$14.3M License Plate: Auction Sets World Record

Man pays record amount for car license plate at Abu Dhabi auction.

ByABC News
February 16, 2008, 12:26 PM

TEHRAN, Iran, Feb. 16, 2008 — -- No, it's not made of solid gold -- just ordinary aluminum. But it does come with the swagger of being labeled no. "1." And that's evidently worth a record $14.3 million.

Today, a businessman named Saeed Abdul Ghafour Khouri was willing to pay 52.2 dirham -- the equivalent of $14.3 million -- for the local license plate labeled "1" at an auction at the 7-star Emirates Palace Hotel in Abu Dhabi, making it the world's most expensive license plate.

The previous record was held by Abu Dhabi plate number 5, bought at auction for $6.8 million by stock broker Talal Khouri last year.

The oil-rich cities of the Persian Gulf are driven by car culture, with relatively few pedestrian areas or public transport options. Vanity plates are a matter of personal pride and indulgence.

The value of a plate depends on a a mix of math and emotional appeal. Normal license plates have 5 randomized numbers. From there, they get more expensive. Prices go up for fewer digits and cooler numbers. Number one is considered the most prestigious.

"From 1 to 10, these are the most expensive numbers," said Abdulla al Mannaie, managing director of Emirates Auctions. "Ten to 99 are the second category. On the other side, you look to numbers which is like 11, 22, 23 they are expensive because it carry [repeating digits].

"We are trying to link between car models and number plate, like a Ferrari 599 and the plate 599, as well as date of birth or anniversary," said al Mannaie. "They are looking to the number plate as if it is their identity, their personal identity."

Plates "5" and "7" sold for nearly 10 times the value of the luxury cars they adorn.

"Our job at Emirates Auction is to make an expensive car without a prestigious license plate worth nothing," al Mannaie told ABC News. "Owners will change their car, but they will keep using the same plate for life."

He has had the number "383" for more than 30 years. He has since bought a cell phone number to match.