What letter on a car number plate is worth more than HK$20 million in Hong Kong?

Ahead of the sale, the “D” plate was stirring talk of fetching at least HK$10 million as the letter was connected to auspicious words such as “dragon” and “dollar”.

Together with 25 other plates, the auction earned more than HK$24.52 million, which will go to the government’s coffers. Photo: Yik Yeung-man

The department set a reserve price of HK$5,000 at about 3.30pm and the first bidder offered HK$5 million. Two duelling prospective buyers soon emerged, pushing up the price in HK$50,000 increments until their rivalry was settled when one made the HK$20.2 million winning bid after more than 74 rounds that lasted about half an hour.

Together with 25 other plates, the auction earned more than HK$24.52 million, which will go to the government’s coffers. Another 23 plates on offer, however, went unsold.

The second most expensive plate contained just the digits “132” and sold for HK$1.01 million. The third priciest plate of the night was “TT 1”, which was snapped up for HK$840,000.

Ringo Lee Yiu-pui, the honorary life president of the recently renamed Hong Kong, China Automobile Association, said single-digit number plates were particularly sought-after because of their rarity.

“There are only 23 English alphabet letters that can be used and Arabic numerals one to nine,” he said. “There cannot be repetitions. But there are a lot more combinations in two-digit or even three-digit number plates.”

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According to the Transport Department’s guidelines, “I”, “O” and “Q” are not allowed to be used in number plates.

Authorities launched the public auction of customised vehicle registration marks in 2006, allowing residents to submit suggestions of no more than eight digits or letters plus a space.

Sunday’s “D” plate topped the record previously held by the “V” plate sold in 2017 for HK$13 million, but fell HK$5.3 million short of the bid for the “R” plate sold last year.

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The most expensive licence plate auctioned in Hong Kong bears just the letter “W”, and went for HK$26 million in 2021, 5,200 times the reserve price.

A plate saying “1 L0VE U”, which ranked sixth, sold for HK$1.4 million.

Secretary for Transport and Logistics Lam Sai-hung said earlier this month that authorities had held more than 160 auctions for nearly 40,000 such plates, generating HK$600 million in revenue.


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