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The Ontario Project

ONTARIO vs. O N T A R I O die survey

[Ontario truck plate with narrow die] [Ontario truck plate with wide die]

[Ontario truck plate die variations]

Which province name do you prefer: ONTARIO, or O N T A R I O? If you picked ONTARIO, you picked the rarer variation of the two.

O N T A R I O was used on all plates from 1968 to 1972, annual and quarterly truck plates from 1973 to 1980, and the vast majority of black-on-white multi-year truck plates from 1980 to 1994.

ONTARIO, meanwhile, is the squarer and narrower die introduced for passenger plates in 1973. It made odd and unpredictable appearances on non-passenger plates as well, surfacing on farm plates in 1979, dealer plates in 1981, and diplomatic plates in 1981 and 1984-86.

On black-on-white truck plates, the narrow die made scattered appearances off and on for nearly 15 years. Eric Tanner reports it appearing as early as the EC series (within the realm of the initial 1980 allocation); however, most plates with the narrow die hail from the K, L, M, or N series and date to the mid '80s. The narrow die reappeared yet again in the X and Y series of the early 1990s, shortly before the fully-embossed design was discontinued and an era of perplexing variation came to an end.

Why did this happen? Well, the plate shop at the Millbrook prison was set up with multiple hydraulic presses to handle a high manufacturing volume. One press may have had the narrow die, several other presses may have had the wide die, and individual truck plate orders may have ended up divided between them.

Whether for pleasure or for punishment, I've started tracking the die variations. Here's what I have so far, with recent additions in boldface:

Style Low High Spread
Wide O N T A R I O AB1-183 EC5-615  ACDE
Narrow ONTARIO EC6-071*    E
Wide O N T A R I O ED4-672 KP4-666    EHJK
Narrow ONTARIO KR4-998 KS8-703       K
Wide O N T A R I O KT6-571 KX4-366       K
Narrow ONTARIO KY6-653 KZ3-884       K
Wide O N T A R I O KZ8-341 LB8-204       KL
Narrow ONTARIO LB9-842 LC5-195        L
Wide O N T A R I O LE2-099 LF4-907        L
Narrow ONTARIO LH2-109 LL8-490        L
Wide O N T A R I O LN2-608 LT7-369        L
Narrow ONTARIO LV5-471        L
Wide O N T A R I O LW6-318 LX2-091        L
Narrow ONTARIO LY2-436 MF7-879        LM
Wide O N T A R I O MH6-194         M
Narrow ONTARIO MJ3-768         M
Wide O N T A R I O ML9-839         M
Narrow ONTARIO MM4-155 MS2-722         M
Wide O N T A R I O MS5-953 MV1-737         M
Narrow ONTARIO MV7-728 NJ2-713         MN
Wide O N T A R I O NL6-569 XS5-188          NORTVWX
Narrow ONTARIO XX1-199                X
Wide O N T A R I O XY6-972 YM9-170                XY
Narrow ONTARIO YM9-894                 Y
Wide O N T A R I O YM9-999                 Y
Narrow ONTARIO YO7-301 YW3-833                 Y
Wide O N T A R I O YW4-052 YX4-422                 Y
Narrow ONTARIO YZ2-943                 Y
Wide O N T A R I O YZ5-847 ZB7-879                 YZ

* reported by Tanner

Are you in possession of an Ontario 1980-94 truck plate outside these ranges? Can you narrow down any of these cutoffs, or find new break points to add between the old ones? If so, I'd love to hear from you!

Die variations on related types of Ontario plates

Bus plates with both narrow and wide dies exist; however, bus plates were produced and issued in lesser quantities than truck plates and it's doubtful that they experienced anywhere near as many back-and-forth swaps between styles. Bus plates of the 1980s also have low survival rates today, making them more difficult to track:

Wide O N T A R I O BA5-120 BE2-924
Narrow ONTARIO BE4-350 BE6-542

As far as I am aware, all 1980-94 PRP, PRP bus, and school bus plates were produced with the wide O N T A R I O die, while all farm plates were produced with the narrow ONTARIO die.

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Last update 29 November 2022.