Fleeting fame, at a price

RU1 to pay the government pounds 999 for a number-plate? Clifford Germa n checks prices
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The Independent Online
The car of your dreams may be a brand new Porsche, a Roller or a Jag, or a much-loved classic like an MGB but if you love your car as much as the average Briton seems to, you may want to buy it a rare old number plate, or one with some appropriate initials such as BMW, JAG or AUD as an accessory, just as you might treat the dog to a special collar or the cat to a catnip mouse.

On the other hand you may decide to get a special number-plate to make a statement about yourself, or about other road-users. Personal initials and pet names make ideal personalised number-plates, either on their own or with the help of strategically placed dots and gaps or 5s that look like Ss.

The late Sir Gerald Nabarro, a flamboyant Tory MP, had six cars with the registration numbers NAB1 to NAB6, and although the Department of Transport long ago banned the issue of the most obviously rude combinations, some less obvious assertions such as UR12 still get issued.

For years now enterprising dealers have been buying and selling rare, amusing or personal registration numbers, listing them for sale in publications such as Exchange and Mart. Prices range from pounds 150 for routine combinations of two or three letters to pounds 1,000 for something older or rarer such as numbers without the suffix or prefix letters which have been used since the early Sixties. Letters combined with single numbers go for between pounds 1,000 and pounds 3,000 and really rare combinations like A100 or XXY1 will go for five figures.

For years the Depart-ment of Transport regarded these little frivolities with indulgence and carried on issuing valuable registration numbers to all and sundry without any thought of making a profit for itself. But the Thatcherite stress on raising public revenue and cutting public spending means the DVLC now sells the special numbers which it issues. New registration numbers beginning with the R prefix followed by numbers 1 to 20 and a local three letter combination which identifies the licensing authority are already being assigned. R1 numbers cost pounds 999 including VAT and the Department of Transport's standard assignment fee, and numbers 2 to 20 cost pounds 399 inclusive.

Unissued numbers with the prefix A or B or from H to P are also on offer at fixed prices of pounds 500 for the number 1 and pounds 250 for numbers 2 to 20. Other numbers up to 999 are all priced at pounds 250. They can be put on a new car or transferred to an older one, so long as the registration does not make the car seem younger than it actually is.

To buy a select registration customers can call the DVLA on 01792-773366 or on Web site www.dvla-som.co.uk or order through the car dealer. "Classic" numbers without prefixes or suffix suitable for classic cars which have had their numbers stripped and sold in the past are auctioned to the highest bidder four or five times a year. The next auction is being held in Newcastle on 1 and 2 September and the auctioneers will accept bids by phone or post.

Contact DVLA Sale of Marks Marketing Team, DVLC Swansea SA6 7JL, for detailsn

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