Welcome to our province of classic number plates. Whether you appreciate the allure of the old, dateless, cherished number plates or are fascinated by the multitude of modern plates that spell names and words, this section is dedicated to you. Here we explore the most notorious, legendary and distinctive private plates that so happen to be among the most expensive too.
The legendary A 1. One of the first ever number plates to be issued in Great Briton, this is probably the classic of all classics. Earl Russell, who queued outside the London County Council office all night to have it assigned to his Napier vehicle, first acquired A 1 in 1903. The numbers were offered on a first come first served basis. Apparently, Mr Russell beat one of his rivals by only a few seconds to secure A 1!
Bill Spence of Kirkwall, Orkney, who bought this prestige private plate, claims he is delighted to own it for three big reasons! Asides from the obvious reason, his initials, it commemorates 100 years of his ship broking business and the mark has finally come back to the place where it was first registered in 1904, in Orkney, about 100 years later! Incidentally, Barry Sheen, the famous motorcycle champion, once owned a similar plate, BS 7.
This ultimate number plate for the big chiefs in the City sold on eBay for an astonishing £154,100 in July 2007. The growing use of the term Chief Executive Officer may have widened its appeal. It may not be as personalised as a name or initials plate but it's bound to draw envy and scorn. With an Aston Martin, a Ferrari and two Jaguar E-types having previously flaunted the prominent mark, it's expected to be found on a motor with equal calibre.
First issued by the Essex County Register of Motors in 1904, this highly appealing cherished number plate set the current British record for the most expensive ever sold. It was first owned by Percy John Sheldon, the Essex county surveyor who assigned it to his 15HP, four seater Panhard Levassor.
Recently, Afzal Khan, a businessman from Bradford paid a staggering £440,625 to buy the Formula One initials. The entrepreneur, who owns a specialist car design company, said he intends to display the number plate on his £317,000 Mercedes SLR McLaren. So, for F 1, that's 15 to over 600HP in 100 years!
One of the most notorious plates in circulation, this cheeky number plate attracted all sorts of attention for its previous owners. On one occasion, the Queen drove by the vehicle brandishing the mark in Windsor Great Park. It wasn't clear whether Her Majesty was amused or not. On another occasion, the police pulled the owner over to ask a few questions about this risqué private plate. It regularly attracted all sorts of attention from people in the street and even appeared on the news once!
This regal registration certainly drew the attention of the media before it went under the hammer at the DVLA auction in Whittlebury Hall, Northampton on January 2009. Speculating a royal purchase, the auction hall was filled with the press and TV media. However, it was not anyone connected with the royal family who finally won. Who would be vain enough? Victoria Beckham? It was an unknown businessman from Berkshire who apparently wanted to keep the plate in British hands as well as make an investment.
Unlike other cherished numbers sold, 1 HRH has a less exciting history. It dates back to the time when number plates were registered and issued by local councils rather than the DVLA. 1 HRH was simply one of a series registered by Hull Borough Council in 1946, far from any royal associations.
Another very sought after number plate sold at Bonhams Auctions, Chichester for £331,500 in July 2006. It was bought by an anonymous wealthy businessman from Cheshire. Auctioneers were astonished to learn that it was a gift for his son, who at the time wouldn't be driving for at least eleven years! He was six!
This was the first registration number to be issued in Cheshire in 1902. The motoring enthusiast and then owner of Tatton Park got hold of the mark for his 1903 12/16hp 2 cylinder Darracq, the same car that came second in the 1901 Grand Prix de Pau, driven by Henri Farman.
The registration plate was actually sold to raise money for the conservation of Tatton Park, near Knutsford in Cheshire, leased to Cheshire County Council by the National Trust.
Mercedes Benz once offered to take this off the comedian, singer and writer, Max Bygraves. He had it on his Rolls Royce for over 30 years. He refused their offer of £50,000. Given the popularity of the initials 'MB' and the value of the single digit '1' this cherished treasure deserves to be among the classics.
The fact that the initials 'MS' are practically the most common in the United Kingdom makes this 100+ year old, cherished plate a priceless antique. MS 1 is perhaps the ultimate of the two initial cherished number plates range. It was first issued by Stirling County Council in December 1903. Now that it's off the market, it is unlikely to find it's way back on; these are sought after by the super rich who tend to hang on to them once acquired.
One of Scotland's first number plates, this highly sought after classic went under the hammer in September 2008 for just under an unexpected £400,000. It was, in fact, the first car registration issued in Edinburgh in 1903, the same year A 1 was released in London. Sir John MacDonald, a former Lord Justice Clerk of Scotland and motoring pioneer, was the first to own the number plate in 1903.
The new owner, who chose to remain anonymous, said, "I believe that number plates in general are a good investment, even at this price." He added, "The registration will remain in the UK and will be put on an old red Skoda which people will be able to see driving in the Midlands."
According to records, this cherished registration plate was the first one owned by a celebrity, Harry Tate (1873-1940), a music hall artist. It is now currently owned by Johnny Tate of the sugar company Tate & Lyle.
Once assigned to the Popemobile of the preceding pope, John Paul II during his visit to Ireland in 1979, the Russian billionaire tycoon Roman Abramovich recently bought this highly enviable registration for £285,000 in July 2006.
Speaking about the Chelsea football club boss, a friend said: "Roman is normally very security conscious. But the lure of owning the most exclusive number plate in the world was too much for him." In fact, VIP 1 is the most expensive Irish number plate sold to date.
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