Bill's License Plates Family Historical Page:

British Columbia 1950 to Nova Scotia in 2021

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Last updated April 29, 2024

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My current license plate collection comes straight out of family history.  My father was a collector in British Columbia, beginning in the 1950's
 and some of the plates I still have today are remnants of his collection.  All of this began with our own family plates beginning in 1950,
first with the annual changeover with new numbers, and then with a low number plate that we had each year for several years, and then
later on my father had a vanity plate of his own, and of course I have had my plates as well.

 In this page you may see two spellings:  the Canadian "licence" and the American "license".   As a Canadian I try to maintain the traditional Canadian spellings for this and other things in life, but when it comes to the world of plate collecting, trading, buying and selling, it does seem necessary to use the American spelling simply to more easily allow for on-line searching.

A Family History Note

As far as I can recall my father started collecting licence plates in the same manner that many others did in "the olden days", by holding on to the plates removed from the family car when they were replaced each year, as was the common practise back then.  On arrival in Qualicum Beach, BC, from Scotland at the very end of 1947, with no driver's licence and no vehicle, it took a while for there to be a family car!   The first was I think in 1950. It was an old Studebaker, approximately a 1926 or so, but that did not last at all, and lay derelict at our rural homestead for years.  The first car of consequence was a Dodge Business Coupe, approximately a 1940, but perhaps a bit older.  This was also acquired in 1950 and fared much better than the Studebaker.  That car was used for a trip around down to Oregon and the interior of Washington, something that was unusual in those days, and certainly not something I recall my friends ever getting to do.  After that Dad moved on to a small dark green Austin, which was our car for a trip to San Francisco in 1953.  Next was a newer Austin, perhaps also an A-40.   That car was used in a 1958 trip to Los Angeles, including to Disneyland, at that time situated in the middle of orange groves!   That car not long afterwards disintegrated in Chilliwack, BC, and via the friendly fellow operating the repair shop we moved on to a 1956 Morris Oxford Traveller.  This was a woody in the real sense, as it actually did have wood strips on the body.   That was to be our vehicle through to the mid-60's and was the one on which both my sister and I learned to drive.  The first new car was the 1964 Rambler American 330 station wagon, which I also drove as a teenager.  By around 1960 my mother had obtained her drivers licence and had taken on ownership of a flower and gift shop, so then began the two-car family life.   She started with greenish Ford Consul, and after a collision moved on to a similar bluish one.   I drove both of these as well as the Rambler.  At the age of 16 or 17 I bought my first vehicle, a 1964 or 65 Honda 90 trail bike, which was street legal but really designed for travel on back trails and roads.   I spent a lot of time on the logging roads of Vancouver Island, most of the time on my own, and as I look back many years later I feel lucky that nothing happened to leave me stranded or worse in a place where no one could find me, in an era without cell phones.     All of these vehicles had licence plates.   For most of its life with us, the Morris Oxford had the 896 plate, which carried on to the Rambler.   I only have two 896's left in my possession, those being from 1963 (with a story attached) and from 1967.   It may be that one or two of the plates in my BC run could also have been family plates but without the appropriate photographs I am not sure.

As for the collecting of plates, one must remember that in those days licence plates were normally good for one year, then removed and replaced by the next year's plates, one on each end.  There was in North America some intermittent use of metal tabs to make a plate valid in the next year or two, or to have window stickers. In the time period I am speaking of, there was a plate for 1950, renewed with a tab for 1951.  Then there was a 1952 plate renewed with a tab in both 1953 and 1954  After that, through to 1969, there were entirely new plates each year.  This means that there were lots of plates removed and discarded, and in our case Dad started to tack them up on the garage wall, and I mean the outside of the garage.   We lived at the very end of a gravel road and while there was not a lot of traffic, the people who did come down the road, usually by mistake or to see what was there, would see the plates on the garage.  I do not know how this collection began to expand, but I am sure that my father's very significant collecting gene kicked in and somehow he began acquiring plates from other jurisdictions, and they appeared on the garage.   I would estimate this to be around 1958.     He was never a huge license plate collector, as it was just a collecting sideline for him, but he did over the years acquire a few very nice plates.   Strangely he did not acquire a BC run, which is too bad as it may have been much easier in those days, keeping in mind that 1938 was only twenty years back from 1958!   One thing he did do was acquire plates from issuing offices who took in out of province plates from newcomers who turned them in to get the BC plates they needed.   He also developed an "in" at the Esquimalt naval base and acquired over time many of the special N plates used by their vehicles, including several N1's used on the admiral's official car.    He also had a plate from Princess Elizabeth's car used on her 1951 trip to Vancouver Island.  This plate is now on loan to the Qualicum Beach Museum.    Later on Dad developed a friendship with Len Garrison, an outstanding licence plate collector who had runs of numbers, runs of years, runs of everything to do with BC licence plates.  They certainly traded back and forth, and I am fairly certain that many of Dad's N plates made the transition over to Len as time went on.   Following my father's decline and eventual passing in 1994 I acquired what was left of his licence plate collection.  I enjoy them very much, but had not done anythng with them until recently.  I am a keen observer of licence plates, and unusual numbers and letters immediately catch my eye, and of course I pick out out of province plates as a matter of course.    On quite a few occasions, driving down the huge parking lot lanes at DisneyWorld and similar places I have at least half my attention on the plates I am passing by!

As a point of interest regarding Qualicum Beach, you may or may not know that for many years BC licence plate #1 was issued to General Noel Money who was a business owner in this small village in the days prior to the Second World War.   I do not know the circumstances but he had #1 until it became reserved for official use.   I myself was born too late to see this plate in use.    As for other low number plates, I very often saw #16 around town, as it was throughout the 60's used by our family friend Charlie Darkis. and as far as I know at least one of his plates went into my father's collection annually.   The only other low number I recall around town in those days was #92, which was owned I think by a resident of nearby Parksville, so although I didnt see it every week, i did see it a few times each year.

As of 2021 I have decided to do two things with my plates.  One is to to what I always wanted to do, and that is to acquire a run of plain old BC passenger plates, which is what I should have done many years ago.   I had a few, including a chipped 1913 porcelain, but those in the 20's and 30's were in poor condition.   I have now decided that it will be sufficient in my advancing age to have a run from 1936 onwards.  1936 was the first year for plates that approximate the now-standard 6" by 12" North American plate.  BC reverted to longer plates in the 1952 to 54 series but since then has followed the 6 X 12 standard.    I have disposed of my older BC plates and passed the 1913 over to my sister.  With the special help of Ron Garay in Penticton, BC I have now assembled the set of plates from 1936, and have turned my attention mostly to Nova Scotia.

Below I am first going to show somen or our vehicles and plates from over the years, and a glimpse of Dad's collection that I had until recently but are now gone to good homes elsewhere.   While I was never a real collector, these plates all mean something to me, as I can recall them years ago coming into Dad's collection.   On other pages I am displaying my present collection which is in a state of development.

My father's first driver's licence, obtained at the age of 35. 
Up to then, and in his life in Scotland he had relied on walking, bicycle and transit,
but that was not going to work on rural Vancouver Island!

The first car was an old Studebaker that quickly broke down, and later that year he bought a less-old Dodge Business Coupe.  This did good service for a couple of years, and took us on our first
camping trip down into Washington and Oregon.

 





Here is our first car.  Talk about olden times.  This was a Studebaker
from the 1920's and this is our rustic home in the woods. This car
did not last long and was soon relegated to sit deteriorating
in the back yard, until it became valuable years later!  I do
wish I could see the licence plate on this car. 
The grassy looking area just to the right of the fence is the driveway, and farther
right just out of the photo is where the garage was located,
later the spot where the licence plates were displayed.







A photo showing the 1950 plate on the back of our second car, a Dodge coupe, and also showing
very well the Qualicum Beach topper that was passed along to our later cars for at least a decade.
And oh, that's me.    And isn't that a rugged looking trailer hitch.  I dont recall any mention or
remembrance of us actually having a trailer to attach to it!





Here is another photo from 1950, taken at my aunt and uncle's place, the Rosewell, on Qualicum Beach.   This must have
been taken a little later than the previous photo as the car now has an added backup light at the left.  This is me and my sister.

 

Myself in front of our Dodge Business Coupe,
with 1950 licence plate 41-052, with 1951 tab. No,
I do not have this plate, but it does appear on the wall in the photo just below.

 

My mother and sister in front of our new to us Austin A-40 Devon. These cars were made in England from late 1947 to 1951... what model year this car was I am not sure but most likely a 1950 or 1951, Note the 1952 plate, which I still have.  This car took our family of four to San Francisco in 1953.  Though was only five at the time, I still recall almost getting blown off the Golden Gate Bridge by the high winds in this small car. It had a cartop carrier with our tent, to help catch the wind. Note the QB topper that was first on the Dodge and then on the next few cars we had.   This photo was taken
in our back yard, near our orchard.

 

Myself and my uncle in front of our second Austin, a 1952 A-40 Somerset, somewhere on a road trip in Washington in 1957. 
Note the Qualicum Beach and BCAA toppers.  I don't have this 1957 plate either. 
It wasn't until 1958 that Dad started receiving the 896 plate annually. 
This is the car in which we went to Los Angeles the next year, in 1958. 

 

 

The 1952 base plate still in my own collection that was on the first Austin.  This plate (with a 1954 tab) can be seen in the 1957 photo below. The deterioration comes from the fact it was used for three years and as well held the QB  topper and perhaps also a BCAA topper. 

 

Here is our ramshackle garage with the beginnings of Dad's licence plate collection.  i would say that this is in early1957 as the latest BC plate showing is a 1956. This garage only occasionally had a vehicle in it, as it was usually filled with sawdust used in our kitchen stove.  Those were the old days for sure! And by the way, I guess this does prove that we did in fact get snow once in a while in Qualicum Beach!

I still have the Nassau Bahamas plate seen prominently in the middle, and one of the 71-427 BC 1952 base plates.  As of this year, 2021, my sister in BC has the 1913 BC that started it all.  The 1950 41-052 that was on our old Dodge has unfortunately disappeared.

 

BC 1913 plate that is seen in the photo above.  Not the greatest condition but it is a 1913, and, apart from holding on to plates off our own cars, this may well have been the inspiration to start collecting. Hard to even comprehend that when I first saw this is 1957 it was only 43 years old.   Now almost all the plates in my collection are at least 50 years old and this one is 108 years old!

Note that this plate has been sent to my sister in British Columbia,
and is no longer in my collection

 

 

I wish this was clearer.  This is myself driving our 1956 Morris Oxford Traveller on Long Beach on the west coast of Vancouver Island of all places.  That is the 1963 version of our standard 896 licence plate. 
At 15 years of age this was my first time to drive at any appreciable speed. Up to then I had only driven slowly around our own field at home.   Long Beach was ideal back then, as it had no one else on it, and it was (and is) 12 miles long!  This was long long before it became a national park, and even before there was a paved highway to reach the area.  This car was coming to the end of its life with us, to be replaced the next year soon after I received my licence.

 

 

Here I am in 1965 on my brand new Honda Trail 90 motorbike, in the middle of the Japanese motorcycle craze.   I took this bike along the maze of logging roads of Vancouver Island, but also used it to go to school, and even drove it across the US border on a little adventure while only 18 or 19 years old.   Much later I took this bike across the country on the back of our 1974 Plymouth Duster, and it sat unused and in disrepair for many years in our garage in Nova Scotia.  Eventually in the 90's it was donated to an interested person in Ontario, and maybe it is restored today, but who knows?
The big thing here of course is the licence plate display in the background.   This was out in the weather, which does account for the condition of some of my plates. This display was there for anyone happening upon our house at the very end of Fern Road to see.  I still have just a couple of these plates.  And yes, that is a 1961 N1 right behind my shoulder!

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE SAGA OF THE 896's

Commencing in I think 1958, or possibly 1959, Dad signed up for a low number plate.  These were "a thing" in British Columbia from at least the 1930's up to the introduction of the alphanumeric plates in 1970.  Over time there were more and more people trying to obtain these 1, 2 and 3 digit plates, and the norm was that if you got a certain number it was yours again the next year, unless you did not re-apply.  Naturally the most sought-after was #1, and this was on a vehicle in my little home town of Qualicum Beach, but back before I was born.  Later on the #1 was not available, with #2 being the lowest one out there.  I am not sure whether Dad applied and randomly obtained 896, or indeed if it had ever been issued before he began receiving it each year. 

Dad would have held on to the plates taken off the car each year, so in theory I should have at least a decade of annual pairs, but the fact is, as I began 2021 I only had one single plate, that being a 1967.  What happened to all the rest of them I have no idea, but in my inheritance of his plates in 1993 they were not present. But there is more to the story,,, first though some photos featuring the 896 plates:

896, Our Family Plate Number in the late 50's to 1969

With the introduction of Alphanumeric (AAA-000) plates in 1970, low number plates like this came to an end.

This is not an 896 plate but turn it upside down and see what you get!

In 1968 the Morris Oxford had been gone for four years and the 1964 Rambler American station wagon was the main vehicle.   The blue 1954 Ford Consul was my mother's car, having replaced a similar greenish one.   I cannot explain how it was possible that our 1964 Rambler has the 1967 896 and the older Consul has the 1968 896 plate.

Now for the rest of the story

 
In March of 2021 had the idea that maybe I could locate one or more of the missing 896's.  Such low number plates would likely be in collections somewhere.  I asked on-line at the Canadian License Plate Collectors Facebook page if anyone had one of these, 
I had one response, from Dave Rollins, in Harrison Hot Springs, BC who said he had the pair
of 1963's, the very plate shown on our 1956 Morris Oxford with me driving on Long Beach!  These were in poor condition, but receiving no other responses I purchased them from Dave, and here they are below, with most of the rust removed, but still in only fair condition.  Dave had had them for a few years but has no idea of where they had been previously.  To me it is more than surprising how bad a shape they are in. Dave thought that perhaps the ocean salt had got at them, but keep in mind these were only on the vehicle for one year.   My only speculation is that they were mounted outside by my father and were there from 1964 to when they moved around 1972, but even that seems unlikely as he had several years of 896 and was not likely to mount pairs.  I certainly do not recall pairs of 896's on the wall of the shed.  Anyway it is a mystery.  The main thing is, it is wonderful to regain these plates

Here is the pair with most of the rust removed.   As of 2021 one of these resides with my sister in BC, as she also drove our car with these plates, and the other remains here in my collection.

 

 

 

AFTER THE 896'S

Immediately after the all-numerical plates, including the reserved low numbers, were discontinued in B.C. there
there were a few years of plain old, plain old, up to 1979, then came the next chapter.

Here are three family vehicles in the period of time after the 896 and all other numerical plates were discontinued,
and before my father obtained his vanity plate.

In 1972 I was in the navy and this was taken during a short visit home.   The main family car back home was a white 1970 Chevy II Nova. 
In the middle is my recently-acquired 1971 Capri.  Both of these cars seem to have A series plates, indicative of Victoria issues.  On the right is the 1967 Vauxhall Viva that had been mine but was at this point passed over to my mother to replace her old Consul.   This car has the KHH-411 plates I had obtained from Trail via some friends there.   I had gone to that trouble back in 1969 so that I would have unusual plates for where I was living, in Victoria.  When this photo was taken in 1972 the Viva had not long before taken me across the country to Quebec, and back again in the middle of winter by myself.  The Capri in the very latest days of this year would take me even farther all the way to Halifax, where I was destined to permanently live. 
Note the plates still on display in the background. This was the final months of my parents living here in the woods at the end of Fern Road.  Soon they would be off to a new home nearer the centre of Qualicum Beach, and that would be the end of the outdoor plate display.  After they moved in or around 1972 Dad definitely did not have any licence plate display at the new house, and I have no idea what he did with his plates, other than those I received on his passing in 1993.   I am assuming that many were traded or sold away as he would have at least maintained a friendship with the premier collector of the day, Len Garrison.  So it is possible that the 896's went to Len, and from his collection dispersed out to others when he himself passed.

Meanwhile, in the late 70's, along came vanity plates.........


In December 1979 personalized ("vanity") plates were introduced in British Columbia.  Dad was one of the early partakers of this modern phenomenon,    He and my mother were the two Scots, and they had this plate on their vehicles for the remainder of their driving lives.   This pair of plates now is with my sister in BC

 

Post-script to the story...    I brought 200 or so plates to Nova Scotia, or they were shipped. I cannot recall, and they sat in file boxes for almost 20 years.
I looked at them from time to time, and recognized that some were valuable, some not so much.   But in late 2020, and assessing clutter, and also assessing the time
lying ahead for me, I decided to begin "getting rid" of some things around the house, including the plates.
 
I found on Facebook the Canadian License Plate Collectors group and joined.  My first step was to post a comment with my circumstances, and quite a few comments came back, with offers to help or buy.   I did get an email however, from one collector in BC who tookthe time to say more and come across immediately as a sincere and helpful hand... this was and is Ron Garay from Penticton.
 
In the middle of some preliminary dealings with Ron, he inadvertently inspired me to retain my partial BC run and build on it, which he has helped me do, and from there go on to build a Nova Scotia run, which I am doing now, and as well collect a few more plates...  but still intending to sell others ....  that is where I stand right now...

 

 
Our family keytags.  All of these are family plates.

SELECTED PLATES FROM DAD'S COLLECTION THAT HAVE GONE TO OTHER COLLECTORS
 

As mentioned elsewhere, I myself had inherited the remains of Dad's collection when he passed in mid 1990's.  These plates sat in boxes until
I took up the collecting bug in late 2019.   While I enjoyed all the plates, I zeroed in on just a few specialties, and
therefore have put others up for sale or trade.   Those that remain are shown in the page "Other Plates".  Below are some
of the plates that were in his collection but disposed by me to other collectors.  Some of these I have seen come up on FB groups more
than once, as they have in turn gone on to others.   Every time I see them I have a bit of regret, not only that I got rid of them
in the first place, but also in the thought that with every change of hands the value has increased beyond what I sold them for!