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2CENTS ARCHIVES

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.

2023 Highlights and Outtakes

Here’s the annual outtake round-up… pictures that didn’t make it into any 2Cents columns, most of which are being seen here for the first time. Enjoy!


 



One Sunday afternoon in January, it was really cold outside and I had to bundle up to make a trip to Rona. On my way to the entrance, I passed a grimy, salt-caked SUV—one of many parked there. But the Guam plates caught my attention. Both ends of the vehicle wore them, and the regisration was current. Most Guam plates are used in plus-thirty-degree weather, not minus-thirty-degree weather. I wondered at the various scenarios that could cause a Guam resident to ship their vehicle to Ottawa. But then I went inside to look at plywood.


 


My first significant acquisition of the year was in February with a vendor from an Edmonton antique mall. He had some Ontario plates that were overpriced, but included in his wares were these dual-purpose plates. Most of them were discoloured with the typical oxidation that we see in 1930s and 1940s Ontario plates, but I was determined to bring them back to life. They were bathed in oxalic acid, and I used various rubbing compounds and waxes to bring the bright colours back. The result? Nine dual-purpose plates going into my collection where I was previously missing most of those years. I wrote a previous 2Cents article about how I cleaned up my 1937 plate.


 


I was pretty busy in Acton this year, and I used pretty much all of my pictures for my customary 2Cents writeup. But this cool photo didn't end up in the article. I don't know whose table this might have been. I was thinking maybe Martine Stonehouse, but she usually has a bunch of international items in boxes, and these are almost all Canadian traders.


 


Dave Steckley, on the right, shows Mike Franks the highlights of his Ontario plate collection. More specifically, they were engaged in a technical conversation regarding the minutiae of ham radio callsigns. Or it might have been die variations on the plates. Or it could have been differences in reflective sheeting. Or it could simply have been the story of how some of these plates landed in Dave's collection. We collectors talk about many things.


 


This aging sign, on eastbound Highway 7 in Havelock, is one of only a few survivors across Ontario. I remember these being all over the place in the 1970s and 80s. They've been supplanted by the "lane ends" signs that show a symbol of a road narrowing. Every time I pass this way, I look at this spot to see if the sign has been removed yet. It'll happen eventually, but as it is now, the sign has exceeded its expected lifespan by several decades.


 


Just a random vendor table in Stirling, this past May. The sun has barely risen, and all of these plates are drenched in last night's dew. There's not a ton going on in this picture, but my heart jumps when I see the first few vendor tables with plates on a cool, sunny morning in the flea market field. The March 1970 truck plate with number14-14C is pretty cool, but I left it for the next guy.


 


This is John, a family friend who lives in Sault Ste. Marie. He drives a gorgeous 1958 Meteor. I've had the privelege of being at its wheel. John loves old cars, but isn't a fan of government bureaucracy. The YOM program, with its up-front cost and cumbersome registration process, isn't appealing to some folks. But I gifted him a really nice set of original 1958 plates for him to use at car shows, and they sure do look great!


 



This customized green van belongs to Myles, a friend from work. He doesn't take it out too often, but he did bring it to the 50th annual Van Nationals in Sterling, Colorado. He brought it into his shop for a quick once over before hitting the road for Sterling in early July. The trip was almost uneventful-- but something minor broke along the way and he had to pause for a day to replace a part.


 


Most longtime ALPCA members know that one of our members and former presidents is drummer Jim Fox, one of the founding members of the classic rock group The James Gang. The group experienced its greatest commercial success from 1969 - 1971 with Jim on drums, Dale Peters on bass and Rock-Hall-of-Famer Joe Walsh on guitar. Their most recognizable song is probably "Funk 49", although "Walk Away" is pretty groovy, too.

Jim's current collecting project is to acquire a personalized plate from every province and state, bearing "Funk 49"— or a permutation thereof if the exact title is already taken. We got in touch and he arranged with me to order "FUNKY 49" from ServiceOntario. Here I am on the day the plates arrived by courier (photo taken by Eric Vettoretti, as we were just leaving for our June trip to Bonfield).




I sent the pair to Jim, so he could keep one of the plates for his collection, and I asked him to autograph the mate for my collection. He did so promptly and even enclosed a thank you card! I'm hoping to make it to the Lansing ALPCA Convention in 2024. If I can, I'll bring the plate along and get a photo of Jim with it.


 


I dropped by Mike and Alannah Franks' place in July, on my way to a wedding. Here's Mike giving me a small part of the grand tour of his Newfoundland truck collection.


 


In May, I bought a batch of Ontario plates. They were pricey, but the main collectible attractions were the 1932 and 1933 doctor plates shown here. I enjoy "wallpaper" pictures of plates, so I laid them out on the garage floor. I find the lighting is best when it's diffused and coming in from one side, and that's how I take most of my plate pictures. I don't like taking pictures with a flash, and I don't like fighting with my own shadow when I try to take photos at night beneath the ceiling lights.




I have Dave Steckley to thank for helping complete the transaction. The seller was local to Dave, who acted as the go-between. I dropped by Dave's place in July to take posession of them. The lot included a beautiful set of 1928 plates that upgraded Dave's collection, so I left them with Dave in appreciation for his help.


 


A 1935 trailer plate was included with the same batch of plates shown above. It didn't upgrade my own '35 trailer, and I very nearly posted it for sale, but I noticed the narrow dies. It appears that trailer registrations broke the 20k barrier in 1935, and the existing dies would have been too wide to fit five "non-uno" digits. I want to say the high 1935 plate features the same dies as the 1936 and 1937 plates, but there seems to be more spacing between the digits of the 1935, which doesn't even feature a "one." These narrower dies on the 1935 look a lot like the 1927-1929 dies used for Ontario passenger plates.


 


Thomas Zimmermann had a year that was unexpectedly filled with summertime travel. He's been out to visit many of us. Thomas stopped by in August to drop off a couple of items, one of which was an unexpected and gratefully received gift. But that's not what he's holding in this selfie. I first met Thomas back in 2012 at Volksfest, a car show that used to be held in Embrun... not too far from Thomas' home in Russell. I brought my '71 Bug to the show, and I brought a few boxes of plates to sell. Thomas encountered me there, and bought the 1972 plate that you see here for a couple of bucks. He tells me it was the very first plate he ever collected!


 



Several years ago, Eric Vettoretti upgraded the 1924 trailer plate in his collection. His downgrader was a super-low number (10) but it was bad condition. It had nail holes, creases, cracks, and someone had sprayed it yellow and brushed some sloppy black paint on the numbers. I took it from him with the idea that I'd slowly restore it as part of my YOM restoration queue.


I sandblasted the front side lightly, so as not to knock any of the weaker metal away. I left the rear side alone to avoid knockouts, and then I used some JB-Weld to plug the holes. I left the JB-Weld untouched on the rear, just as a reminder of what sorry shape the plate was in when I acquired it.


From there, it went through about 30 cycles of priming and sanding over three summers. I managed to smooth the face out considerably. The weaker spots began to groan under the added weight of the primer, and it did develop a couple of hairline cracks near the edge, but I didn't feel like backtracking for more structural repair. I sprayed it yellow and then waited another year for enough spare time to paint the numbers with a fine brush. While the primer has smoothed the face out nicely, it makes the small characters "fatter" and that requires a different, slower approach to detailing so they don't look fatter once painted. Four years and change after acquiring the plate, I finished it this past summer.


 





In the summer of 2021, I was in the Sault Ste. Marie area and found a photo of a Texaco station at a familiar intersection. The white fingerboard signs point left to "Goulais Mission" and "Goulais River." The overhead gate sign says "Goulais Bay and River Area on Lake Superior Welcomes You to the Most Secluded Spot on the North Shore." I surmised that this was taken at the present-day intersection of Highway 552 (to the left) and Post Office Road (to the right, also known as 552A in the 1960s and 1970s).


At the time the old picture was taken, through traffic was directed to the right, which was King's Highway 17. The road to the left leads to the Goulais-area settlements. It was designated Highway 552 in 1956. There are no junction signs in the photo, nor are there any 552 assurance signs visible in the distance on the left. Because of that, I suspect the picture was taken prior to 1956. There's no Google Street View image for this location, so I had to wait until I returned to this place to take pictures for a then-and-now comparison. I didn't get there in 2022, but I was there in July 2023. I've passed through here many times previously. My parents' local post office used to be down the right-side road in these images.


 

There's a dingy little flea market along the Highway 17 corridor in northern Ontario that I usually visit on my way to or from our annual family vacation. It always has plates, but usually they're 1970s and 80s cars and trucks from Ontario and Quebec... nothing I really need to buy. But this time around, I came across the top plate in this picture: A23-222 from March '78. I grabbed it, but not just because it has a repeating number. I knew I had a very similar plate back home from the same month and year of expiry. As soon as I got home, I dug the other one out for a photo. It was back in the mid-90s that I acquired J23-222 from the late Ernie Wilson in Sault Ste. Marie. I know it's a hometown Soo issue. I once collected a similar plate "from the rough" as a kid... it was from an abandoned drive-in movie theatre, number J23-340, also from March '78, which I still have.


 


I was on my way home from the Barrie flea market in September when a sign caught my eye. Secondary highway 503 was downloaded to Haliburton county in 1998, and was re-signed with some butt-ugly contractor flowerpot signs with a terrible Helvetica font. I love the road, but always hated the signs. But in 2022, I noticed that the signs had been replaced with new versions, with a more-appropriate "Blue Highway" type font, which is shown on the right. I was happy with that, so I took a picture.


Anyway, in September 2023, I passed the same spot and noticed something odd about the sign: It said "county road" instead of "Haliburton County," which isn't how Ontario does its signs. So I took a picture, for later comparison.


I was right! The replacement sign from 2022 was replaced with a subsequent sign in 2023. I'm guessing that the entire sign might have been wiped out by a collision, or maybe a snow plow, because the post is shiny and new with a different bevel.


 


Later in September, I was driving through St. Thomas (on a concert trip, as opposed to a plate trip). I was downtown spotted this old Highway 3 sign with the flat-top three and the King's Highway legend. It looked really cool with the old brickface buildings in the background. So of course, I stopped for a picture.


 


I was just leaving Grimsby after the annual swap meet when I spied an orange Beetle parked in a driveway. I sold my '71 Beetle five years ago, but that doesn't mean that I don't still love Bugs. I didn't get a close enough look to see what year it was, but I can tell that it's a 1973 or later. The "bump" of the dash beneath the steering wheel is a hooded instrument cluster, which were used only in Super Beetles, where the curved front windshields afforded the extra space for them.


 


I don't remember where this picture came from, but I didn't take it. This is a restored 1929 YOM-registered plate, complete with a White Rose gasoline topper. The plate (and its front-end mate) came from my business, Ontplates.com, as did the bolt-on tabs. Those were good sellers before Doug Ford rendered them obsolete (now I'm stuck with a useless box of machined metal tabs at a sunk cost of $1500). I didn't mind the stickers with YOM plates because they were a smoking gun that the vehicle was properly-registered, as opposed to merely decorated. But now there's no way to tell if that's the case. It doesn't really matter anymore, anyway, because I've decided to retire from the YOM business (official announcement coming soon).


 


On the way to Grimsby, I picked up a lot of plates in Brockville. It included a bunch of internationals, and a variety of older Candian plates. One of the most curious items was this 1924 Alberta steam tractor plate. There are very few of these around. Mine suffered from a bullet hole, plus some light oxidation. I put my cleaning skills to work to try and bring it back. The plate had split metal leaves surrounding its exit wound on the rear, so I banged those flat. I gave the plate a bath in oxalic acid, and then carefully applied some Turtle Wax Color-Back to the front. It lifts oxidation, but it also lifts thin coats of paint, such as that used to mark the serial number on this plate. The trick was to use a Q-tip and polish around the numbers, so I could bring back the ochre of the background without damaging the paint. After that, I gave a very light and gentle coat on the full face (single wipe on, single wipe off) to bring the number paint to the correct colour without lifting much of it away. The result was worth a hundred bucks!


 

I was at Eric's house in November. It's been a super-busy year for him, and plates have had to take a temporary back seat for a few reasons. He happened to be looking through some Sudbury buy-and-sell ads (where I believe his son had an upcoming hockey tournament), and he came across this vintage pre-1972 pedestrian signal. These were everywhere in the late 1960s and into the early 1970s, before Canada adopted symbolized signals with the orange hand and white walking-person. My guess is that these were replaced very quickly with a concerted effort across the province, because I have no memory of ever seeing one, and even as a kid, I was paying attention to traffic lights. This one was originally dark green and was painted cautionary yellow, like we see today. Eric is considering where to mount it, and whether to try and uncover the green paint or leave it as it is. In this picture, there's a hand-held trouble lamp illuminating the two legends. It's really cool!

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