Heritage and personalised license plates boom in popularity and value
Unique license plates are quickly becoming an investment for car enthusiasts. In fact, many plates are worth more than the car they’re bolted to.
For many people, the strip of metal bolted to the front and back of the car is simply a way to identify their vehicle from similar models in a car park.
For others, license plates represent a way to stand out from the crowd, and are now considered an investment by an increasing number of savvy enthusiasts.
Licence to cash in
Since the first number plates were introduced in Victoria in 1932, certain combinations have been considered valuable. But in recent years that value has exploded, especially for heritage tags.
As a general rule, the lower the number, the higher the price.
How high? The Victorian plate ‘26' sold at auction in 2020 for $1.11 million. The New South Wales '4’ plate fetched a record $2.45 million when it went under the hammer in 2017.
The 'VIC 1’ plate is known to still exist, with the most recent owner identified as Coles and Foster’s Group chief executive Peter Bartels. The plate was first released in 1932 but wasn’t issued for 50 years.
Legend says the plate was locked away after an argument between the Police Commissioner, Premier and Governor about who should have it.
The Department of Transport finally put the tag up for auction in 1984 and it was sold for $165,000. Today it is estimated to be worth over $3 million.
Christophe Boribon of Shannons Auctions has been auctioning cars and number plates for the past 24 years and says the growth in buyers has accelerated dramatically in that time.
“Going back to the 1980-90s, the numerical number plate market was a lot smaller in size and were traded mostly between a small number of car dealers, and enthusiasts,” Mr Boribon notes.
“It’s fair to say the majority of road users still don’t understand what these plates represent, being the first of the number plate registrations issued on our Victorian roads. Today, they are considered as collectible items that bear a history to our motoring heritage and initial registrations.
“They have appreciated like pieces of art, and the rights to display of these numeric combinations represent a sought-after commodity by many.
“For some it is the prestige of displaying these special number plates on their daily driver or special cars, (in many cases , the numeric combinations have a meaning to its owner).
“For others, they start by collecting bigger numbers with the aim of owning lower plate combinations, and for some it represents an investment that can be shown or displayed (unlike shares).”