Private Number Plates

Private or Personalised number plates are the same: simply ordinary number plates that are particularly appealing for one reason or another and therefore traded. This could be because of many reasons, including:

  • the rarity of an early dateless format such as "C 123"
  • the simplicity or symmetry of a plate such as "A10 ABC"
  • the association of a plate with words such as "P1 LOT", "K1 NGS"
  • the presence of names, initials or other desirable characters such as "PET", "BUG", "DOC", "JAG"
  • the investment possibilities of a plate such as "A 1", "F 1", "S1 NGH"

The term Cherished Number Plates is also widely used by private plate sellers as an alternative to Private Plates.

Trading in number plates is perfectly legal as long as they are not used to make a vehicle appear younger than it is. Indeed, the DVLA reserve appealing plates from issue each year in order to raise funds by selling these to bidders at auction. In addition, unissued stock is available from the DVLA and specialist resellers.

When the UK's first number plate was issued in 1903 there were early signs of how popular private number plates would become. A man named Earl Russell camped outside London's registration office all night in order to make sure he was issued with the capital's first number plate, the fabulous “A 1?.

Number Plate Formats

Number plates have been issued in various formats through the years. Since 1962 the number plate has used letters or numbers to show the year of registration.

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Prior to this, dateless plates used sequential numbers along with an alphabetic prefix or suffix indicating the area of issue.

Examples of dateless plates include Earl Russel's original purchase "A1", the racy "F1" – bought for around £440,000, and Vinnie Jones' famous "100 VJ".

Introduced in 1663, Suffix registrations contain the year identifier at the end of a registration. This follows a set of three letters and a sequence of one to three numbers.

Examples include Paul Daniels' "MAG 1C" and Amir Khan's "BOX 111G" and Jimmy Tarbuck's "COM 1C".

Effective from 1983 prefix registrations contain the year identifier at the beginning then a number sequence and a final 3 letter set.
Famous examples include "N1 WHC" as used by jockey Willie Carson and David Hamilton's "D1 DDY".

Since 2001 the current style registrations consist of two letters, two-numbers signifying the age and a final three letters, e.g. "51 ABC".
Linda Lusardi is reported to sport "LU54 RDY" whilst "RU55 SEL" and "MR51 NGH" were both sold for many tens of thousands of pounds.

Irish Plates

Northern Ireland continues to use variations of the original 1903 dateless format, with currently a two-letter code indicating county or city of issue, a serial letter followed by a 4-number string, e.g. "IBB 1234". Because of this, these common (and therefore much cheaper) dateless plates are often used on the UK mainland as budget Private Plates.