We do things a little differently from a lot of other countries around the world when it comes to car registration plates, and if you’re not particularly well-versed in the subject you could be forgiven for being a little confused by some of the different terms used to describe them. One term you’ll certainly come across from time to time is “cherished number plates,” and here we’re going to explain what are they, the history behind them, where and how you can buy them and more.
What are Cherished Number Plates?
The term “cherished number plates” is most often used to describe registration numbers and plates that are pretty old, so you could think of them as antique versions of number plates. One of their key attributes of a cherished number plate is it doesn’t have a year code in the number, and that means there’s no way of assessing the age of the vehicle they are on through the registration number.
Cherished plates are particularly attractive and relevant to owners of vintage or classic cars as they help to keep their vehicles period-correct. Of course, you don’t have to have a vintage or classic vehicle to own and use cherished number plates and you’ll often see them on new, rare, exclusive or high-end luxury vehicles. These plates often become part of the owner’s personality and some become as well-known or notorious as their owners as they transfer them from one vehicle to their next one time and time again over years and even decades.
As cherished number plate is a somewhat loose definition and any registration plate that doesn’t have an age identifier can be considered as a cherished plate, prices can be very affordable, completely astronomical or anywhere in between.
Examples of Cherished Number Plates
It’s all well and good going on about definitions and discussing what is and what isn’t technically a cherished plate, but the best way to make the point is to use some real-world examples.
Some of the most obvious and well-known examples of cherished number plates are those that are associated with celebrities and those that are obviously extremely valuable or both!
MB 1 – The plate “MB 1” may not be the most expensive cherished plate around but it’s certainly one with one of the best-known stories surrounding it. For more than 30 years, this is the plate that adorned the Rolls-Royce of the entertainer Max Bygraves. As MB is a common set of initials it’s not hard to believe this plate has always been worth a lot of money, and this plate has long been held up as an example of what the most expensive plates look like.
In truth, although this plate is definitely worth north of a quarter of a million pounds these days, it’s a long way from being the most valuable plate out there. The reason why this plate is something of an urban legend is that it’s long been claimed that Mercedes-Benz tried to buy the number from Max Bygraves for very large sums of money on several occasions. The plate was eventually sold to a dealer when Max moved to Australia to be close to his family, but it appears it never ended up in the hands of the German luxury automaker after all.
7 SM – You definitely notice a pattern here when you learn that the number 7 SM was owned by non-other than motor racing legend Sir Stirling Moss. The F1 legend had several cherished number plates over the years, and as well as 7 SM he also owned SM 7. Although he bought the plates in the 1960s and held on to them until his death, in his later years he didn’t even own a car as he claimed they were a hindrance as he lived in the centre of London.
AMS 1 – If MB 1 was one of the most famous cherished plates in the country for people a couple of decades ago, one of the most famous celebrity cherished plates of modern times has to be AMS 1, which is owned by Alan Sugar who is the founder of Amstrad and star of the TV show The Apprentice. As Lord Sugar (as he now is) is claimed to be worth around three-quarters of a billion pounds or more these days it’s unlikely he will ever put his plate up for sale so we could only guess at its current value. However, some of the most expensive cherished plates ever to be sold here in the UK are not as obvious or as well-known as you might imagine.
25 0 – This is obviously a seriously cool plate to have, but would you really expect it to be the most expensive cherished plate ever sold in the UK and more valuable than the likes of F1, RR1 or M1? This plate was last sold for £518,400 and it was bought by Ferrari trader John Collins who bought it to put it on an incredibly rare Ferrari 250 SWB that had previously been owned by blues guitar legend Eric Clapton. It needs to be stated here though that this is the most expensive plate ever sold by the DVLA, so that doesn’t necessarily mean it is the most expensive UK number ever sold or even the most valuable.
You don’t have to spend a fortune to own a cherished number plate, and there are plenty of cherished numbers currently available for much more reasonable amounts of money. Some numbers have never been allocated to a vehicle and they’re sold by the DVLA through online auctions, but there’s also a huge trade in cherished numbers that have already been on vehicles and could have been sold and transferred numerous times in the past.
History of cherished plates
The original registration numbers, which are sometimes also known as dateless number plates, were first issued in the UK in 1903. Some of these can go for hundreds of thousands of pounds and some have the potential to eventually go for much, much more. With the earliest of these numbers, it’s the positions of the letters and characters that make these cherished plates so desirable as the letters come first. One, two or three letters are followed by a number from 1 up to 9999, so you can assume that A 1 would be the most valuable in these terms while a plate such as PPP 7878 wouldn’t cost a ridiculous amount.
The fact these plates didn’t have any form of dating is what categorises them as cherished numbers, but as we’ll see in a moment, there’s a lot more that determines the value of cherished number plates than the actual registration number.
After the initial registration numbers, we then got reverse dateless private plates when the original system ran out of available combinations. These plates look very similar, but this time the numbers come first with the letters following. This technically makes them slightly less desirable and usually not quite as valuable as those with letters first.
In 1963, the DVLA finally introduced the suffix range of registration plates which ushered in the era of number plates giving away the year of registration. This particular system of plates ran until 1983, and the letter at the end of the number indicated the year of registration. These are therefore not technically considered cherished number plates as they are dated and they’re generally less expensive than dateless cherished plates. However, when they can spell out things like PET 3R they can still command a very high price with the right buyer.
How can I see my cherished plate?
Technology is a wonderful thing, and you can now see what a cherished plate you’re considering buying might look like on a vehicle like yours before you buy it. When you enter a cherished number that’s available into the search function of a site like MyReg.com, you’ll either get an image of it on a generic vehicle or in some cases you get to choose your particular model from drop-down menus to give you an even better idea of how it would look.
How much do cherished number plates cost?
Although there are accepted ideas about what makes a cherished number valuable, once a number has been issued and sold by the DVLA then effectively all bets are off as far as the value is concerned. If all you want is a dateless plate and you’re happy with three letters followed by three numbers, you can buy a cherished plate for just a few hundred pounds.
This great, for example, if you happen to have three initials that are an available combination and you’re not too bothered about the three numbers. If you’re lucky, you might even find a whole combination that means something to you personally and you can end up with a sensational plate for not a lot of money.
However, if you want a number that is highly desirable such as one with one number and two letters it’s going to cost a lot. It’s also probably going to cost a whole lot more because there’s likely to be someone else out there with extremely deep pockets who wants that plate too, and that’s where the eye-watering prices start to come in. Once the DVLA has sold a number, the price it goes for next time will come down to how much the owner wants for it and how much someone else is willing to pay to get it.
Where can I buy cherished number plates?
You can buy cherished number plates quickly and easily right here at MyReg in just a few minutes, but some of those highly desirable and extremely expensive ones will usually be sold privately, through dealers or at auctions. Once the DVLA has issued a number it’s entirely the property of the buyer, and this is why there’s such a vibrant and exciting cherished number plate market here in the UK these days.