Sunday, July 14, 2024

Remembering his father one license plate at a time

By: Ryanne McIsaac

Since buying his first license plate in June 2009, this CNA employee has started a long journey down the road of collecting.

Brian Hicks, Business Development Officer at the Prince Philip Drive campus in St. John’s, has amassed more than 380 license plates from all over the world.

“Collecting becomes a passion, there is the thrill of the hunt — looking for something that you need for your collection and then the excitement you feel when you find it,” he explained.

His oldest piece is an Ontario license plate from 1923, and his collection continues to grow with a little help from his friends.

“It is a combination of donations from family, friends, Facebook friends, co-workers, acquaintances, and people I have never met but know that I collect plates,” he said. “I also visit antique shops across this province and across Canada and the States. I have bought some at scrap yards, yard sales, flea markets, and on-line.”

With plates spread throughout his shed, home and office, Hicks says the online community has been a huge help growing his collection.

“I am a member of a couple of online license plate groups, including Canada License Plate Collectors and Newfoundland License Plates, where collectors share information about plates and buy, sell, and trade plates,” he added. “They also organize meets, where members will gather to sell, buy or trade plates in person. There is also a Secret Santa with members during Christmas where we exchange plates with other members.”

In pursuit of plates

Originally from Corner Brook, Hicks says his hobby is a way of honouring his father’s memory after finding his small collection after he passed away.

“While I was going through his shed, I found the licence plates in a box and decided to bring them home where I stored them away. I found them and decided to hang them up along with some other items of my dads in his memory,” he noted. “The collection started to grow after a visit to Florida a few months later; while at a flea market I saw a license plate and decided to buy a Florida one. That is when my mild obsession began.”

When asked which plates of his were the most unique, Hicks said there are just too many to list. Some of his favourites include plates from his birth year, 1965.

“I have 1965 plates for all provinces and territories and 14 states. I have a few international plates from India thanks to co-workers, Jamaica and Belize thanks to friends, St. Lucia. A taxi driver gave me an old one he had, and a friend has a Scotland plate for me.”

One of the highlights on his collecting journey was a trade with one of the Canadian Pickers. Also called Cash Cowboys internationally, Canadian Pickers was a reality TV show filmed in Calgary, Alberta. It currently reruns on the History channel and was also shown on DTour and Historia.

“This was a great exchange and a wonderful experience to learn firsthand about being a picker by the expert,” he said. “We met him while we visited Alberta along with his family and friends.”

Along with traditional license plates, Hicks also collects plates from all manner of vehicles.

“I have a number of different Newfoundland and Labrador plates – a dealer’s plate, firefighter, two of the three farm plates (truck and trailer), amateur radio operator plate, heavy equipment plate, apportioned plate (transport truck), motorcycle plate, ATV plate, a topper from Port Union, bus plate, taxi plate, wrecker (tow truck) plate and an emergency (ambulance) plate,” he explained. “I also have a NL plate with the letter “Q” – last used in 1985 on a plate.”

Over the years, his family has also become involved in his collecting as his wife Denise travels with him on plate hunting trips and his daughter Ocean-Lynn has taken photos of his collection.

“Collecting has also made us go places we probably wouldn’t visit,” he added. “We visit our regular spots around the province to reconnect with the collectors and see what is new to purchase. I also research flea markets and antique shops when we go on holidays. This passion has allowed us to meet so many interesting people. I have met people that collect fishing reels, radios, match boxes, sugar packages, comic books, diecast cars, and mugs! They all have great stories about their collections.”

If you’re looking to jump into a new hobby, Hicks says he is happy to point you in the right direction.

“If anyone has any questions about plates, collects plates or would like information on plate collecting, or has a plate they don’t want please feel free to reach out,” he advised. “Always great to talk to other collectors or potential collectors.”

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Ryanne McIsaac
Ryanne McIsaac
Ryanne is Editor of CNA Currents. Born and raised in Stephenville, NL, Ryanne moved back to Newfoundland after spending 16 years in Calgary, Alberta. Ryanne has a Journalism Diploma from College of the North Atlantic and a Bachelor of Arts Degree from Cape Breton University. She worked for many years as a reporter and freelance writer. She is happy to be back in her hometown and working for CNA.

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