Number plate '29' breaks Australian auction record

The Australian record for the most expensive number plate ever sold at auction was overtaken dramatically on Monday.

Auction House Shannons Sydney Autumn Auction saw NSW 29 zoom to an incredible $745,000, leaving the expected price of $490,000-$550,000 in the dust. That far exceeded the previous record of $689,000 for the even rarer single digit NSW 2, sold in 2003.

Christophe Boribon, national auctions manager at Shannons Auctions, said it was a spectacular result.

"Very, very rarely do you see a lower two-digit plate come on the market," he said. "Most of them get passed down through generation to generation and on the rare occasion they might come up on the market privately, so it's not seen by the public."

Boribon said four or five high bidders had been whittled down to two in the final $50,000 and that the strong result was indicative of a growing market for heritage number plates over the last five years.

Historical value

The historic value was a major drawcard for collectors, Boribon added, with the earliest record for NSW 29 was found in a 1915 Holden Motorists' Guide, attached to a Minerva 26 horsepower motor vehicle that belonged to a Mr McCormack of MacQuarrie Street, Sydney.

"I think a lot of people go back to the history of the plates when they were first issued back in 1910," Boribon said. 'The number of people on the road was a very small quantity, where we see the calibre of people that had quite spectacular motor vehicles in those days. There's a great history there."

Investment plates

51698009 motoring writer Toby Hagon suggested private collectors would be excited. "I think there would be a lot of people looking at their rare single or double number plates at the moment thinking they might make a bit of a fortune.

"It's certainly a massive amount to part with for what is a very small piece of metal, but these days people are after the rarity and something unique," he added. "Getting one of those early number plates that these days are more than 100 years old has a big appeal with a lot of people."

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James Nicholls, automobile specialist at auction house Mossgreen, is preparing to put NSW 39 under hammer on Sunday, with an estimate of $400,000-$450,000. He remained quietly optimistic, but with one caveat.

"There's always a provision with plates," he said. "Some numbers have special meaning for some people, and so 29 may have been, bought for someone's 29th birthday present. So I don't think there's necessarily a logical rationale."

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