2 January 2023

'X' number plate sets new ACT record at auction

| James Coleman
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This ACT ‘X’ number plate broke the sale records in December 2022. Photo: Rich Legg/ALLBIDS.

An ACT number plate from the early 1990s has broken the sale price record in the ACT after going up for auction this month.

The small and simple ‘X’ plate astounded the staff at the ALLBIDS showroom in Fyshwick.

“It’s the first time we’ve auctioned off a single letter and it blew our expectations out the water and those of the vendor as well,” general manager Ben Hastings said.

The sale opened on the popular auction house’s website on 8 December with a starting price of $2000. More than 110 bids later and the auction closed on 21 December at $147,200.

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Ben said it was a record for a single-digit plate in the ACT, and he put it down to the letter’s meaning.

“The Chinese lean towards some letters and numbers for good luck and X – like the number 8 – is one of them,” he said.

In Chinese culture, ‘X’ is combined with ‘i’ to represent happiness. It even has its own symbol.

And in Anglo-Saxon culture, an X denotes anything from a movie you probably shouldn’t be watching to an unknown (think algebra and The X-Files) or a peck on the cheek.

Ben said there had also been an enormous jump in market prices for heritage and signature number plates across the nation, particularly in Victoria, from where many of the X bidders originated.

“The Victorian Government has been very proactive in keeping up with what the collector market is doing in their state, and took control of it pretty quickly by charging more for special release number plates,” he said.

“This has then skyrocketed the prices in the used market for these plates.”

Ben Hastings with some of the vehicles available through the ALLBIDS. Unique and Classic Cars Auction. Photo by Tim Jessop.

ALLBIDS general manager Ben Hastings. Photo: Tim Jessop.

Some single-digit plates can fetch close to half-a-million dollars in Victoria and this is just starting to flow into Canberra, where plates typically go for less than a third of those prices.

“It hasn’t taken off quite as quickly in the ACT as other jurisdictions, because the ACT Government hasn’t taken advantage of the market in the same way.”

Access Canberra offers a variety of special number plates, ranging in price from $68.10 for a rainbow-patterned set to $6013 for one depicting the vehicle make. While single-digit plates ran out decades ago, Ben said anyone could walk in and buy a four-digit combination across the counter for $2147.40.

“I know these are getting very low in stock, but the government would still sell those plates even if they put the price up because the demand is so high.”

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As for what the buyer does with a $147,000 number plate, it can be anything from screwing it onto the car to pinning it on the wall as a trophy.

“It’s a bit of a status symbol for people who collect the best combinations,” Ben said.

Get it right and it’s a genuinely strong investment too.

“The ones that flow nicely – such as where it’s all one number, or two numbers in a nice pattern – typically attract more attention, but we’re starting to see mark-up in even the five-digit ACT plates,” Ben said.

“The fours are valuable, the threes even more and then twos and ones are extremely valuable and very rarely come up for sale.”

Many of these have been in the same family since they were first minted, and passed through the generations.

“Over time, the values have just increased and increased.”

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