threw in an extra hundred, which would basically empty my wallet for the day, even after all my table sales—but only for a same-day deal.
The seller maintained that he would need my contact information. ”A hundred more now is a hundred more later,” he mused. He was incorrect. The first part of my offer was for the plate itself. The extra hundred was a premium I was willing to fork over for a same-day deal. I took one of my cards and wrote my offer, and its time limit, very clearly. The seller went on his way, and I, mine.
John Powers, also known as The Butterfly Man, came to the meet in an ostentatiously-decorated van with some of his prized insects inside. After we took the group photo, he chatted about his insects and showed some examples, many of which are very rare. He even had a sexually dimorphic butterfly (male on one half and female on the other), and also brought the largest moth on record, as certified by Guinness.
Absent friends all come to mind when I attend swap meets. Normy had a conflict that day, and evidently chose the less fun option. I’ve been waiting for Mike Stevely to make it to Grimsby, but he had a wedding to attend. And “Sam” Samis, that lovable old codger who adores plates and actively promotes the Grimsby meet by writing letters to Ontario collectors, was unable to make the trip. Hopefully, you’ll see all those guys next spring in Acton. My own attendance in Acton is in question, though—my wife and I are expecting our second child in February, so my plate, if you’ll pardon the expression, will be full by then.
The meet was wrapping up and some sellers had packed up their tables. However, John Rubick, whom I hadn’t seen in a couple of years, made a late entrance and had some nice mint motorcycle plates for us to froth over. I thought about picking up some cycles, but then I remembered that I stopped collecting them because they’re just so expensive. My run goes back to 1961 only, and then has a few other years here and there. He had a nice 1953, which was snapped up quickly.
I was thinking about packing up my table when the seller of the 1945 sample prototype reappeared in front of me. I didn’t know it then, but was later told that he left the hall and actually drove off with his wife before turning around and returning to the swap meet—maybe prompted by his wife, who surely thought he was nuts to risk losing my time-limited overbid on his plate. Anyway, he accepted my offer, and I had exactly the amount of cash to pay up, with only spare change left over. I waited for him to leave the hall before strutting over to Eric and Bill Thoman to show off my prize. We had already taken the group photo, and I wished I could get another one with my best and most expensive Grimsby find to date.
Eric and I were on a schedule. We normally would stay to help Don tidy the chairs and such, but we had previously agreed to buy separate lots of plates from separate sellers, and we were picking them up on our way home. We made our way up to northwest Mississauga so I could pick up a batch of pairs in a Timmie’s parking lot. Then, we descended on Toronto, near Eglinton and Bayview, so Eric could pick up a larger collection with lots of neat early years, pairs, and some out-of-province items. The sellers were an unexpectedly congenial mother-and-son duo, who chatted about their decades of home ownership in the neighbourhood and even invited us into the house to see some rare antiques, including a grandfather clock constructed in the 1790s.
Before long, we were on our way home and listening to the NHL play-by-play on the satellite radio, punctuated here and there by the sound of tin rattling in the back. Quite a sound.