Car plate fetches a regal sum

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AN ANONYMOUS British buyer paid a record pounds 203,500 for a number plate yesterday.

The plate, K1 NGS, was expected to fetch about pounds 10,000 at the Christie's auction in London but confounded all expectations.

Jack King, a holiday camp and nightclub owner from Canvey Island, Essex, bid up to pounds 180,000 before dropping out. 'I felt I had to set myself a limit,' he said.

The anonymous buyer also paid pounds 13,200 for L1 ONS and pounds 12,100 for 1 XXX.

The auction of 80 distinctive and newly-issued plates by the DVLA Vehicle Registration Office raised pounds 1.08m, of which 90 per cent will go to the Treasury.

Other eye-catching plates included 1 TEE, bought by Clive Smith, a developer, of Pine Ridge Golf Centre, Camberley, Surrey, for pounds 52,800. About 200 private buyers and entrepreneurial dealers packed the west London auction room for the fifth such sale of plates.

Christie's hopes yesterday's British record signals the end of the recession. The highest price reached in last year's auction was pounds 12,000.

The previous record was set in 1989, when the registration A1 fetched pounds 176,000 at Christie's.