The term Private Number Plate is often used to refer to number plates that have a special significance such as spelling out names or having owner’s initials. These plates can often have great monetary value such as 51 NGH (Singh), which was sold at Auction by the DVLA in 2006 for £254,000. Private number plates are also referred to as personalised number plates, cherished number plates and vanity plates although the term vanity plates is rarely used in the UK.
In reality in the Britain there are on such things as a Private Number Plates. The Secretary of State for Transport owns all British Number Plates. When people buy number plates they purchase the right to use the Number Plate and not the registration mark itself.
Private Number Plates have long held a fascination for the public. The world’s first vehicle number plates were issued in 1898 in the Netherlands consisting of a numerical ID number. The UK issued its first Number Plates under the The Motor Car Act (1903), which came into force on January 1st 1904. The first UK Number Plate “A 1” was purchased by Earl Russell who, in order to secure this most prestigious Private Number Plate, camped outside the London County Council issuing office overnight to be first in the cue.
The plate was then acquired in 1907 by George Petty, the then Chairman of London County Council. Mr Petty kept the number plate until his death in 1950 when it was bequeathed to Trevor Laker on the condition that on his death the plate would be sold with the proceeds going to charity. The new owner the Dunlop Tyre Company used the Private Number Plate for publicity purposes in advertising for its Denvo Safety tyre and later on a variety of executive vehicles.
Originally British number plates consisted of one letter that denoted the issuing council followed by a number of upto four digits to uniquely identify the vehicle. When these number combinations were exausted the system was reversed with the number apearing first followed by the councils identifying number. This system of number plates does not contain an element to show the vehicles age and therefore plates issued under this system are known as dateless number plates.
The dateless system was replaced in 1963 by the suffix number plate system. The suffix system starts with 3 letters followed by a space followed by one number. A futher letter following the number is used to denote the year eg A - 1963, B - 1964 etc.
In 1983 the suffix system was replaced by prefix number plates which is essentialy a reversed system with the letter that denotes the age of the vehicle appearing at the start of the number.