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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.

Y-O-Endgame

I’m retiring! But not from teaching– I have about seven years to go yet. And not from collecting plates– I could never willingly give that up. But I am retiring from the YOM business, presently known as “Ontplates dot com,” that I’ve been running for the last two decades.




I first sold YOM pairs from a "YOM" sub-page of The Back Bumper. I later registered Ontplates.com and redirected it to that same sub-page before building a dedicated second site exclusively for YOM sales.

 

It started as a business model in 2003 to make my plate-collecting hobby self-funding. The Ontario YOM program had been started two years before, and there was a modest demand to fill. So I started checking numbers and reselling them if they were clear. Then I started restoring for that purpose, promoting it online, and it gradually snowballed to the pretend juggernaut that it is today.




Evolution of logo concepts. I launched the new site several months before settling on an idea. The familiar rectangle logo was bold, simple, and retro, but the first draft was red. I changed the colour scheme to blue and toned down the yellows. A couple of years ago, I dropped the "Complete Your Classic" from the logo, since it was illegible most of the time.

 


Early logo-less promo poster for community bulletin boards.

The basic truth is that I’m tired of it. I’m tired of sanding, spraying, and painting. I’m tired of defending the web site against spammers, and tracking finance numbers for tax purposes. 


Late-evening restoration, which used to be a multi-hour, near-nightly ritual, is more difficult because I sleep poorly now, and I need more time in bed than previously. I’m too tired to be in the garage past ten o’clock each night. But now, it’s more than mere fatigue: The “drive” to restore plates is lacking. I was once itchy to get to work, but that is no longer the case. Plates often sit in the box because I just don’t feel like painting anything. It feels more like a chore, and a burden of tradition, than a pastime.


Did I mention the costs? Good grief, the costs. The price of paint has literally doubled since 2020; an $8 can of Tremclad spray paint is now $16. The fees to host the web site have climbed; I’ve had to sign on to a couple of back-up and security services to keep bots from exploiting vulnerable scripts and inserting “pharma” garbage into the front page. 


Social media promo shot, circa 2014.

Shipping fees have jumped as well; what used to cost $14 to send tracked is now around $20. I used to absorb that cost in my pricing, but I had to stop. I’ve played with increasing my own prices here and there, but things don’t sell briskly enough for that to be a viable option. The business does make a profit, but it’s become smaller for the past five years running. Costs are up, and so revenues are down. I cleared $2400 last year after expenses. That ain’t no jackpot. Consider the countless hours I spend spaying and painting, answering mail and updating the website: I made more money with less effort when I started working at McDonald’s as a teen in the 1980s. Running Ontplates.com as a business is no longer worth the effort. People look at the slick logo and the well-designed web site, and they incorrectly assume that I’m raking in the money with a talented team in my employ. Not so. I do it all because I can’t afford any hired guns. 


The easy answer to rising internal costs might be “raise your prices.” I’ve stuck to the same basic pricing structure, but even so, overall sales are significantly down. Last year, they dropped nearly 30% from previous, and have been declining for the past three fiscal years. So I can’t raise my prices, or I’ll sell even less, and possibly not emerge from the red at all. Not good.


My 2016 pull-off promo calendar. Mostly for my own enjoyment.

I do have one thing that’s valuable, though: The Ontplates.com brand. I’ve been advertising in Old Autos for over a decade, with the logo featuring prominently in the business directory of every issue. The brand has recognition. I briefly considered selling it as part of retiring, but it’s a flexible enough name to keep for hobby purposes. People find me because of the name, and I’ve added some cool stuff to my collection as a result. So I’m going to keep the name and rebrand The Back Bumper with it after I finish being a YOM supplier. “The Back Bumper” is a clever name, I guess, but it doesn’t have the same reach as “Ontplates,” which is much more to-the-point.


I don’t want to “shock” my past clients by just disappearing into the night unannounced. I’ve been selling plates with a six-month guarantee of registrability, and that guarantee needs to be honoured. I have some unfinished pairs that still need restoring, so I decided to spend 2024 ramping down: I’ll finish restoring anything that’s started but not completed. That way, when 2024 ends, everything I have will be either fully restored (saleable to the YOM demographic) or all-original (saleable to the collecting demographic). And I’m being as transparent as possible about my intentions to retire. I’ll stop selling guaranteed pairs at the end of 2024, and then liquidate on an as-is basis, and then close the doors six months later when the last of the remaining guarantees expire.


"Greatest Hits" promo poster. I stuck with this design.

Lots of people in the collecting world know that Eric Vettoretti runs his own separate business with much the same model as mine. Long ago, we decided against associating our respective businesses online, just for simplicity’s sake. But we cooperate in the background all the time. We go on plate-hunting trips together, and divide everything we find. Some of you might ask, “What does Eric think about this?” Well, he’s the first person I told. He understands the reasoning behind my wanting to quit. I'll have to drop some prices eventually when I reach the liquidation stage. I’m sure I’ll have unused stock left over at the end, and no doubt we’ll work something out.


I’ve had no second thoughts since changing course toward retirement two months ago. I’ve had to commit to a few irrevocable actions to get started, the biggest of which was changing my Old Autos business directory ad to say “RETIRING.” Once that went to press, it was the point of no return. The fact that I have an endgame planned gives me great comfort. It’s a relief that it’s coming to an end on my own terms. 22 years of restoring YOM licence plates has been more of a labour of love than a money-making venture. And I’ve had a lot of fun with it over the years. But now, it’s merely a labour, plain and simple. It’s time to pack it in before the cost of paint brings my profit margin even lower. Or worse.



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Dave Steckley
Dave Steckley
Feb 11

Sorry if this is a repeat comment from a prior attempt: great article and for me I have no regrets about not having become a competitor to you and Eric lol! It was a good deal for me and I had fun doing it finding YOMable plates and dealing them over to you. This will be like a 'dry' run at retirement for you before the real thing happens with the teaching career. The hobby will be a big part of the scene then I would expect!

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