It became obvious in the early 1900’s that a system was needed to keep records and and identify the increasing amount of vehicles in the UK. The first registration number issued was of course A1.
It was much later when registrations became “cherished” “private “personalised” and sought after. In the early days, the popular registrations were letters with number one (example C 1 or AB 1). Names and words on car registrations have become much more popular since DVLA released age related, prefix and the current systems.
DVLA personalised registrations have raised nearly £1 billion for the treasury with sales from DVLA auctions and the massive release of prefix range. Car registrations released via auction and dvla telesales were A5 TON, K1NGS, TAN 1A, B16 GER, WOR 1D, P1 LOT are only the tip of the ice burg. Obviosly these registrations were big hitters for DVLA registrations. CarReg have bought, sold and indeed invested in many prefix car registrations over the last 20 years or more.
Many car registrations which are deemed offensive are withdrawn by the DVLA. In the early day letters banned letters were pretty mild compared todays list “BUM"GOD"SOD"SOT"SOD"BAS"DAM were too offensive! However there were some like “PEN 15” and “FU 2” that slipped the net. Now may complete combinations have to be withdrawn from sale. “BU58 OMB"EAT 541T"AH11 TLR"HO57 AGE"AA55 OLE"SH11 TTS all banned.
Later, registrations are also allocated to agricultural and construction vehicles, they all remain none transferrable. Motorcycle registrations only became transferrable much later. Transferring registrations from mopeds and motorcycles released many new numbers back into the market. Some numbers which were previously withheld were now replacement numbers like the popular “BAS"JAS"LSV"USV range. Moped transfers were very popular in Northern Ireland, some dealers held hundreds of mopeds with saleable registrations like MIL / BIL / FIL / JIL / BAZ etc etc. Once they were sold, the moped automatically received a replacement and saleable registration number.
Into the future! There has been press talk in the past about car registrations being replaced with bar codes and GPS tags. Of course this is just not going to happen. Vehicles would not be immediately identifiable by the human eye which is part of the reason why they were issued back in 1903! Maybe it would be beneficial to fit a chip somewhere into the number plate which could then be scanned when the vehicle passed over different parts of the UK. Tracking illegal activity has to be near the top of the list with policing vehicles, we see now better way than using car registrations just the same as we do now.