The $14m License Plate
is a surge of excitement among owners of low digit plates. Of
course, a fair amount of license plates with the number 1 do exist.
Every state or territory which issues license plates has one.
But no other plate is like this ONE. Never has another
plate sold for such a high price, over fourteen million dollars.
The fourteen million dollar License Plate
This ordinary half-pound of
metal was sold at auction where a determined 25 year old buyer paid $14.2
million dollars for one license plate, one with the number one.
This was an unprecedented price paid for a license plate and it shocked many people. The seemingly reckless abandon of paying
$14 million for a license plate was criticized as a frivolous waste of
a large sum of money. Fortunately, the proceeds will go to a
charity benefiting victims of traffic accidents.
The buyer of this license plate
is now “number 1”. He is the king of the road in a country
where the lower the number on your license plate, the higher your
perceived status. Status was for sale and he bought it.
The plate has been referred to
as a vanity plate. This fourteen
million dollar license plate exemplifies vanity. The winner
did not buy
this plate as an investment, to reap a higher reward down
the road. The buyer bought this plate purely for his own vanity.
His bumper shines more brightly today.
The price paid illustrates an
important economic lesson. There is nothing inherent in the
metal and paint on this license plate to make it worth fourteen
million dollars. There is a scarcity value for sure, as there
can only be one number one. But, EVERY license plate is unique; each plate has unique
numbers, though usually more of them. Every state in the
USA issues a license plate with the number one. Single digit
plates are coveted, however, none have ever sold for anywhere near fourteen million dollars. Just because something
is rare or unique does not mean it is valuable.
Astronomical value is created only when scarcity is coupled with
strong demand for an item. Kind of like oil prices.
The high bidder boasted that he
had no competition for this plate, he was determined
that it would
be his. Well, that’s not true. Other
bidders also wanted to be number one. They bid along with him, up
until the $14.2m price was determined to be the limit of the plate's value.
it was the #2 bidder who determined the value of #1, when he ceased
to bid more. In fact, the winning bidder later revealed that
he was prepared to pay up to $27 million dollars for #1.
What is different about
this record-setting plate price is where the
#1 license plate was sold and where it will appear on the road, in United Arab
Emirates, specifically Abu Dhabi. Abu Dhabi is the richest
city in the world. It has less citizens than Milwaukee
Wisconsin, but AD sits on almost 10% of the world's oil. This
is a city of noveau rich. Not until 1958 was the world's fifth
largest oil reserve discovered, below Abu Dhabi.
Eureka! The citizens of Abu Dhabi now have over $1 trillion
invested abroad; over $17m per citizen on average. This is a
place where big things happen and brash action is the norm, the
perfect place for a $14m license plate.
NUMBER FIVE. But why did
Numero Uno sell for so much?
price bar for what the #1
was worth was set in an earlier Abu Dhabi auction where the
number 5 license plate sold for $6.8m. Is #1 worth twice as much as
# 5? Of course it is! Unless the government were
to issue a number zero plate. That could cause some consternation
to uno-plate owners. But claiming “I’m a zero” will
never have the same cachet as “I am number one”.
Less is more. The $14
million dollar #1 license plate is not adorned with beautiful artwork or jewels. It is unique, but you would be hard-pressed to
call it beautiful. The money was not paid for the #1 license plate
itself, it was to purchase the status of owning the plate.
Rumor has it this plate will soon appear on the owner's Pagini.
If a rock bounces up and
scratches the #1 plate or if it is stolen from the owner’s vehicle, he will
another one made. No big deal, he will still be the only person
legally using number ONE on his vehicle.
NUMBER SIX - Do I hear
$675,000? In early 2008, the Delaware license plate with
the number 6 was sold at auction for $675,000. Recently
Delaware #17 sold for about $300k and in 1994 #9 was sold for $185k.
In the UK a license plate with 'F1' sold for about $875k. FYI,
PlatesUSA has a few plates with 'FU' for
less than $15 :).
DOUBLE ZERO - PlatesUSA is the
proud owner of the lowest number plate in Massachusetts, "Double
Zero". (The governor "only" has #1) FYI, "MD" stands for
Medical Doctor but we prefer "Minimal Digits".
Like the #1 Abu Dhabi plate, DOUBLE ZERO may be
legally registered on a vehicle. Currently, we
have no plans to register it for the PlatesUSA Pagini. But
perhaps it would look good on a 1964 Porsche 356 or a 1965
Do you have a one or two digit plate?
Send us a picture! Send email to firstname.lastname@example.org
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plate for yourself?
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