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How much would you pay to own ‘172 G 1’?

Tuesday, 27th June, 2017 5:36pm

Recent data from the Society of the Irish Motor Industry (Simi) point to a significant reduction in new car sales, with new car registrations for the first five months of 2017 down 8 percent compared with the same period last year. The extent to which the fall in the British pound has impacted UK imports is hard to say. Another worrying trend for car dealers is the downward trend in diesel cars being sold due to environmental concerns.

In terms of being the proud owner of ‘172 G 1’, the market for personalised number plates is nowhere near as sophisticated in Ireland as it is in some other countries. Anybody who watches the BBC version of The Apprentice knows that Lord Alan Sugar owns the plate ‘AMS 1’. The most expensive UK plate to date was the £352,000 forked out on ‘1D’ by a Lebanese businessman in 2009 as a birthday present for his wife. Were it to come back on the market, the parents of a fanatical One Direction fan might pay more for ‘1D’ now, perhaps!

For economists, this market is an interesting one to study, because a number plate is a pure ‘status good’. The world record price goes to the UAE businessman, Saeed Abdul Gafour Khouri, who paid an astounding Dh52.2 million (over €10 million) for an Abu Dhabi licence plate simply labelled ‘1’.

In Britain, the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) raises around £70 million a year from the sale of personalised number plates. Indeed, the DVLA has raised over £2bn for the Treasury since 1989, in sales through its auctions and website. Personalised plates have been around for decades but have only been held back for separate sale in Britain since 1983.

Dateless plates, which can be any combination of up to four numbers, followed by up to three letters, tend to be the most desirable because they hide a vehicle's age and are only sold at auction. Such plates may be regarded as a statement of individuality or a financial investment. Moreover, there is some logic in the prices paid for various types of plates. Some economists have tried to work out a formula to explain the prices paid for various plates.The shortness of number plate and having it spell out a person’s name are positive factors, e.g. ‘51 NGH’ - which looks like the popular ‘Singh’ surname – has sold for over £250,000. A surname in a number plate is worth on average £1,300, while a first name is worth over £1,100. Very short number plates are worth the most, e.g. ‘1 O’ and ‘1 A2’ were sold for over £200,000.

Of course, many people who don’t own personalised plates consider them ostentatious, vulgar, or just “naff”. An auctioneer from the DVLA's auction company has labelled them “Marmite products” - you either love them or hate them. At the end of the day, it is about status but people will clearly spend a lot of money for little combinations of numbers and letters. Unless anybody in Ireland changes their name to ‘G 1’, it’s unlikely that we will start to see thousands of euro changing hands!

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