Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Endgame Looms for Cherished Numbers; after September, the Cherished Numberplates Market Will Never Be the Same Again. Nick Gibbs on the End of an Era

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Endgame Looms for Cherished Numbers; after September, the Cherished Numberplates Market Will Never Be the Same Again. Nick Gibbs on the End of an Era

Article excerpt

Byline: NICK GIBBS

EMILE Heskey, your number's up.

From 1 September, a new numberplate system will send shockwaves through the huge personalised plate market. It may be able to produce enough new combinations to last 100 years but unless, like the Liverpool star, your name fits the restrictive new number/letter combination, it's unlikely you will be hunting among the new offerings to find your dream plate.

Personalised plates, or cherished marks as they are known in the trade, are huge business. Prices start in the low hundreds and escalate to the point where even lottery winners might think twice.

K1 NGS holds the record, selling in 1993 for [pound]231,000 while S1 NGH went for [pound]108,000 in 1998.

The biggest player is the Government, which allowed the Driver Vehicle and Licensing Agency (DVLA) to start selling plates 10 years ago and has since become [pound]500 million richer.

Now agency officials are saying the new system will net even more, and have bumped up the starting price from [pound]250 to [pound]499 to help them achieve it.

Trouble is, say the private numberplate dealers, they are being wildly optimisic: the new system won't be nearly as appealing to the plate hunters.

The biggest problem is the number of characters. Pre-1963, you could have as few as two, while the current system upped that to a minimum of five.

But from September, all new plates will have seven. "The most desirable plates are the shortest," says Nigel Jackson, managing director for plate dealer Classic Nouveau. "The more numbers and letters, the less cherished, unless the name is very obvious."

But that won't be easy, thanks to the new letter/number combination.

Splitting the five letters are two numbers, which show the age of the car.

These will be 51 in September, changing to 02 (for 2002) next March, then 52, 03, and so on (The DVLA has kept back 01 to sell later). This means that, initially, it will help if the third letter in the word you're trying to spell is S, which, in the visually skewed world of cherished marks, is the letter translation of 5. …

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