The upcoming auction for personalised Hong Kong vehicle registration marks, which is on April 29, will feature 140 plates, some of which include ‘CAV1AR’, ‘ME T1ME’, ‘HELP’, ‘LALALAND’ and ‘SHUSH’. The auction will be held at the Hong Kong Convention & Exhibition Centre in Wan Chai, and the bidding for each plate will begin at HK$5,000 (approximately US$630).

There are two types of registration marks in Hong Kong: traditional and personalised. The Transport Department sells them to the highest bidder and the proceeds go to the government’s treasury.

Traditional marks have been sold since 1973 at auctions, where car owners can bid for marks or apply to reserve unassigned ones. They must comprise no more than four numerals or a combination of no more than two letters followed by a maximum of four numerals.

Car owners in Hong Kong have been able to buy personalised marks, or vanity plates, since 2006. They must apply for the marks and follow specific guidelines, such as ensuring that the plates have no more than eight characters (including spaces) and do not include the letters ‘I’, ‘O’ and ‘Q’. Once the application for the mark is approved, it must be bought at an auction.

Vanity plates spotted on a black BMW  and red Tesla in Hong Kong.
Vanity plates spotted in Hong Kong (© Hong Kong Vanity Plates via Facebook)

Hong Kong licence plates can cost in the millions. At the 2023 Lunar New Year auction in February, a plate with a single letter, ‘R’, sold for HK$25.5 million (US$3.18 million). This was the second-highest amount paid for a registration mark, with the highest being the letter ‘W’ that fetched HK$26 million (US$3.31 million) at the 2021 Lunar New Year auction.

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The most recent auction for personalised marks was held on March 26, and the highest-selling plate was ‘KW’, which went for HK$1.08 million (US$137,000). Some of the other plates that went under the hammer included ‘NO SLEEP’, ‘ALLHAPPY’, ‘MATCHA’, and ‘H1 BUDDY’.

Spotting cars in Hong Kong with vanity plates is something of a hobby for many in the city, so much so that there are social media accounts and websites dedicated to the practice. Many bear the names of the car owners or their loved ones, such as ‘JACKWONG’, ‘ALWIN’ and ‘IRIS LAM’. Some are tongue-in-cheek — such as a ‘FERRARI’ licence plate spotted on a BMW, or ‘REDNOSE8’ on a Tesla with a hood ornament ‘dressed’ like Rudolph the reindeer. ‘SLOW’ and variations of the word are also popular picks for sports cars.

Header image credits: Hong Kong Vanity Plates via Facebook

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From the Middle East to the Far East and a couple of places in between, Anjali has lived in no fewer than seven cities in Asia, and has travelled extensively in the region. She worked as a lifestyle journalist in India before coming to Hong Kong, where her favourite thing to do is island-hopping with her daughter. You can check out her musings on motherhood, courtesy her Instagram profile.

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