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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.

Landing in Lansing

The 2024 ALPCA Convention in Lansing was less of a convention for me, and more of a mission… a quartet of missions, actually. But square in my way was the “June Curse”, in that I was only able to join in the fun starting on the third day. I teach in a public school for a living, and the last day of school was Thursday, and my employer is very strict on last-day attendance. I simply can’t leave until I’m released. Luckily, Lansing is close enough to home that I could still make the trip to complete my missions. My luck is about to change, as well: The Conventions for the following three years are scheduled for July, which means I’ll be able to attend consecutive events for the first time in 21 years.

Left: Southward view of Essex County and Point Pelee, from my flight to Lansing. Centre: The immaculate Michigan State Capitol. Right: Signage welcoming ALPCA to Lansing.

Flying to Lansing wasn’t without its hiccups. My flight was diverted to Syracuse because of a minor incident in Newark. We were parked there for about 90 minutes while things were sorted out. Newark reopened, and we headed there as planned. All flights in and out were delayed, so I was still able to make my connection, even though I got to the gate well after our scheduled time. All told, I arrived in Lansing nearly three hours late, and much too late to get dinner anywhere. I was lucky to get a lift from Eric Vettoretti, who happened to have some extra pizza and beer on-hand at the hotel.

Eric and I arrived at the Convention hall a little before 9 am, so I could check in without missing a second of trading time. We ran into Dave Steckley and Don Goodfellow in the lobby. We exchanged pleasantries and then we exchanged some plates before the hall opened! Dave had acquired some interesting low-numbered stuff from a collector in Windsor. I took a low-numbered dual-purpose for my collection.

I picked up my badge and shirt from Scott Mitchell and headed into the hall. It’s always such an overwhelming experience, even with Lansing being my eleventh Convention. I wasn’t sure where to start, because there’s not really a beginning or end. There are displays to see, trade boxes to root through, old friends to greet, and—as I mentioned earlier—missions to accomplish. So I started wandering around randomly, and just took things as they came for the next eight hours. To make for easier writing and reading, I’ll describe my day categorically, rather than chronologically.



Eric Vettoretti, who made a voluntary two-hour return trip to bring me from the airport, assembled a really cool Ontario display called “Dealer’s Choice” with examples of very hard-to-find auto, truck and motorcycle dealer plates from 1911 to present. No one yet has a complete run of them. Eric documented the manufacture and serial progression through the years to provide a fairly complete summary. Maybe one day he’ll complete the run! He won a first-place award for his efforts. Congrats!

Eric Tanner had an interesting display of “number one” plates from various US states through the years. Many of his plates were once used by a state Governor, and his display included their official portraits, and even a "here you go" letter on Florida state stationery to the lucky collector who wrote to ask for the Governor's previous year’s number-one plate.

The “Favorite Plate” voting also happened on Friday. One club member displayed the very first 1967 Ontario plate, number 1000, which presumably went to the Premier. I very nearly voted for that one, but I was swayed by a Mexican porcelain plate 666 from Baja California, a couple of single-digit porcelains from New Jersey, and a 1934 Michigan farm producer plate where the owner had to write their name and address in a blank spot at the top! I set aside my Ontario bias and voted for the ‘34 Michigan.

I had seen a picture posted a couple of days earlier of a huge display of 1938 Michigan plate types. It was the first display I saw after entering the hall. It really spoke to me, because I’ve been trying in vain to collect Ontario type sets from that era. It’s really difficult. Ontario didn’t have nearly as many types as Michigan did in 1938, and this display was complete and well-documented, with cars, trucks, dealers, courtesy numbers, dealers, state-owned vehicles, cargo permits, and on and on. This is the kind of type collection to which I aspire. Michigan was well-represented with other displays, including a bicentennial ‘76 type set, and another jaw-dropper featuring the various leather formats of the pre-state era prior to 1910.

This 1938 display by Arizona Jim Carden was the "Best of Show" winner. It was displayed horizontally, but if I did that on this page, the panels would be the size of postage stamps.


Impressive 1976 Michigan type set by Mike Weiner.


Michigan pre-state display from Rick Morrison. The "4662" pair on the left is actually painted on the rear side of an Ontario rubber pair circa 1907; Martine Stonehouse originally noticed this. Eric is now on the case to add the Ontario sides to his Ontario plate registry site.


New Finds

There were about 20 Canadians at the meet, and not all had tables, so there wasn’t a lot to find in terms of items for my Ontario runs. I didn’t come away empty-handed, though. I added a ‘33 motorcycle to my slowly-expanding cycle run. I have long needed a better 1957 truck for my commercial run, and I found one in really clean condition. I also picked up a ‘51 trailer as an upgrader. The trailer plate was actually the very last thing I bought at the Convention. John Anshant was packing up late Saturday morning, and he was just about to take his Ontario boxes to the truck when I caught him. He gave me a sweet deal, since he was moving out and couldn’t make change. Sometimes non-passenger plates are the best finds at a Convention, since Ontario’s off-types are mostly similar to its passenger issues, and most American collectors just lump all the Ontario types together.


I did make a $2 find that's big in my world, but no one else’s: A 1973 passenger plate from the AOZ series. As a very young kid in Sault Ste. Marie, most of the plates I saw started with F. That made sense, because the Soo’s 1973 allotment ran from FSL to FTR. But as a kid, I remember seeing AOZ regularly. We were at the beach once, and two cars with AOZ were parked close to us. I always wondered why I kept seeing them. It doesn’t make sense that AOZ would have been Soo-issued, and I began to doubt my memory. But just last week in Lansing, I found an AOZ plate. I looked on the back, to see if maybe it had been written on by the late Ernie Wilson, a Soo resident and my hobby mentor. There was his unmistakable club number and writing: “361 - Issued locally?” And so, Ernie came through for me, 22 years after his passing, by leaving a clue that confirms that I was remembering my earliest plate sightings correctly. Even he didn’t know for sure if AOZ was a true Soo issue, but it looks like he kept seeing them around town, too.


Those who know me, know that I’m an Ontario specialist and I tend not to collect much from other provinces. I collect even fewer from the US. But Lansing was a great place to hold some interesting state issues in my hands, thereby influencing me to buy them, if only to “flesh out” my collection with a few other interesting things. I love the colours on the 1954 Michigan plates. The gold-on-navy just speaks to me. I had seen the second-place display awards featuring these gorgeous plates, and I decided to hunt one down. I picked one at Chuck Sakryd's table, starting with JH, which are the letters that start my and my wife’s first names. I learned later that JH is the county code for Kalamazoo.


I have always enjoyed older Wyoming plates featuring the cowboy riding the bronco. I like the longer plates from the 1940s for their colours, and for the fact that the state name is spelled out in full, and not abbreviated. I found a seller with a great selection of Wyoming plates of this era, where I could optimize between colour, condition, and numbers. I settled on a 1939. I haven’t been to Wyoming yet, and I’m not planning on starting a run. But I now have a great representative example.


I’m similarly enamoured with Tennessee state-shape plates. I stopped by Jack and Betsy Wedekind’s table and pawed through some beautiful examples. They schooled me on county codes and college colours that were used for some years, particularly the orange 1951 issue. I do like the longer ones from the late 1930s, but after optimizing for colour, condition, and number, I picked 1954 and 1955.

My other significant US purchase actually came from a Canadian: It was none other than my longtime friend Dave Steckley. He had acquired a number of older Arizona plates, including my favourite, the 1934 copper issue with its patent number stamped into the border. I already have one of those, dating from my first year as an ALPCA member. Back in ‘95, my welcome package included a postcard with a picture of a ‘34 Arizona. I had never heard of plates being made of copper, or having debossed numbers, or having a patent number. My uncle lived in Arizona, and I had been planning to visit for some time, so I resolved to get a ‘34 Arizona for my collection. Trouble was, I was making $7 an hour at my student job, and I had to live on those earnings, which left precious little for plates. I located a cheap '34 in need of restoration, through an ALPCA Newsletter ad. It came to me with no paint left, dents everywhere, and a layer of black tarnish. I hammered the plate to straighten it out as best I could, polished away the tarnish, and repainted it using my best guess as to the colour (I learned later I went a bit too dark). The plate seemed custom-made for me: Number UP81, the two letters of my last name, and the number of a nearby highway that I liked to take while looking for plates in the wild. But I’m left with a dilemma: Do I sell my repainted downgrader, with my initials, that I’ve had for almost 30 years? Well, that’s a problem for another day.


I’ve been collecting tri-colour Yukon plates from the 1950s and early 60s. I wanted a green 1955, with white numbers and the prospector painted in black. I found a repaint—simply amazing work—but it was priced as though the paint was original. One seller at the back of the hall had an original one, but apparently it sold before I arrived. So I’m still looking for a 1955 Yukon. And no matter what I'm still looking for, there are always lots of eye-catching plates at an ALPCA Convention that I leave for the next guy. Here are just a few:

Top left: A great old pair of '49 Inaugurals. I considered buying them for a little while, but decided to spread my eggs among more baskets. Top right: Italian plates of various eras. By the time I got there, a friend had already made a purchase from this table, but we'd soon catch up.

Bottom left: 1928 Newfoundland plate at Jeff Francis' 25% off sale.

Bottom right: Two great Yukon plates at Jim Estrup's table.


Top left: Eric visits Jim Estrup's table.

Top right: Andrew Turnbull shows his new favourite international plates: A matching pair from Catania, Italy.

Bottom left: Frank Crooks with his new-to-him Yukon plate. 1701 isn't just the hull registry of the Starship Enterprise, but it’s also Frank’s ALPCA membership number. I played a role in uniting plate with owner, by spotting it at John Anshant's table.

Bottom right: Joe Sallmen and Brent Kirchner dig at Jeff Francis' table, while Paul waits his turn.


Old Friends

Midway through Friday, someone grabbed the public address microphone to call the Canadian attendees to the lobby for a picture. A few of us were busy trading and either didn't hear, or couldn't get there in time, but there were sixteen of us in the photo. Well, make that sixteen plus one, because Chuck Sakryd couldn't resist photobombing us. But he supports our Ontario meets all the time, so we'll allow it!

As much as I love going to Acton and Grimsby, my multi-hour trip home leaves little time for socializing. The great thing about a multi-day ALPCA Convention is that there’s plenty of time to hang out with people, especially after-hours. I had originally thought about getting people to go to a Lansing Lugnuts baseball game (the stadium was next-door and first-pitch was just past 7 o’clock), but the rainy weather put a kibosh on those plans. Instead, I went to dinner with Eric, Don Goodfellow and Paul Frater, and we did the donation auction afterward.

No one planned on buying anything, but I got a paddle anyway, because you just never know. The graphic plates on the donation board don’t really interest me, but sometimes there will be a goodie in the pile on the table. This time, that goodie was a copy of Jim Fox’s much-sought-after book, “License Plates of the United States - A Pictorial History 1903 to the Present.” I didn’t already own a copy of that book, now long out-of-print, so I started bidding. I’ve seen copies of it sell for north of $100 US, so I was pleasantly surprised when the gavel fell, leaving me the high bidder at $70.

I flipped the book open, and was surprised again to find that this copy had belonged to the late former ALPCA President Dale Blewett, who passed away the previous winter. It was signed to Dale by Jim Fox back in 1994, and then signed again by Jim in 2024. Very cool! With that purchase, I was the unexpected custodian of three Jim Fox signatures. Where’s the third, you ask? Keep reading.

Sam Mazmanian was volunteering as a runner, and asked me to get a few pictures. I was happy to oblige. The previous time I attended a Convention was in 2018, and I had my young son in tow. I was busy looking out for him while he volunteered as a runner. But this time, I was just sitting in the back with my buddies Don, Paul, and Eric, and we were still feeling the effects of our drinks from dinner. It was then that we noted the cash bar at the rear of the auction hall. I didn’t recall if there was ever such a thing in previous years. We looked at the menu, and found Long Islands, which were my go-to drinks when I lived in Maryland a quarter-century before. “This calls for a drink!” said Paul, and the first round was on him. I got the second round, and then went solo for the third, during an ensuing hour of silliness. It’s a good thing they had a loud mic at the podium!

Joe Sallmen loads up on traders at every ALPCA auction I’ve witnessed. He had only two stacks of plates around him this time, which was a bit more restrained than I’ve seen in past years. Mike Naughton loves to egg him on from the podium, spurring chants of “Joe! Joe! Joe!” from the crowd, until he raises his paddle for his next bid. While it's easy to grin at the growing pile of plates at Joe's feet, it's important to realize that his kind of enthusiasm is really helpful to the club during its annual fundraiser. The donation auction is a great time overall, whether you're buying, volunteering, or just knocking back some Long Islands.

Chuck Sakryd seems to have grown a third arm while he holds up the current lot (not an A.I. picture, I swear). Mike Naughton leads the bidding while Rich Dragon, Scott Mitchell, and Andrew Pang keep the numbers straight. Off in the distance is Sam Mazmanian, waiting to do his next run.


Joe continues to bid through the evening, giving Rich, Scott and Andrew more to tabulate.



My only “big” day in the trading hall was Friday, and I had four goals to accomplish. Eight hours would seem to be enough, but time never seems to go faster than when you’re an ALPCAn at a Convention.

1. Bears

The first of my goals was to help out an elderly collector who lives in Muskoka. He is putting together a display, and I agreed to find him two single NWT bear plates from either 1970 or 1972. They couldn’t be mates of a matching pair, and if possible, they needed to be passenger plates, which are all-numeric. So I started the hunt for blue bears. They’re surprisingly expensive these days. I remember when I joined the club in 1995, I bought a 1970 bear for just under $50 mailed. Now, it’s double that, if you’re lucky. I found a really nice 1970 from my old friend Andrew Pang. He was able to cut a little from the asking price. I also found a 1972 at a table at the opposite end of the hall, so that was my first mission accomplished.

2. Selfie

Last summer, I replied to Jim Fox’s request for “Funk 49” themed vanity plates, so he can make a display of plates as a tribute to one of the best-known songs from his days playing in the James Gang. I ordered a set from Ontario, split them with Jim, and asked him to autograph the one I’d be getting. He mentioned that he’d be in Lansing the next summer. So just for fun, I brought my signed half of the “FUNKY 49” pair, and tracked Jim down to say hello and pose for a selfie. I loved his “these are difficult times” shirt. Jim says that he’s down to only two missing states before the run is complete. One state (Alabama?) is overthinking the matter because they don’t normally issue vanity plates with the letters F U appearing in sequence. The other state is similarly dragging its heels. I hope Jim gets his run finished. Now that would be a completed mission!

3. Boxes

I bought 500 flat plate boxes from Keith Murphy in the spring because Thomas Zimmermann had a way to get them transported back to Ontario. Unfortunately, there was a change in plans further down the chain (no one’s fault) and my boxes were stranded in Alberta. Keith kindly arranged to hand-off those boxes to Brent Kirchner, who was making the trip to Lansing by road. I presumed that Brent might be driving in a truck or SUV, but he somehow made the trip in a small hatchback, while sleeping in it overnight! I don’t know how he managed, but I’m even more floored at the kindness of the gesture; Brent and I didn’t really know each other previously. Although I flew to the Convention, I would be driving home with Eric, and luckily he had enough room in his car for the stacks of boxes. I was ready to help make the transfer, but Eric and Brent met up in the parking garage to do it themselves, to give me more time in the hall during my only full day on the premises.

4. Dave

My main reason for going to Lansing was to pay tribute to Dave Steckley. I had been nominating him to be inducted into the ALPCA Hall of Fame for the past three years, and my efforts hadn’t gained much traction. Norm Ratcliffe, himself a member of the HOF, also felt that Dave should be awarded his rightful place there. So last winter, Norm and I wrote separate letters in support of Dave’s nomination, and we sent it to all the voting committee members. Writing the letter wasn’t easy. I had too much to share about Dave’s support of ALPCA and the hobby, and I had to whittle it down to a more easily-digestible statement. There’s an online acronym, TLDR, which is short for “too long, didn’t read,” and I certainly didn’t want my statement to suffer that fate.

Normy at his table, talking with me about Dave, and posing with a bullet-riddled plate.

Normy and I were told in February that Dave had been chosen for induction, which meant that the subterfuge was on! Dave’s upcoming ceremony would be a closely-guarded secret, while Justin Mattes gathered info for Dave’s biography. Of course, Dave’s wife Evelyn was informed, since she was the source of some important biographical information. The only non-committee people to be in on the secret were Xavier Dubé, Norm, and myself. We three were tasked with writing brief introductory remarks for Dave’s ceremony: Myself as a longtime nominator, Xavier as co-host of Dave’s Acton swap meet for a few years, and Norm as the HOF member who was inducted by Dave two years before.

Through the spring of 2024, I firmed up my plans to be in Lansing. Dave got wind of the fact that I was flying there from Ottawa, and he was incredulous to hear my chosen mode of transportation. I had a good reason, if only he knew! I was also running for ALPCA office for the first time in 20 years, and there was a chance that, if elected, I could partake in the ceremony as Director. I didn’t win the election, but in the end, Norm choreographed a ceremony where he, Xav and I were able to articulate our respective tributes.

Dave was very moved, and true to his modest self, he later told me he didn’t realize this was about him (as opposed to late member John Rubick) until Norm mentioned that “our new inductee” had joined the club in 1972. Imagine that… 1972. Norm was five years old, I was being planned, and Xav wasn’t even a twinkle in anyone’s eye yet. Yet we are all close friends of Dave. Age only matters for the plates themselves. It doesn’t matter between the friends who collect them.

Dave had many thoughts during his acceptance address. He recalled the first ALPCA National he attended (1973 in Ottawa), he thanked Evelyn for her support of his collecting endeavours, and he joked that he still didn’t have a 1949 Ontario dual-purpose X plate to complete his run. But most profoundly, Dave said this:

“Have a hobby, but above all, be passionate about it.”

Dave’s passion for his plate hobby is evident to all who have ever met him, attended a meet in Acton, or been his friend. Dave doesn’t seek the limelight himself, and is very quick to pass credit along to others. I’m elated that Dave has now been recognized for all he continues to do. Although, we’ll have to get his HOF pic changed to match the actual year ('72) that he joined the club.

That sums up my Convention, and now Dave knows why I would fly in late to attend for only a day-and-a-half. It's something I couldn't miss. Congratulations, Dave!

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