Brits have spent a record £102 million on personalised number plates in the past 12 months. A report in the Daily Mail claims this brings the Treasury's total haul from number plates to an impressive £2 billion since the DVLA started selling off particularly popular plates in 1989. It means there's a chance we could all make money from our car registration.
In addition to the Treasury sales, there's a vibrant second-hand market, where a huge variety of personalised plates are bought and sold. The five most expensive plates ever sold in the UK are:
5. M1 - sold in 2006 at a charity auction for £331,000, to a mobile phone tycoon - who said he had bought it for his son.
4. 1D - sold in 2009 for £352,000. It set a new record at the time for the priciest registration ever sold direct by the DVLA (as opposed to some of the more expensive ones sold privately).
3. S1 - sold in 2008 for £404,000. It's thought to be Scotland's first ever plate, first sold in 1903.
2. F1 - sold in 2008 for £440,625 to Bradford businessman Afzal Khan. He says he has had offers for millions of pounds on the plate.
Special mention also goes to KR15 HNA, which sold for £233,000 last year - which was the highest price ever realised for a standard UK plate. It was sold in a DVLA auction - where KR15HAN also sold for £98,500.
Can you make money?
The popularity of plates means that even if you have something you do not consider to be particularly valuable, you can offer it up on the second hand market. Someone somewhere may have a connection to your plate and be prepared to buy it.
You can search with a number of companies - including Carreg.com and simplyregistrations.co.uk - which will let you know how much they think your registration will sell for. According to a study by Carfused, the average cost of a privately sold plate is £387, so you could make reasonable money. The study found that one in 20 people had spent more than £1,000 on a plate, so if you have something popular you could cash in.
If you're lucky, your registration will spell out a popular word, surname, or set of initials (initials are the ones most commonly bought and sold). One of the DVLA's priciest sales was 51NGH, which sold for £254,000 in 2006.
Occasionally, there may also be a chance to cash in. The Leicester Mercury recently reported, for example, that after Leicester City's Premiership triumph, a number of opportunistic sellers have hit the market - advertising in the newspaper's classified section. The owner of C1TYS is hoping to get £65,000 for his plate. Another seller is hoping there will be plenty of interest in L65TER - enough to earn him £10,000. Alternatively there's PL16FOX up for sale for £10,000 and LC56CTY for £5,000.
Can you invest?
There's also the possibility of buying an expensive registration number, in the hope that it increases in value over time. Common examples of expensive plates are short number plates - with two, three or four letters or numbers. The trouble is that in order to have one of these plates you will have had to have bought it before 1963 - when the registration date was added - so most of them have been bought and sold to the highest bidder.
If you invest in a popular plate, there's a chance to make money, because over the past few years the value of your plate may well have risen.
However, the experts highlight that this particular trend can't be guaranteed and depends entirely on demand for the plate. Take the 1D registration, for example, it may once have been a very popular option, but there's a chance there will be fewer 1D fans further down the track waiting to snap up the plate.
There are also times when a plate has simply not fetched anything like its estimate. 250 C, for example, was given a £500,000 estimate because it's the make of a very collectible Ferrari. However, on the day, bids peaked at £21,500.
You also need to be sure you are buying from a trusted seller - who has the V750 certificate of entitlement or V778 retention document - and that it is signed by the person named on the certificate.
So what do you think? Are you tempted? Or do you have reservations about personalised number plates altogether? Let us know in the comments.