UK Cherished Numbers - a brief history

pair of thespians


From the 1st of January 1904 all vehicles used on the road have been required to display an identification number, reffered to as a number plate. Contrary to popular belief the first number reserved was not but in fact . It was issued to the M.P. who guided the 1903 Road Traffic Act through parliment. Unlike today people at the time had no interest in having their initials displayed on the plates but were keen on distinctive, short numbers.

Regional offices each had their own letters allocated, CA was Denbeigh, Y was Somerset, X was Northumberland ( is currently on the market for a cool 500,000!). The first recordedtransfer of a numberplate was in March 1904 when Dr. Lauder owned . A1 was first allocated to Earl Russell who allegedly sat up all night to be first in the queue (wonder if he would be so keen for Wimbledon tickets?). The first 'personal' registration is alleged to have been , owned by Mr. Harry Tate, a music hall artist.

In the early 60's plates were becoming increasingly valuable and county councils stopped releasing potentially valuable numbers, prefering to auction them off instead. It wasn't until the late 60's that dealers started to crop up and in 1971 the personalised numbers dealers association (PNDA) was set up. In 1976 Civil Service Unions objected to the transfer of numberplates and immediately stopped all transfers, this lasted several months before they allowed it once again, albeit with far stricter rules.

It's estimated that 1 in 74 vehicles on the road in the UK now has a personal number plate. This is largely due to the DVLA holding back low numbers (initially 1-20) of prefix plates and selling them off to the public. This allows people to choose from a huge range of plates to put their initials on. The DVLA has made around 600 million from these sales. Having your initials on a plate is very popular but some people prefer a funny word or business related registration . Although the DVLA hold back any they consider valuable for their public auctions ( - 17,500) some do slip the net. was sold for under 500 and is estimated to be worth around 20k. Why? Bismillah is the first thing written upon a page, or spoken in public, by a devout muslim, literally translated it means 'in the name of Allah'.

The first series of plates 'A' are now getting valuable, especially as are B16 and H1 numbers. Even new style plates can be made into words and . However when putting your initials on a new style plate its not very obvious it is personal, as the numbers are not unique to private plates. One way to make it legally more eye catching is to space the letters both sides of the numbers . However the police may still want a word as the are very strict on any alterations made to number plates.

The style and colour of plates has also changed over the years,
1894 - 1919 - hand painted, white on black
1920's - 1930's - solid cast aluminium 3.5"
1930's - 1963 - pressed aluminium 3.5"
1950's - 1964 - white or polished aluminium 3.5"
1960 - 1970's - white aluminium 3.2"
1964 - 1973 - pressed aluminium or hand engraved perspex.
All the above on a black background.

Cars registered after '73 must display white and yellow plates.
Suffix numbers ( LAY123V ) started in 1962,
prefix ( L267EDP ) in 1982 and
current ( GT55JDM ) in 2001.

Go to NEXT PAGE or back TO TOP