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First started as "My 2 Cents" in 1997, I have written posts numbering into the hundreds. It will take some time to resurrect the older posts, so keep checking back. They will include meet reports, travelogues, and news of interest to Ontario licence plate collectors.

The secret's out

Updated: Oct 3, 2020

Well, that didn’t take long.

I was in front of my computer on this snowy, Sunday morning, coffee in hand, when I hit my eBay bookmark as I do every day (or more) to look for interesting plates coming out of the woodwork. What did I find? I found this:

Now, there are going to be quite a few collectors whose eyes pop out when they see it, and probably even more wondering what this plate is, and whether it’s real, since nothing like it has been seen publicly before. I know exactly what it is (yep, it’s a real plate). Until now, I have refrained from mentioning it specifically, or posting photos of the one that I own. I kept it on the down-low because I was asked not to say anything by the folks who made these plates possible. But, with this pup posted on eBay, with an audience of millions, the proverbial damage is done.

This is a commemorative plate, stamped on the actual Trilcor assembly line, for the 100th anniversary of the Ontario government body that eventually became known by the name we use today: the Ministry of Transportation of Ontario, or MTO. The plates were in their planning stages, and were intended to be distributed to MTO employees. Collector Gary Edwards somehow coordinated with the upper ranks within the MTO, and arranged for some extras to be run off, and offered to pay for them to offset the cost. An agreement was reached, and Gary picked up the batch of MTO-100 plates with the help of Dave Steckley, to be offered to collectors.

Collector demand would surely outstrip the supply, so Dave came up with a fair way to distribute them (at cost) to long-standing ALPCA members / supporters of our meets in Grimsby and Acton over the years. Since the distribution of these plates to MTO employees wasn’t finished yet, we were asked not to publish pictures of them, or make specific public posts about them. I did mention them in my previous two “2 Cents” articles, but I offered no specific information and posted no pictures. Gary also pleaded with us not to just flip them on eBay, the significance being that these plates were made available to us under that condition. Those in Grimsby who received an MTO-100 plate are people of good character, and I can’t imagine that any of them would want to dishonour Gary’s request, let alone want to part with their plate entirely.

The plate now posted on eBay is being sold by an eBayer whom I don’t recognize, out of Orleans, Ontario. There are no Grimsby attendees from Orleans, so I deduce that this person works for the MTO and received the plate during the roll-out to staff members. The starting bid is $50 Canadian. I imagine it will sell, although I can’t see a huge bidding war erupting, since the usual suspects were all in Grimsby and already have one.

The MTO-100 plate is somewhat of a companion to the “75” plates that were passed out in 1991 for the agency’s 75th anniversary. 100 years ago, in 1916, the Department of Public Highways of Ontario (DPHO) on was formed January 17; its primary task was to create a system of public inter-city roadways, as there were none that were so designated, and those roadways that existed were in need of upgrades. The King’s Highway system was born, with continual road construction to ensue through the next decades. In 1932, the DPHO introduced a broken white line to separate the different directions of travel as the first painted road marking in Canada. By 1937, the department had dropped the word “public” from its name and was known simply as the DHO. By 1957, the responsibilities of the DHO were deemed great enough that the task of licensing vehicles and drivers was given to a newly-created, separate entity, known as the Department of Transportation (DOT). The two operated separately until they merged in 1971 to form the Department of Transportation and Communications, but within a year, all Ontario “departments” were re-designated as “ministries”, and so the agency was known as the Ministry of Transportation and Communications (MTC). That lasted until 1987, when the “communications” aspect of the ministry was passed over to a different government branch, and the remaining portion was renamed as the Ministry of Transportation of Ontario (MTO), as it is today. I wonder how much it cost to redesign all the new office signs and print out new stationery. The MTO’s 75th anniversary plate has a decal that somehow makes reference to all these incarnations. Given that the MTO presently administers motor vehicle licensing, as well as highway planning and maintenance, it fits that the MTO-100 plate was accompanied by a small commemorative replica road sign. I’m not sure if the MTO employees received the signs as well as plates, but we’ll probably find out as these items are flipped on eBay. Not that I frown on this—people are free to sell their property as they see fit. But I’ll be keeping mine, and my pal Dave Grant, pictured with me, will surely be keeping his.

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