I’ve become obsessed with license plate spotting. While most Hong Kong car plates are “normal” (two letters followed by four numbers), a small percentage are exceptionally striking in their individuality. I was amused when I spotted “ONION” and “POTATO.” I wretched slightly when I saw “POSHMUM.” And I started keeping track when I spotted “INVENTOR,” PIZZA” and lots of cryptic uses of “8” (a very lucky number in Chinese as it sounds like “wealth”).
It turns out that vanity license plates are quite popular among a certain Hong Kong set. As this NY Times article puts it:
“The popularity of what is the ultimate not-must-have car accessory is typical of the type of playful wealth display that Hong Kongers love: Those who can afford an expensive car love to individualize it, to set themselves apart from the seven million-strong Hong Kong crowd.”
A little research has uncovered that the plate names are auctioned off by the government to raise funds for poverty initiatives. So, it’s a win-win: those with money burning holes in their pockets can personalize their cars, and money is raised for good local causes. Details of the program and results of the auctions since 2006 can be found at the Personalize Vehicle Registration Mark Scheme website.
After cruising the government site, I now know that individuals submit personalized plate name applications which are then offered at public auction. Many of these plate names go to the original submitter for the minimum reserve bid of 5,000 HKD (about $650 US). But certain prized plates go for much, much more.
The richest of the rich apparently prefer the classy simplicity of two-initial plates which fetch the highest prices generally. For example, the prices of “TV,” “M X,” “JK,” “KC,” TF,” and “AY” ranged from HKD 140,000 to 600,000 (roughly to US $18,000 to $77,000)!
The highest priced plate I ran across was simply “18” which sold during a special Lunar New Year auction for a breathtaking HKD 16,500,000 (US $2.1 million)! My search was rather haphazard so there may be even higher priced plates.
There are also plenty of pretentious or humorous plates, including: “BANKER,” “SUCCESS,” “LAW,” K1NGK0NG,” “HE1OK1TY,” “ANGEL,” “HAPPY,” “GANGSTA,” “POSHBOY,” “JAGUAR,” “GOLFCLUB,” “911TURBO,” “FERRAR1,” “FAT,’ and “1 AM FAT.”
But, above all, this vanity plate–“GOD”– spotted by the now defunct blog Hong Kong Vanity Plates, takes the cake: