LOVE them or loathe them, personalised number plates are proving popular in Harrogate and are selling for a small fortune.
A three-day auction at Rudding Park this week is expected to have raised more than £3.2m for the DVLA.
As many as 1,500 number plates went under the hammer, with the most expensive, I08 AL (IQBAL), selling for £33,620.
Hundreds of people from all across the country came to Harrogate for the auction, one of only six held in the UK every year.
Among them was 52-year-old diamond and Persian rug importer Charlie Williams, who travelled from Edinburgh.
He bid £7,400 for the number plate 98 C, parting with a total of £11,948 once fees were added in.
“I probably paid too much for it,” he admitted afterwards. “But I just like three-digit ones.”
Mr Williams already owns 49 Y, which he paid £7,500 for and which sits on his £90,000 black Mercedes CL500.
He says the new plate will probably go on his new Toyota Landcruiser.
“I was bidding on every one in the collection,” he said. “The three digit plates are just a little bit special.”
The auction at Rudding Park saw sealed bids, internet and telephone bids, as well as hundreds of people who came through the doors.
Auctioneers were working in 40 minute stints from 9.30am on Tuesday, running straight through in shifts to finish all 1,500 lots by the end of Thursday.
Damian Lawson from the DVLA said they returned to Harrogate after a sale last year raised £4.13m.
“We get all sorts of customers, from all over the world, really. The plates represent their names, their interests, hobbies.
“All you need is two people who really want a plate, and you could get much more than you expect.”
The most expensive plate ever sold by the DVLA was 1D, which sold for £320,000.
Previous auctions have seen ELV 1S sold for £60,000, and 1 0, which sold for £210,000.
Celebrities who have bought into the craze include Jimmy Tarbuck, who has has COM 1C, and Paul Daniels, who has MAJ 1C. One of the best known plates is AMS 1, which is owned by Sir Alan Sugar and features on his television show, The Apprentice.
“Some people see them as investments,” said Mr Lawson. “In the difficult economic climate of the past few years, they have retained their value - increased it even.
“People keep them for life, hand them down generation by generation. They are something that people will buy for their baby, and keep until they get a driving licence.
“In the early days it was a sign of status. Nowadays it’s something for everyone.”