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1912 ‘REO’ plates were mounted to a Ransom E. Olds car on what was the first trans-Canada automobile crossing. The trip followed the “All-Red Route”, which was entirely contained within Canada’s borders.

From 1912 to 1920 Ontario’s plates were made of flat metal and didn’t feature any embossed characters. Instead, the plate numbers, year and provincial crest were silk-screened onto the plates. From 1912 to 1916 they had a wire rim to increase rigidity, then in 1917 the province likely switched suppliers and went to a heavier gauge metal plate without a wire rim.

Unlike passenger plates, dealer plates had a unique plate number sequence in order to differentiate them from regular plates. As a hold over from the way dealer plates were issued from 1903 to 1911, dealers in 1912 were able to choose a letter-based plate combination of their liking. These were often initials of the car company, a sole proprietor or dealership. In 1913 the province switched the numbering pattern to an “M” prefix followed by a sequential number. With registrations skyrocketing the province likely found the previous system too onerous and administrative. The “M” prefix was chosen to represent a dual meaning – “Merchant” and “Manufacturer”.

Numbering started at M1 and no more than four digits were required as dealer registrations were very low compared to regular passenger plates. In any given year, no more than approximately 2,700 pairs were made annually (ie: M1 to M2700) as evidenced by the 1918 survivors.

1912 Plates Known: 0

1912 ‘WWK’ dealer plate. The origins of the initials are not known at this time.

At this time, no 1912 dealer plates are known to have survived. Both the ‘REO’ and ‘WWK’ plates pictured above are the only archival evidence found to date. Additionally, a list of permits registration book has not yet been found for 1912, therefore the origins of the ‘WWK’ plate are unknown.

1913 Plates Known: 0

Premier J. P. Whitney takes delivery of his automobile, 1913

Similar to above, no 1913 dealer plates have been found thus far. Until very recently it was unknown what year the “M” prefix began as no photo evidence or plate had surfaced. The photo above was found in 2019 and now demonstrates that the ‘M’ series started in 1913.

1914 Plates Known: 3

YearPlate NumberOwnershipDetailsPicture
1914M516Dave Steckley CollectionImage courtesy of Dave Steckley
1914M657Eric Vettoretti CollectionLikely registered to an Overland Motors dealership in Listowel, Ontario.
1914M657Jon Upton CollectionLikely registered to an Overland Motors dealership in Listowel, Ontario.
Gentlemen on the left (in truck) is Horace Harpham, owner of Harpham Bros. (truck and tire dealer) and importer of Commercial trucks. Toronto, 1914.

1915 Plates Known: 2

YearPlate NumberOwnershipDetailsPicture
1915M480Unknown Private CollectionPictured, page 32 Ontario License Plates – A Century of History by (Sallmen)
1915M809Patterson Family CollectionImage courtesy of Eric Taylor.
1915, McLaughlin Automobile, Oshawa.

1916 Plates Known: 4

YearPlate NumberOwnershipDetailsPicture
1916M790Dave Steckley CollectionImage courtesy of Dave Steckley
1916M1036Eric Vettoretti Collection
1916M1330Unknown Private CollectionImage courtesy of Shackleton Auctions. Sold in 2017 for $400.
1916M1551Patterson Family CollectionPictured, page 32 Ontario License Plates – A Century of History by (Sallmen)

1917 Plates Known: 3

YearPlate NumberOwnershipDetailsPicture
1917M725Joe Sallmen CollectionImage courtesy of Joe Sallmen
1917M817Unknown Private CollectionPictured, page 32 Ontario License Plates – A Century of History by (Sallmen)
1917M994Dave Steckley CollectionImage courtesy of Dave Steckley

1918 Plates Known: 8

Beginning in 1918 the word “DEALER” was added to the top of the plates. As a result, the plate numbers were much shorter to accommodate the heading.

YearPlate NumberOwnershipDetailsPicture
1918M190Eric Taylor CollectionImage courtesy of Eric Taylor. Also pictured, page 32 Ontario License Plates – A Century of History by (Sallmen).
1918M190Dave Steckley CollectionImage courtesy of Dave Steckley
1918M775Unknown Private CollectionImage courtesy of Worthpoint. Sold on ebay April, 2012.
1918M775Unknown Private CollectionImage courtesy of Worthpoint. Sold on ebay May, 2018.
1918M2374Eric Vettoretti Collection
1918M2374For sale at Picker's End flea market in Barrie, March 2020Image courtesy of Kijiji.
1918M2687Unknown Private CollectionImage courtesy of Worthpoint. Sold on ebay June, 2011.
1918M2689Unknown Private CollectionImage courtesy of Worthpoint. Sold on ebay July, 2013.
1918, McLaughlin Automobile

1919 Plates Known: 2

YearPlate NumberOwnershipDetailsPicture
1919M303Dave Steckley CollectionImage courtesy of Dave Steckley
1919M774Unknown Private CollectionImage courtesy of ebay. Sold September, 2019.

1920 Plates Known: 1

YearPlate NumberOwnershipDetailsPicture
1920M1077Unknown Private CollectionPictured, page 32 Ontario License Plates – A Century of History by (Sallmen).
New truck delivered, University of Toronto, 1920.