New licence plate taking flight

Bored with bumper stickers? Why not screw a raven to the back of the car? “We have to live on the wild side every once in awhile,” said…

Bored with bumper stickers?

Why not screw a raven to the back of the car?

“We have to live on the wild side every once in awhile,” said licence plate designer Bill Barnie.

Walking around town last week, he was showing off his newest licence plate design, a stylized black raven that brings to mind the Northwest Territories’ polar bear-shaped plates.

“I’ve been working on this design for over 10 years — promoting it, refining it and tweaking it,” he said.

“And maybe this time the raven will fly.”

Barnie’s design is an eye-catching, black, jagged ruffled raven with gold, sparkly letters and numbers.

But Yukoners are fond of the little goldpanner who currently crouches on their car bumpers.

“People argue the goldpanner retains part of our history,” said Barnie.

But the Yukon is about more than just the gold rush.

The raven plate associates the Yukon with its wildlife and with First Nations culture, he said.

“Long ago First Nations people identified with the image of the raven.

“And we didn’t pick it as our official bird for no reason at all.”

The raven has attitude — it’s outspoken and jazzy, he said.

“And we all like ravens, as much as we like to curse them from time to time.

“They really say something about the character of the North.”

So, far Barnie has received a very positive response to the plate.

However, the Yukon Party is concerned it would offend Yukoners by switching plates and removing the goldpanner, he said.

“They said they didn’t want to offend people before the election.

“But they’ve already offended enough people,” he said with a laugh.

“And it’s not about the election; it’s about the Yukon and our character.”

The quirky plate will boost tourism by drawing people’s attention to the territory, said Barnie.

“It will be free advertising.

“It’ll be so collectable people will be able to sell their plates on Ebay for more than they paid for them — so someone in Georgia will be paying you to drive.”

And it could be an optional plate, he said.

So, people could keep their goldpanner, if they favour the more traditional licence plate.

Barnie is not asking for any compensation for his design. “I just think it’s a good idea,” he said.

“It’s got good prospects, so I put it out there.”

All that’s needed to make the licence is a punch press and some paint, he said.

“So it’ll be much more traditional than today’s plates with all the plastic details and graphics stuck on it, and it’ll be more collectible.”

It’s hard to design a licence plate, he explained.

The shape of the plate is compromised because there’s less metal than in the full rectangular plate.

The letters have to be roughly six centimetres high; there has to be room for the month and year stickers. And the words Klondike and Yukon — it all takes up space, he said.

“So, you’re trying to capture the raven’s character and incorporate all its shapes and curves.”

The hardest part was working in the four standardized holes required to bolt the plate to the vehicle.

“I had to work around this, and it made the bird a little plump and squat, but the raven’s beak is really pronounced,” said Barnie.

His raven can only fit four letters and numbers, rather than the traditional five.

“But with four letters you can make 2,085,000 combinations, and there shouldn’t be that many vehicles in the Yukon,” he said.

He is hoping for public input. And if people like it, some public pressure to promote the plate.

“I wanted to do something that would ruffle some feathers, no pun intended,” he said.

To comment on Barnie’s raven plate, send him an email at

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