Agents & Dealers Since 1988
Call us: 01902 791 997
The Final DVLA Number Plate Auction

On Friday 20th October 2023 the final "LIVE" auction of DVLA number plates was held, 1000 number plates were sold for the last time in a live auction room by the DVLA marking the end of an era.

The move has come since the covid-19 pandemic when all of DVLA's personalised registration auctions were forced to operate as 'Timed' Online only sales which were in operation pre-pandemic. Perhaps the success of the auctions in an online only format was the deciding factor.

The first ever auction was back in 1989 when Christie’s were the auctioneers on behalf of DVLA Sale of Marks. In this auction just 74 lots offered for sale at Christie's, South Kensington, London, with the first lot offered for sale by DVLA, 99 MG, selling for £8,000 (big money back then). The highest price that day was for 1 A, which sold for £160,000. That registration remains amongst the top 10 highest prices (at a DVLA number plate auction) 34 years later. Read on to see some of the other lots which were amongst the first 74 ever auctioned...

Venues in London, aswel as luxury hotels in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Manchester were used as venues and upmarket country hotels all across the UK were carefully selected to suit the high spending clientele the auctions attracted. The Balmoral Hotel in Edinburgh, Rudding Park (Harrogate) , Celtic Manor (Wales), Ragley Hall (Warwickshire), Haycock Hotel (Cambs). Other venues used over the years include the National Motorcycle Museum, Manchester United's Football ground , Old Trafford, F1 Centre at Silverstone race circuit and Mercedes Benz World in Weybridge Surrey.

December of 1989 marked the start of a 34 year journey of auctioning personalised number plates for the Transport arm of the UK Government, the Secretary of State for Transport, Department for transport commonly known now as DVLA. The late Cecil Parkinson was then held the cabinet position in Margaret Thatchers government. It is reported that the auctions have made more than £2 Billion pounds for HM Treasury over that time.

In a DVLA survey back in 2019, the results showed that 69% of buyers bought a private registration because of a personal connection (a name or their initial(s), just 6% for their business and almost one fifth saw them as an investment. It's clear from the prices being achieved nowadays compared to yesteryear that many private number plates could be deemed a shrewd investment.

Some of the "74 Lots" sold in December 1989 :-

1 A £160,000, with 2 A selling 2 years later in Dec 1991 for 1/10thmaking £15,000 and the year after that in 1992, 3 A sold for just £6250 on the hammer. All 1x1’s in todays market 30 years later are making £250k upwards!

  • 1 A £160,000
  • MUS 1C £65,000
  • 1 T £56,000
  • 500 SL £37,000
  • JUL 1E £34,000
  • 1 SUE £31,000
  • ANN 1E £29,000
  • 1 NN £26,000
  • 1 OFF £26,000
  • MAR 10N £26,000
  • 911 POR £25,000
  • 1 RON £25,000
  • GEM 1 £24,000
  • 1 OU £22,000
  • 1 HMS £17,500
  • 1 OLD £14,000
  • C1 GAR £14,000
  • 1000 RS £10,000
  • 18 PAM £10,000
  • 10 CC £11,000
  • 8 TS £9,000
  • 10 TEN £9,000
  • 10 JR £8,500
  • 99 MG £8,000
  • 4 PUT £8,000
  • 8 EEN £7,000
  • 21 ROB £7,000
  • 10 TON £5,000

Registrations such as 1 AM (March 1990), 1 DB, 1 JM, 1 GC , 1 DJ (Dec 1990), 1 BEX (May 1990), J1 MMY (Jan 1991), DAV 1D (Dec 1991), APR 1L (Mar 1990) MAR 1E (Nov 1992) sold in the early years when top quality plates and short number 1's were plentiful and until that time had not been previously issued.

Many "A1" prefix plates sold in 1990/1991 via auctions which made varying prices. A1 DEN, A1 RON A1 MUM, A1 ANS, A1 LAN, A1 JON, A1 BOB, A1 DAN, to name a few. The sale of these coincided with the general release of the A-Prefix marks which become available to the public around the same time (A1 - 20, followed by 3 letters).

Interestingly, many of the extremely sought after 1x1 format plates generally didn’t begin to be sold until around 1992,93, 94,95, with some such as 6 B and 1 O not being sold until much later in 2008 and 2009 respectively. Number 1's with 2 initial letters were often preferred at this time.

Top 14 Highest sellers over the years at auction.

  • 25 O £400k, 2014
  • 1 D £285k, 2009
  • DEV 1L £240k, 2021
  • 51 NGH £201k, 2006
  • IG 1 £222k, 2019
  • 1 RH £196k, 2008
  • K1 NGS £185k, 1993
  • KR15 HNA £180k, 2015
  • 1 O £170k, 2009
  • 1 A £160k, 1989
  • 1 OO £156k, 2006
  • 2 O £115k, 2009
  • 6 B £102k, 2008
  • 250 L £101k, 2014

25 0 (£400k, 2014), 1 D (£285k, in 2009), 51NGH (£201k, 2006), 1 RH (£196k, 2008), KR15 HNA (£180k, 2015), K1 NGS (£185k, 1993), 1 O (£170k, 2009), 1 A (£160k, 1989), 1 OO (£156k, 2006), 2 O (£115k, 2009) 6 B (£102k, 2008), 1 HRH (£92k, 2009).

The 100th DVLA Auction was held in April 2006. 85 C, 69 E, F4 CUP, SJP 1, 66 PW, 77 SK . Many 1x3 and 2x2 formats were included as these were still plentiful back then.

Many other perfect names didn’t get round to be sold until the late 90’s (such as J4 SON June 1998, S1MON in Jan 1999, J4 MES also in 1998)

Premier Motor Auctions , a company based near Leeds took the helm and ran the auctions very well for a number of years and some of the original staff & auctioneers remained with the DVLA Auction set up for many years despite the contractual arrangements in the background. Following Premier Auctions, SMA followed them and later motor auctioneers BCA took control for much of the last decade.

Nowadays the auctions are generally held over 3 days usually with around 1000-1500 lots. The online only auctions have as many as 2500 lots up for grabs and run for around 5 working days plus the weekend in between.

Will we ever see an auction of personalised number plates like it again or has the digital era put pay to that for good? Let us know your thoughts, get in touch.


This website uses cookies

We use cookies to provide better user experience, monitor advert campaigns and website traffic. Click “Accept,” to agree or go to “settings” to modify or reject cookies.