Dateless and celebrity car number plates in the UK


Each year the United Kingdom’s Vehicle Licencing Agency (DVLA) raises millions of pounds from selling personalized license plates. Regarded as being a statement of individuality and even an investment, in many cases, personalized license plates are regularly used on television and in the movies to hint that a character is a braggart, egomaniac, or just seeking attention. A fine example of this is the 1964 James Bond film Goldfinger where the villain had the license plate AU1. AU is, of course, the chemical element symbol for gold.

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Car number plates from 1903

As they are called in the UK, vehicle registration plates or number plates came about following the 1903 Motor Car Act that required all vehicles to be listed on an official register and to carry alphanumeric plates. The Act came into law so that vehicles could be easily traced in the event of an accident or any other incident.

The first number plates issued consisted of a one or two-letter code followed by a sequence of numbers ranging from 1 to 9999. The code indicated where the car was registered in the country and was based on population size.

The first number plate to be issued was A 1 in London to a Mr. Earl Russel who wanted the number so severely that he camped out overnight to ensure he was first in line. By doing this, Russel became the first man to register a car in the UK and the first person to have a distinctive personalized license plate on their vehicle.

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Available number plate codes were running out.

By the time 1932 came around, available codes for car number plates were starting to run out, so the government came up with the idea of placing a serial letter before the code. In July 1932, Staffordshire became the first issuing authority when it gave out ARF 1 . Other areas in the United Kingdom followed suit after issuing all of their two-letter codes.

Car number plates from 1963

In 1963 a wise idea came to fruition. The car reg authorities added a suffix to all license plates, including the following numbers, A for 1963, B for 1964, etc. Now not only did it allow for more combinations, but it was also an easy way to spot the age of a car. Doing this got new car buyers to hold off on purchasing a new vehicle until January to show they were driving a new car.

Individuality and Investment in celebrity car number plates

The thousands of drivers who have personalized license plates justify their statement of individuality by looking at the plate as an investment. Some people even go so far as to have more than one plate in the quest to get the perfect number or combination of letters.

Hotelier Steve Holden drove 219 miles from the Northeast of England to Oxford to bid for HO11 DEN. At the time, he said he had given himself a spending limit of £3,000 but, in the end, ended up paying £7,000. When speaking about the purchase with the BBC, Holden said:

“I would kick myself if I let it go and saw it on someone else’s car,” he says. “Once you’ve got one, you want to buy better ones. You do get noticed quite a bit, but I don’t buy them to be noticed. I like them, and it’s a good investment.”

Many people also see personalized number plates as adding value to classic cars, giving them an ageless authenticity.

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Famous celebrity car registration plates

Celebrities have long been fans of personalized number plates for decades, with sixties singer Engelbert Humperdinck having EH 1 on his prized Rolls-Royce Corniche. Footballers, too, love the attention, which is why Inter Miami owner David Beckham has D7 DVB, 7. Seven is Beckham’s lucky number and the one he wore on his football jersey with the DVB standing for David and his wife, Victoria Beckham. Other famous number plates, and may we add excellent number plates, include Paul Daniel’s famous celebrity car registration plate MAG1C

Debbie McGee, Paul’s widow, refused £120,000 for the excellent number plate soon after Paul’s death because she said she couldn’t bear to be part of it.

4D car registration plates

See the latest trend of 4D number plates on your car in our next post.


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