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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.

A Place To Grow: Ontario gets new plates

Updated: Oct 3, 2020

Today will be a day long remembered by Ontario plate geeks. There are a few dozen of us… maybe a couple hundred if you count the lurkers. But today, we all heard the news.

The 2019 provincial budget was presented, and just like the media hinted, Ontario’s getting a redesign of its plates. This is the first time they’ve even been tweaked since 1994, and it’s the first major design change in my lifetime. Opponents of the ruling party were strongly critical of various announcements, but my goal here is not to dissect the budget. It’s to talk about plates. So let’s get on with it; here’s what they look like.

Ontario Finance Minister Vic Fedeli unveils Ontario's new plate design.

The government made up numerous sample plates bearing the names of the various media outlets that attended today’s proceedings. They’re drastically different from our previous plates, but the majority of collectors seem to like them.

  • The background is navy blue, with a royal blue “swish” across the face of the plate. The “swish” is actually a close-up of the upper-right trillium petal in the province’s new logo, also unveiled today.

  • “Ontario” is printed at the top centre in white, in the style of the new logo, which is the first time the province name hasn’t been displayed in all capitals.

  • “A Place To Grow” is printed in white, in all capitals. It replaces the 37-year-old “Yours To Discover” slogan on passenger vehicle plates.

  • The numbers are screened directly on the plate, which is a departure from the hydraulic embossment that has been used to number Ontario plates since 1921. It appears that the media samples released today don’t even have a beveled edge. This means that the plates will be completely flat.

  • The traditional crown remains, and is now white, but has been relegated to the lower right corner, and is not used as a numeric divider.

  • The new numeric divider is the trillium monogram, which looks largely similar to that used before 2006, although the new monogram is slightly bolder and has a solid background, as opposed to being outlined.

  • Commercial plates will be essentially the same in colour and design, but with the slogan “Open For Business” in place of the “Grow” slogan.

  • The media sample plates appear to display up to seven characters, plus the monogram divider. However, the white characters of the seven-character plates are extremely close to a white border that surrounds the plate.

  • The alphabetical characters seem more squared than their numerical counterparts. I feel this increases legibility.

Aside from the fact that they’ll still be issued in pairs, the new plates are a total departure from previous issues, and will be fairly unique in Canada as one of the very few dark plates with light characters. These plates will stand out in an era when many jurisdictions have moved to light backgrounds. For anyone who has been hoping for a change from the nearly monochromatic design of Ontario plates since 1972, ye shall now receive.

I personally like the new design, but there is one aspect that I will have a hard time accepting: That the plates are no longer embossed. As a kid, and even as a sane adult collector, I have liked the mechanical nature of the characters being embossed on a hydraulic press. Old street signs and traffic signs, some of which I have in my collection, are always more interesting when they’re embossed. I realize that the cheap reflective sheeting that Ontario uses doesn’t stand up well to the embossment. For the past two decades, our embossed plates have developed air pockets in the embossed sheeting (to say nothing of the awful peeling problem we have), so it’ll be a relief to have that fixed, and fewer people will need replacements. Moreover, plates that are as flat as cardboard will be more economical to ship because they won’t take up as much space when boxed. I suppose I’ll have to let go of embossing, all in the name of progress.

There are still numerous aspects of Ontario’s new plates that we don’t know. These details will no doubt work themselves out over the coming months, but I would like to know the following:

  1. Will there come a time when I will have to retire my current plates?

  2. Will the graphic program continue with the new plates?

  3. Will the door open to other graphic options? It’s currently very expensive for an organization to get a new graphic started, and they have to guarantee the first hundred or so sales right off the bat.

  4. Will diplomat plates still be red? Will green vehicle plates still be green? Will dealer service plates still be yellow?

  5. Will I be able to specify whether or not I want the trillium monogram divider if I re-order my personalized plates? Will I be able to put multiple dividers between multiple characters on one plate, if there’s enough space?

  6. Will our validation stickers change their design? (Pretty low on the priority list, I admit.)

  7. Will the Year of Manufacture program continue, status quo?

  8. Where can I get a hold of some old embossing dies for my collection?

Other questions will probably occur to me as time goes on. It’s only been a few hours, after all.

When I first heard rumblings of a plate revision, I designed the mock-up shown below on the left. Ontario had a lot of stodgy monotony to overcome, so I put a modern provincial logo on top (this was before I knew they were about to re-brand). I used navy blue because that’s the ruling PC party’s favourite colour, but I never imagined the background would be anything but white. So I predicted a couple of aspects correctly, but I’d say this redesign is taking many people by surprise.

All in all, it’s not perfect, but I like it. I look forward to the roll-out next year.

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