British Columbia Dealer License Plates

A special thanks to Tom Lindner, Dallas Doyle, Dave Hollins, Don Schneider and Ron Garay for providing many of the plates pictured.

Quick Links:
Passenger Dealer  |  Motorcycle Dealer

When the Province enacted the Act to regulate the speed and operation of Motor Vehicles on Highways in February of 1904, every resident and non-resident driving a motor vehicle in British Columbia was required to register with the Superintendent of Provincial Police, who, upon receiving a $2.00 application fee, would issue a permit and registration number to be displayed prominently on their vehicle - with the exception of "manufacturers or dealers".
Only in 1911, when the more comprehensive Act to regulate the Use and Operation of Motor-vehicles replaced the 1904 Act would detailed language related to the registration of demonstration vehicles appear.
Specifically, any person, importing, vending, or dealing in motor vehicles had to apply to the Superintendent of Provincial Police for a trade licence, the cost of which was set at $50.00 and entitled "the holder thereof to the use of five demonstration numbers, and to offer for sale, test and demonstration five motors at one time. For each additional number a further fee of ten dollars" was required.
Available records indicate that approximately 120 license plates were issued in 1911 to, amongst others, the following businesses:
The Anglo-British Columbian Agency Limited
"D6" to "D10"
 
Tudhope-Alexander Company
"D76" to "D80"
Canada Cycle & Motor Company Limited
"D16" to "D20"
 
Hoffmeister Brothers
"D81" to "D85"
A.G. Brown-Jameson Company Limited
"D21" to "D25"
 
A.A. Finch Auto Company
"D86" to "D90"
Pacific Garage & Auto Car
"D41" to "D45"
 
Vancouver Auto & Cycle Company Limited
"D106" to "D110"
The Columbia Taxi & Cab Company Limited
"D51" to "D55"
 
Central Auto Company
"D101" to "D105"
Dominion Motor Car Company Limited
"D56" to "D60"
 
Great Western Auto Company Limited
"D111" to "D115"
McLaughlin Car Company Limited
"D71" to "D75"
 
Moncrop Brothers
"D116" to "D120"
1911 - 1912: Pre-Provincial
 
Issuing Statistics
1911:
D1 - D120
1912:
unknown

Despite what the available records seem to indicate, the above is the only known surviving Dealer plate from the pre-provincial era and displays the remnants of the number '325'.
The 1911 Act also gave the Superintendent the "power to assign demonstration numbers and to direct the manner in which, and the means by which, such demonstration numbers shall be affixed to motors offered for sale; and no motor bearing a demonstration number shall be permitted to be used for hire or in any other way than for demonstration for sale.

*     *     *     *     *
When the Act to regulate the Use and Operation of Motor-vehicles was amended in 1913 to allow the Province to begin supplying standardised passenger and motorcycle license plates, the Section dealing with demonstration plates was similarly updated so that the Superintendent had the ability to "assign and supply" demonstration numbers.
The materials used on the first Dealer plates in 1913 where similar to those used for passenger and motorcycle plates that year (i.e. porcelain on a heavy gauge steel base), however, the colour scheme differed and, rather interestingly, the issuing jurisidiction is not referenced on the plate (i.e. the plates do not state "BC").
1913 - 1914: Porcelain
Issuing Statistics
1913:
unknown
1914:
unknown
 

1913 & 1914 Plate Allocations
While it is known that the Act allowed each licence holder registered with the Superintendent to use up to five Demonstration numbers, one of the curious differences between the 1913 and 1914 series has been the highest plate known for each year - i.e. No. 102 in 1913 versus No. 719 in 1914.
As it is highly unlikely that the number of motor vehicles dealers in the province increased seven-fold between 1913 and 1914, it is thought that the Superintendent of Police issued dealers the same number five times in 1913, but would issue each dealer five different numbers in 1914. In support of this theory is the existence of five separate No. 99 plates from 1913:
Motor vehicle dealers also had the option of applying to the Superintendent of Police for an extra number, subject to the payment of a $10.00 fee and, remarkably, a sixth 1913 No. D99 turned up on eBay in January of 2014 from a collection in Florida! This new D99 is distinguishable by its unique chip marks which don't match any of the other five D99 plates shown in the picture above (from 2010). For those who are curious, this plate ended up selling for $449.00 USD (plus shipping).
There is known to be a possible seventh 1913 No. 99 in existence, however, the authentcity of the number (not the plate) is questionable as it appears to bear the marks of heavy alteration (if not doctoring) as part of its restoration (see plate at right).

*     *     *     *     *
Demonstration plates from the 1915-1917 era are exceedingly rare, if not impossible to come across likely owing to the inability of the tin design to stand up well to rugged wear and tear and possibly due to the war effort and material drives during these years.
1915 - 1917
1916
1917
 
Issuing Statistics
1915:
unknown
1916:
unknown
1917:
unknown
After having awarded the contract to produce the 1915 Demonstrator plates to the MacDonald Manufacturing Company of Toronto, the Superintendent of Provincial Police, Colin S. Campbell, wrote the company on September 5, 1914, to advise that "I would rather have the 'D' made wider and taller than the figures if it is not too late to do this, and in doing this I would not object to having the figures on the demonstration numbers a little shorter than the ones on the automobile markers; for instance, if they were three-quarters of an inch shorter, it would not harm any, but I would want the 'D' to be the full height and heavier so it would be more prominent, so as to distinguish the demonstrating numbers from the regular automobile numbers."
Based upon the design of the one known 1915 still to exist, it appears that the Superintendent was too late in making this request to MacDonald Manufacturing.

1918 - 1922
1921
Issuing Statistics
1918:
unknown
1919:
unknown
1920:
unknown
1921:
unknown
1922:
unknown
1919 - 1922: Tabs
Don Schneider Collection
 

*     *     *     *     *
Interestingly, it was reported in 1927 that British Columbia was the only Canadian province to issue five (5) sets of Demonstration number plates with each approved license.
1923 - 1935
Issuing Statistics
1923:
D1 to D1-000*
1924:
D1 to D1-500
1925:
D1 to D2-000
1926:
unknown
1927:
unknown
1928:
D1 to D2-500
1929:
unknown
1930:
unknown
1931:
unknown
1932:
unknown
1933:
unknown
1934:
unknown
1935:
unknown

* 300 additional Dealer plates were manufactured in 1923 (as over-run), and utilised numbers between 1,500 and 1,800.
1934
1935
 

In 1926, Babe Ruth hammed it up on stage in Vancouver during a personal appearance tour of North America. He posed as a batter, with Vancouver mayor L.D. Taylor crouching behind him as catcher, and the city’s chief of police umpiring. Ruth also toured around the city in a Nash Sedan with a 1926 Dealer plate No. "D1490". The picture appears to have been take in Stanley Park.

1933 'DX' Prefix
As local motorists continued to take their vehicles off the roads as a result of the economic conditions affecting the province in the early 1930, the Provincial government concocted a scheme that offered two free months of registration through the use of a windhsield sticker in the hopes that this would entice people to continue using their vehicles. As a sticker could not be applied to vehicles being shown by Dealers (as this could involve multiple cars), a special issue plate, valid for the months of January and February, 1934, was prepared instead and displayed a 'DX' prefix.


1932 - No. 9 Dealer license plate

1936 - No. 6 Dealer license plate

1936 - 1951
Issuing Statistics
1936:
unknown
1937:
unknown
1938:
unknown
1939:
D1 to D1-100
1940:
D1 to D975
1941:
D1 to D950
1942:
D1 to D900
1943:
D1 to D475
1944:
D1 to D450
1945:
D1 to D450
1946:
D1 to D600
1947:
D1 to D722
1948:
D1 to D999
1949:
D1 to D1-300
1950:
D1 to D1-450
1951:
D1 to D1-600

1943 - Indented 'D' Prefix
An oddity of the 1943 Dealer plates is the placement of the 'D' prefix on the lower numbered plates in the series. Generally, the 'D' prefix was always situated to the left of the plate in previous years, but for some reason the letter migrated towards the middle of the plate for numbers under one-hundred.

1952
     
Issuing Statistics
1952:
D1 to D1-900

1953 - 1954
   
Issuing Statistics
1953:
D1 to D2-000
1954:
D1 to D2-000

*     *     *     *     *
By the 1960s and 1970s, the cost of obtaining a Dealer's licence had increased to $5,000.00, which had to take the form of an insurance bond supplied to the Superintendent of Insurance, or a security filed with the Minister of Finance.
Moreover, a process of investigation was now carried out for each new motor-dealer. Information in connection with the proposed operation, previous business, corporate formation, business intentions, premises, and compliance with municipal zoning regulations would be considered before a license would be authorized.
1955 - 1963
Issuing Statistics
1955:
D1 to D2-000
1956:
unknown
1957:
unknown
1958:
unknown
1959:
unknown
1960:
unknown
1961:
unknown
1962:
unknown
1963:
unknown

1964 - 1971: "Beautiful" Slogan
Issuing Statistics
1964:
D1 to D3-100
1965:
D1 to D3-100
1966:
D1 to D3-50
1967:
D1 to D3-50
1968:
D1 to D3-80
1969:
D1-001 to D4-900
1970:
D1-001 to D5-000
1971:
D1-001 to D5-300

1965 - Big 'D' / Little 'D'
Ron Garay Collection
Ron Garay Collection
.Kind of sounds like a line from a Doctor Suess book doesn't it ("Big 'D' / Little 'D'")? What more can I say, other than something to look for if you are into collector oddball variations.

A great picture of a new 1964 Datsun with Dealer plate No. 372 being promoted with a backdrop of Vancouver complete with a Totem Pole and the Red Ensign!

1972 - 1978
Issuing Statistics
1972:
D1-001 to D5-500
1973:
D1-001 to D5-500
1974:
D5-001 to D19-000
1975:
D1-001 to D7-000
1976:
D10-001 to D23-000
1977:
unknown
1978:
unknown

1979 - 1986
Issuing Statistics
1979:
unknown

1985 - 2013: Flag Graphic
Issuing Statistics
1985:
D0-0000 to D2-5499
1989:
D2-5500 to D2-9499
1990:
D2-9500 to D3-1899
1991:
D3-1900 to D3-4199
1992:
D3-4200 to D3-6549
1993:
D3-6550 to D3-8099
1994:
D3-8100 to D4-0099
1992
1995
1996
1996
1997
2000
2001
2005
2006
2007
2008
2009
2010
2011
2012
2013
2014

Photo: Corey Cartwright Dave Hollins Collection
Now, we all know that Demonstration plates are only issued as singles, which makes the plate shown above so interesting. The first plate in the series - "D0-0000" - is understood to have been issued to a Victoria area dealership in 1986 and displays the proper Astrographic dies for early issue plates (at left). However, another "D0-0000" plate is also known to exist in pristine, un-issued form (at right). What explains the two? Given the dealership only appears to have used the plate for one year, we wonder if ICBC required it be taken off the road, or if the Corporation used the opportunity of it not being renewed to reserve the number for themselves and to have an alternate plate made up for use in promotional material?

Quick Links:
Passenger Dealer  |  Motorcycle Dealer


Sources
Superintendent of Motor Vehicles, Annual Report, 1948-1973
1964 to 1971 Motorcycle Dealer plate from the collection of Greg Iverson


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