A licence plate in Hong Kong bearing the single letter ‘D’ sold for a whopping HK$20.2 million (US$2.5 million) on Sunday at the annual Lunar New Year auction for personalised vehicle registration marks. The letter is associated with the words ‘dragon’ and ‘dollar’, which represent power and wealth in Chinese culture.

This is the third-highest amount paid for a licence plate in the city, with the record set in 2021 when a Hongkonger shelled out HK$26 million (US$3.33 million) for a plate with the letter ‘W’. In 2023, the vehicle registration mark ‘R’ sold for HK$25.5 million (US$3.26), the second-highest amount paid for a licence plate in the territory.

The most expensive personalised licence plates in Hong Kong (@ Hong Kong Transport Department)

There were a total of 49 registration marks up for grabs at this year’s auction, with 26 of them fetching over HK$24.52 million. The second-highest sale for the day was for the number plate ‘132’, which sold for HK$1.01 million (US$129,000). The remaining 23 were unsold.

The Lunar New Year Fair auction for personalised licence plates is organised by the Transport Department, which also oversees the sale of traditional registration marks. Conventional number plates have been sold since 1973, while personalised registration marks have been for sale since 2006. 

hong kong vanity licence plates
Hong Kong customised licence plates can range from personal to quirky.

Residents must first submit suggestions for personalised plate numbers, which can consist of no more than eight digits or letters, plus a space. All bids typically begin at HK$5,000, and plates with single letters and numbers are sought after because of their rarity, especially since the Transport Department forbids the use of ‘I’, ‘O’ and ‘Q’. 

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While the personalised licence plates that go under the hammer during the Lunar New Year auction are considered lucky and auspicious, the auctions that take place during the rest of the year feature plates that are more quirky and unique. During the April 2023 auction, for instance, the 140 plates up for grabs included ‘CAV1AR’, ‘ME T1ME’, ‘HELP’, ‘LALALAND’ and ‘SHUSH’.

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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