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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.

ALPCA Best Plate of 2023: My Votes

There are a whopping 21 candidates for the 2023 ALPCA Best Plate Award. I don’t recall ever seeing this many. It took some thinking and re-defining what it means for a plate to be bad versus good, but here we go.


21. Utah - blackout

Blackout plates aren’t realistically eligible to win a “best plate” award and shouldn’t even be in the running. there’s nothing to them. Just black on white. But put a Jolly Roger on them, and they’d be cool.


20. Pennsylvania - pollinator habitat

From now on, any plate that attempts to augment an existing base by adding a simple graphic is automatically going to the bottom of my list. This is a lazy plate. Pennsylvania has been using the same basic design on their passenger plates since 2000. You can’t slap bugs and flowers on the left side and call it a new plate. Pennsylvania has introduced some gorgeous optional designs over the years, like the zoo tiger or the railroad heritage issues. But not for the pollinators… this is a wasted opportunity.


19. Washington - Patches pal

Lazy plate. The light blue mountains and red state name are just recycled from the passenger base. Granted, this isn’t the same mountain outline, and the Space Needle is on this plate, but even so, it borrows too much from the passenger design, which was introduced way back in 1987. I’m not a fan of clowns, but the laziness of the design is far worse of a crime than the uninteresting theme.


18. Colorado - Driving While Impaired

Oh, wait. This plate doesn’t say DWI? Oh, it’s DWT. The white snow and light blue sky make the white characters tough to read. The artwork might be okay on its own in a frame, but it kills the legibility. You can’t take just any nice painting and put it on a plate. I say no to this design.


17. South Dakota - More Mount Rushmore

I can’t blame South Dakota for reusing the Great Faces / Great Places motif. I get that George, Tom, Teddy and Abe’s collective likeness is the state’s most recognizable feature. So if the state came up with a truly novel design, with high legibility, they’d have as good a chance as any other state to win. But the “great faces” are plunked right in the centre, and the black serial numbers are plunked right over them. This design looks like a meme created by a teenager. The one thing we see the most clearly is the barren rock face below George and Tom. The high-contrast shadows of the image don’t do any favours to the legibility. This plate is a flop.


16. Rhode Island - Atlantic Shark Institute

Poorly executed with washed-out, low-contrast colours and interference between the serial and the big shark in the background, resulting in poor legibility. There’s so much empty space at the bottom of the plate. Why not move the slogan there, or reduce the size of the shark and explore that space?


15. Kansas - Down syndrome awareness

Now we get into the realm of plates that have some redeeming features. This is an interesting plate, but it has two main problems: First, the fade to dark blue on the right kills the legibility of the rightmost serial character. That area should be lighter. Also, the centre of the sunflower is black, like the serial number, and competes for attention from a distance. The centre of the sunflower could be lighter. It might reduce the legibility of the “Down Syndrome Awareness” legend, but I think it would enhance the legibility of the serial. The three chevrons are also a bit confusing; perhaps they’re there to symbolize the three chromosomes that are present in individuals with trisomy 21. Chromosome 21 has short p-arms, but not an absence of p-arms, so the chevrons don’t really match the shape of a double-stranded 21st chromosome.


14. North Carolina - Aquariums

I’m glad to see that North Carolina has moved away from the overused First In Flight base, which keeps it from being dumped in the basement of my list. There’s a bit of artistic licence with the rainbow colours of the animals, but they wouldn’t show up as well if they were made green, brown, or grey, so I can buy into that design choice. My main complaint about this plate is the white box for the black serial number, which is not attractive. The background of the underwater scene, to the right of the animals, is fairly clean and dark. If the box were removed, and the characters were made white, this design would be in the top half of my list.


13. Wisconsin - Ice Age Trail

I like this plate. I like the palette, and I appreciate the simplicity of the mammoth design on the left side. But the plate would be substantially better if “WISCONSIN” was changed to black, and the serial numbers were embossed in white. It would improve the overall legibility a great deal; medium backgrounds don’t work with dark numbers. Make that switch, and this plate would be in my top three. But poor legibility is a major penalty when it comes to my rankings.


12. Texas - A&M Commerce

I like dark plates with high-contrast features that are highly legible. But this is basically taking half

of the logo of a university, stretching the background, and printing a white serial number on the blank area. This isn’t really what I would call a novel plate design. Also, the rounded rectangle at the bottom with the legend printed in blue seems out of place, like a county sticker slapped on as an afterthought. The Commerce logo, as shown on the university’s website, shows a different representation of the legend “A&M COMMERCE”, which would look much better on this plate. Had they done that, this plate would move up a few notches in my ranking.


11. Montana - Don't tread on me

Again, I like dark plates with high-contrast features that are highly legible. But I think that the all-yellow legends and serial here come across as almost monochromatic. I think if the serial numbers were made white, and the legends kept yellow, or vice-versa, this would be a more appealing plate. I do like the watermark of the Gadsden flag rattlesnake along the right side. It compliments the smaller yellow snake on the left without being redundant.


10. Louisiana - Team Gleason

With all the emphasis on colour, there aren’t a lot of simple black-and-white plates these days. Something about this plate appeals to me. I realize that I’m critical of the Montana entry for being “too monochromatic.” But Montana used blue and yellow, and still came across as monochromatic by accident. In the case of Louisiana, the design is deliberately restricted to black and white, but the features are bold and make a strong statement. Also, Team Gleason is a charity that provides support to ALS patients, which has more contemporary meaning than a 250-year-old flag. So I put Louisiana ahead of Montana.


9. Tennessee - Tiger Haven

The colour combination of white, green and orange is interesting for a plate. I like how the legends are printed in orange. The tiger doesn’t interfere with legibility. However, the least-essential element—meaning the plants—is the downfall of this design. By extending the irregular patterns of the plants into the serial number, legibility is reduced. The shade of green is a little washed out as well. To improve this, I’d keep the plants on the left side of the plate and give them a bolder green with more saturation. Maybe add more such plants in the upper left corner, and more along the bottom, behind the Tiger Haven logo. In so doing, we’d get more green, a bolder design, and the serial would be clearer.


8. Akita Prefecture - Akita inu hound

When printing a graphic beneath a serial number, there’s a fine line between artistic functionality and just making a mess. The new Akita plate walks that line as best it can. However, the colours here don’t grab me as much as other graphic Japanese issues. Light blue and tan certainly don’t fight the bold green numbers for legibility, which is why I’ve rated this plate in the front half, but I find the colours a bit drab. Are there any alternative colours that could be used here? Not really.


7. Florida - Protect the panther

The more I look at this plate, the less I like it. I originally rated Florida as number 4 in my ranking because of the good contrast between the background and numbers. But the picture looks like one of those motion-sensor cameras that animals unwittingly trigger when they walk past. The panthers look like they were taken by surprise with a flash camera at night. The ground lends a lot of tan to the plate, and tan isn’t really one of my favourite colours. This graphic could be better if they gave the original image to an artist, who could have softened the lighting, maybe greened the grass, and removed the camera flash shadow of the cub from the mother’s body. I’m getting used to Florida’s funky dies, and they do stand out well from the background, but I still think the image needs tweaking. So Florida is pushed back to 7 on my list.


6. New York - Long Island

New York has crafted a good balance of having a graphic beneath a serial number. The lighthouse scene has been brightened to give it more contrast against the numbers. But the horizon and the shoreline do detract slightly from the overall legibility. The alternative would be to use a picture taken at sea level, looking upward at the lighthouse, where the horizon doesn’t bite into the serial numbers. That said, it’s a nice plate.


5. New South Wales - Waves

I’m glad to see an Aussie plate in the running. Bold graphic? Check. Interference with serial? Nil. I like this one. There’s a greater degree of difficulty in using a horizontal landscape graphic on a long, slim plate. The one thing that irks me is that New South Wales insists on using the NSW abbreviation. It’s a majestic state name… why not spell it out? If the serial were lowered just a tad, there could be room to emboss “NEW SOUTH WALES” above the serial while keeping everything above sea level.


4. Virginia - The Richmond Planet

It’s not often that a busy plate strikes the balance between art and function. I like how the newspaper is distinct from the darker background, but there isn’t that much of a difference in lighting. The unique Virginian seriffed dies actually enhance the legibility of the serial; if this plate were embossed with more typical dies, or screened by 3M, we’d have a harder time reading the numbers. There are two slogans that don’t compete with each other, an easily-recognizable bicep graphic, and a subtle QR code to allow people to learn more about the history of the Richmond Planet newspaper. The one thing that kept this plate out of my top three was the font used for “VIRGINIA,” which we’ve seen on regular passenger plates for decades. It doesn’t quite jive with the theme. Make the state name black, and use a similar font as the “Planet” legend, and this plate could have been my winner.


3. Tokyo Prefecture - tower

I like the use of pink on this plate. It didn’t need to be pink, but it’s a good accent to the red and white colours of the Tokyo Tower, shown on the right. The white line pattern in the pink background hints at the girders of the tower, giving the graphic an understated sense of thematic symmetry. This plate is also interesting because the name “Tokyo” has been added in Roman characters, thus making the plate easily identifiable to tourists and collectors across the world. A lot of thought has gone into this clever design. It could even win the ALPCA Best Plate award… but then the club would have to fly a delegation to Tokyo for an award ceremony. I could potentially be a member of the Board of Directors if and when that happens!


2. Oregon - Pollinator paradise

This plate was neck-and-neck for my number one choice. As a biology teacher, I appreciate the ecological role that pollinators play. As a human being that likes to eat stuff, I owe my health to them. And as a plate collector, I appreciate the interesting rendition of the bees going out and doing their thing. I love the red, with splashes of other colours. It’s interesting, but not overwhelming. There is a little graphic-serial interference, though… The flower beneath the stacked BZ and first zero detracts from the legibility. But I have a solution: Reduce the serial in length by one digit, so the BZ goes atop the right side of the flower. All these plates will start with BZ, so those characters aren’t so important. After the BZ, use letters to keep the serial characters to a maximum of four.


1. Arizona - Alice Cooper

(thrashes head) SCHOOOOOOOL’S… OUT… FO’.... SUMMMAHH!!!!

I don’t own any Alice Cooper records, but I respect the guy for being the face of the Solid Rock Teen Centers, which are places where teens can go to be safe and explore their musical and artistic interests. I love it when freaky and mean-looking rock stars are philanthropists at heart. Lately, I’ve been rediscovering classic metal in several of its forms… hair, heavy, and glam included. It’s possible that Alice may be one of my stops along the way. One wouldn’t expect Black Sabbath or KISS to be on a plate, so I was pleasantly surprised to hear that Arizona was helping a metalhead support kids. As for the design: Excellent legibility, and great colour choices. We get dark red fading to black, with white and yellow text, and a bitchin’ picture of Alice on the left side. I’d wear a shirt that looked like this, so yeah, I’d run the plate on my car.

(thrashes head) SCHOOOOOOOL’S… OUT… FO’.... EVVVAAHH!!!!

Want to vote? You can, if you're a member of ALPCA. Want to join? Visit their site today.

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