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The History of Number Plates

Private number plates (or personalised number plates) were once an ego trip. Now they're a booming investment. Some people are willing to spend thousands of pounds on a number plate to make their statement, display their favourite football team or simply their own name (1 TOM, AR53 NAL, OO05 EXY etc).

Today, the number plate industry has changed considerably and it captures a wider, more general audience. No longer just a pricey option for egocentrics, cherished number plates are big business. Until recently, it was just the classic numbers, such as 1 VM that were typical examples of private plates. There are now actually six categories of number plates that can be bought.

The original plates, known as Dateless number plates were first issued in 1903. The most cherished of number plates, these can fetch up to £400,000. The letter positions make these private plates more desirable since they come first. Two or three letters are followed by a number up to 9999, for example, AM 9 and LJC 565.

The Reverse Dateless private plates are similar with the numbers coming first. This makes them slightly less desirable and therefore not quite as valuable. For two letters, the number range is 1 to 9999. For three letters the number range is 1 to 999. Examples include, 1238 JC, 99 AL and 23 TOM.

In 1963, the DVLA introduced the Suffix range of registration plates. Here the last digit, a letter, represents the year. This range extends to 1983. Examples are ODS 1Y and PET 3R. Although this range is not the most expensive, the latter example would command a high price since it faithfully reads the popular name Peter.

Next followed the Prefix range of private registration plates. This range covers the years 1983 to (March) 2001. Here the first digit, a letter, represents the year. Some great examples are S1 MON, W33 SAM and W4 TER. This range is very popular with three initials such as T23 JPS.

The current range of number plates, New Style, was introduced in September 2001 and will continue until 2099. Here the numbers in the middle represent the release date. There are two number digits, the first indicating the part of the year (0 for March, 5 for September) and the second the actual year. So, for example, 54 would represent September 2004. The style has two letters at the start and three letters at the end. Many potential lucrative combinations exist here such as BR15TOL (future release) and RU55ELL (sold, possibly to a guy called Herbert).

Finally, the Irish Registration Numbers have no year indication but characteristically contain an "I" or a "Z" in three letters that precede a number range 1 to 9999. This range can be ideal for initials followed by a date of birth. Examples would include LIN 1269 and BAZ 567.

If you fancy a prefix style or new style personalised number plate, why not see if we can match your name, your initials, your industry or your favourite words to the available range - simply use our search box on the top right.

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