The World of Abu Dhabi's Luxury License Plates
The Wall Street Journal has tackled a story we first heard about last February, the rise in prestigious license plates in Abu Dhabi. In this growing area more and more pricey cars are hitting the road every day and a prestigious license plate number is a hot accessory. In Abu Dhabi, monthly auctions of worthy numbers, (typically 1-10 and 11-99 are the most popular), bring high bidders and license plate collectors forward to spend millions on that perfect number. Lower numbers are particularly prized as are combinations of digits that are the same as luxury car models. The normal price for five random digits is a $95 registration fee.
Earlier this year, license plate number "1" sold for $14 million making it the world's most expensive license plate. Abu Dhabi businessman Saeed Khouri bought that one and his cousin, stockbroker Talal Khouri, paid $9 million for "5" which became the second-largest sum ever paid for a license plate. His brother paid just over $120,000 for the "430" plate to match his red Ferrari F430. While Abu Dhabi might not be as as over the top as Dubai, it is still a booming area and it is the heart of the license plate craze partly because it is the capital of the UAE. The WSJ reporter Margaret Coker was at the monthly auction recently and watched as "9" sold for $4.2 million through an agent purchasing for a man who had been trying for months to get a single digit plate.
As the WSJ reports Abu Dhabi isn't the first place with a license plate craze. Hong Kong has had license plate auctions for years and Russian executives have gone to great lengths to secure custom tags. We aren't immune here in the U.S. either. In Massachusetts where I grew up, low number plates have a certain preppy prestige. Just ask my mother who has moved to Florida and is currently agonizing over parting with her beloved Massachusetts plate "2002" which belonged to her mother.
Gallery: Scenes from a License Auction
Gallery: Abu Dhabi