‘Crazy platies’ set new record for ACT number plates

Kim Treasure 11 July 2021 47
Darrell Leemhuis in front of car with '57' ACT number plate

ACT number plate collector Darrell with one of his prized possessions. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

Some people collect stamps, others collect butterflies, then there’s a bunch of Canberrans who call themselves ‘crazy platies’ and collect rare ACT number plates.

Second and third-generation builders Peter and Darrell are among them, and earlier this month set a new record for the most expensive ACT number plate sold in the 400s, when they purchased ‘ACT 418’ for $37,125.

It completes a run of four consecutive plates for them and they say, while it was an expensive purchase, it all averages out given Darrell has been collecting number plates since he was little more than a kid.

“I was a third-year apprentice,” he says. “I bought a three-digit plate from an old bloke in a retirement home who didn’t have any family in the ACT to give it to and I told him I’d never sell it. When I bought the plate, it didn’t leave enough in the ATM to take out $20.”

READ ALSO: Original three-digit Canberra number plates fetching a fair price

Darrell’s fascination with old ACT number plates began as a child after his dad bought one before he was born.

“He just walked up to the rego office and bought it back in the day,” he says.

No longer available from the ACT Road Transport Authority (RTA), one-to-three digit plates have become incredibly sought after.

According to Access Canberra’s Check Registration portal, every conceivable variation of single, double and triple-digit Canberra number plates exist, and are privately owned.

Darrell Leemhuis holding three ACT three-digit number plates

A trio of valuable three-digit ACT number plates from Darrell’s collection. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

The ACT registered ‘1’ plate is currently owned for a private vehicle, and was reportedly purchased many years ago for more than $65,000.

Darrell and his family now have a collection of between 30 and 40 two and three digit number plates between them.

“Dad has six kids and he gives them to us when we get married, graduate or on some other occasion,” he says. “When we get together, you rock up and everyone has a two or three-digit plate.

“I have as many cars as number plates. If I don’t have a car, I buy one for the plate to go on.”

While the plates appreciate as an asset, Darrell has no intention of selling them.

“My kids might one day,” he says. “You wouldn’t blame them if it means a deposit on a house or something.”

'320' ACT number plate on yellow car

Collecting cars and plates can become addictive. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

Darrell says people become involved in number plate collecting for many reasons. Some like certain numbers, and some for investment growth, while others want to personalise their car, but most simply for passion.

If Darrell’s motivation is passion, Pablo Serazio’s must be verging on obsession.

The 61-year-old Queanbeyan man has spent 35 years acquiring number plates and he has literally thousands of them in his collection.

“I am slowing down these days,” he says with a laugh. “But I’m always interested in what people might have in their shed.”

Pablo’s plate addiction began innocently enough.

READ ALSO: Rowena’s monarch butterfly obsession takes flight

“I moved into a rental and was exploring under the house and found a couple of old number plates,” he says. “Then I started collecting more.

“There are so many themes you can run with. You might start with one for each state, then you spot something different and you just keep accumulating.

“Initially, I just took anything I could get my hands on but now my real passion is for plates from the ACT. I have ones going back to 1927.”

Through a series of ‘horse-trades’, Pablo worked his way down from plate ‘2304’ to plate number ‘3’.

“My friend owns ‘1’ and ‘2’ so I thought ‘3’ would be the best I could get,” he says.

Pablo also owns plates that date back to when the Australian Capital Territory was the Federal Capital Territory.

Number plates on walls of garage

A sample of Pablo Serazio’s extensive number plate collection. Photo: Pablo Serazio.

“Prior to 1938, the plates had ‘FCT’ instead of ‘ACT’,” he says. “They are as rare as rocking-horse poo.“John Butters, the Federal Capital’s first commissioner, had the number plate ‘FCT 1’. When it became ‘ACT 1’, the FCT plate was grandfathered.

“The old ones have no value on a vehicle; they are purely heritage value.”

The history of a number plate is a large part of the attraction for Pablo.

“The average Joe or Jane might just see another number plate, but there have been lots of changes,” he says. “They have been manufactured differently.

“If a car gets scrapped, the plate might potentially turn up with a collector, but a lot get crushed.”

Pablo is justifiably proud of his collection of Canberra plates and says that’s where his focus remains.

“I’ve let other things go and I just concentrate on the ACT plates now,” he says.

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47 Responses to ‘Crazy platies’ set new record for ACT number plates
Greg Clarke Greg Clarke 8:36 pm 12 Jan 22

I own 54321 and am looking to sell

Helen Jones Helen Jones 4:06 pm 18 Jul 21

We bought plates 331 and 2331 for a song way back when…..

Sold the 331 plates and then sold 2331 , 7 years ago when we moved interstate..

Quite a few plates dealers in Canberra

Ranjith Wijewickrema Ranjith Wijewickrema 11:32 am 18 Jul 21

Hi Wayne,

Would the 483 be for sale?

I have 478, 874,486.

Love to own 483 or 487 if anyone has it.


John Moulis John Moulis 3:34 pm 17 Jul 21

The YUM and YUK series from 1990 are quite valuable now

Lea Thomas Lea Thomas 8:19 pm 13 Jul 21

Gillian Godwin there goes my life again - tell a story today about the old lady I had to key in her 2 digit number plate so she could get her parking ticket!

Jeanette Harper Jeanette Harper 9:42 am 13 Jul 21

I wondered if the family held the Canberra number plate 637. It was our families number plate when we came to Canberra in 1947. If they have that number I would like to send them a photograph of the car with the number plate. Plus it has the old canvas water bag on the front bumper bar.

    Kim Kim 7:54 pm 18 Jul 21

    Wow old canvas water bag. Now that’s going back! Good luck in finding the plates

Rick Shrunk Moranis Rick Shrunk Moranis 8:56 pm 12 Jul 21

Collecting dead butterflies is for me I think 🦋 this car business is too expensive

Wayne Blanchfield Wayne Blanchfield 7:13 pm 12 Jul 21

I have 483

Dean Tranda Dean Tranda 4:48 pm 12 Jul 21

How can we get Daryls details as we actually hold plate 415 may be an offer to buy in the future making it a 5 plate run for him

Chris Murdock Chris Murdock 12:28 pm 12 Jul 21

My grandfather until the year 2012 owned the NSW number plate #6.

Worth a pretty penny that's for sure. Hate to imagine what it's worth now 💎

    Warwick Bradly Warwick Bradly 10:16 pm 13 Jul 21

    Chris Murdock NSW 4 sold for $2.44 million

Oiledpengu Oiledpengu 10:30 am 12 Jul 21

Hardly a retirement investment. At that price you would need 30 sub 1000 plates to even look at buying a house.

Paul Mathews Paul Mathews 10:26 am 12 Jul 21

I have a NSW plate (shhh) from <1972, but tied it to neighbour's BARKING DOG and he wont give it back, just BARKS

Marc Dawson Marc Dawson 9:38 am 12 Jul 21

My mum had ACT 234, I had ACT 2345

Dianne Thornton Dianne Thornton 8:30 am 12 Jul 21

I’ve got plate 318. Not selling though.

Shane Richards Shane Richards 10:46 pm 11 Jul 21

I have 3 , 4 & 5 digit plates...next I want a 2 digit....

    Jay Arter Jay Arter 1:29 am 12 Jul 21

    Shane Richards Got my interest.. Just wondering value on some of those.. Even tho I'm in Arizona its always cool to hear about plates from other places.. I have a few Arizona ones... oldest is 1919.

    Jay Arter Jay Arter 1:31 am 12 Jul 21

    along with 1932 and 1933, all our Horseless Carriage/Historic plates are made from copper.. Arizona is Copper State

    Shane Richards Shane Richards 6:32 am 12 Jul 21

    Jay Arter i still have that one you sent to me...its really cool 😊

    Jay Arter Jay Arter 8:36 am 12 Jul 21

    Shane Richards I couldn't remember which plate I sent you... 1969 Arizona? It would be Yellow plate

    Paula Marquardt Paula Marquardt 2:58 pm 12 Jul 21

    Shane Richards oh you sick puppy

Blake Chapman Blake Chapman 9:57 pm 11 Jul 21

Michael Gray three digit plate looking good!

Jack Miller Jack Miller 9:42 pm 11 Jul 21

Would anyone know if A series (bicentennial) plates are worth anything?

Michelle Bee Michelle Bee 8:04 pm 11 Jul 21

Don’t all number plates have to be on registered cars?

    Matthew McCauley-Collins Matthew McCauley-Collins 6:05 am 12 Jul 21

    Michelle technically, no. They can be held in storage.

    Andrew Dale Andrew Dale 7:23 am 12 Jul 21

    Matthew McCauley-Collins it's not even technically. They cost about $11 a month from memory to keep in storage if you don't have them on a car or bike

    Shane Jarosz Shane Jarosz 9:04 am 12 Jul 21

    i think you can only keep the plates in storage for 1 year

    Simon Wheaton Simon Wheaton 9:12 pm 13 Jul 21

    Shane Jarosz "The minimum storage period for numberplates is two months and the maximum period is five years."

    Craig McGill Craig McGill 5:06 pm 15 Jul 21

    There are lots and lots of plates in the hands of collectors that do not have the right to put on a vehicle. For example, if I let my car's rego expire and never renew it, I still have the plates (although technically I'm meant to hand them back) but I can no longer drive around with them. If your number plate gets lost or damaged you need to ask to have it remade and the old one you can keep. I once liked the personal plate on a friend's car so the friend went in to the motor vehicle registry, said her plate was lost, and had another made. I paid for it and kept the remake. I don't have the right to drive with it but it's still an original plate. Collectors have thousands of plates with no right to drive. I have a friend with plate ACT "6". It's an old one and he can't drive with it but it's real and was issued by the MVR decades ago. The current "6" was made much more recently.

Justin Richards Justin Richards 7:27 pm 11 Jul 21

Are they talking about you Michael Thomson ? ;)

    Michael Thomson Michael Thomson 7:50 pm 11 Jul 21

    Justin Richards only got collection of one!

Michele Gorman Michele Gorman 4:27 pm 11 Jul 21

We have 4 number number plates, the lowest is 277. The other 3 are 4 digit and came off my father in law's trucks.

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