To most of us, a number plate is a simple stamped piece of metal with an identification number. But to the connoisseur, those plates are a gateway to prestige and swagger.
And they’re willing to pay for it. This top 20 list represents the most expensive license plates in the world, with some of them going for multiple millions of dollars.
For some collectors, it’s just for the pure luxury of owning the best of the best. If you already own a swell collection of classic cars, or maybe a stable of top-tier speed beasts, then why not treat yourself to a notable number plate?
For others, a rare license plate is a declaration of social stature. In the United Arab Emirates, a single-digit plate can say more about your social standing than a garage full of expensive rides.
And of course there’s always the cool factor. What car collector wouldn’t want to boast about having the most expensive license plate in New York? Or that their number plate was once owned by a famous rock star?
Quite a few car lovers will be able to rattle off a list of the world’s most expensive cars. But this list presents your chance to pull ahead and wow your car crowd with some deep license plate knowledge.
The 20 most expensive license plates in the world
20. 66 – Abu Dhabi: $1.2 Million
Abu Dhabi’s No 66 plate went for a wallet-busting $1.2 million in an auction in 2016.
We’re going to be seeing quite a few Abu Dhabi plates on our list. Why are they so special to collectors in the Emirates?
The main reason is that Abu Dhabi is the capital of the UAE. So while having a significant tag from any of the regions in the Emirates is a cause for pride, having one from the capital adds an extra layer of shine to the plates in question.
19. 22 – Abu Dhabi: $1.3 Million
Abu Dhabi plate No 22 was one of many plates that went for spectacular sums during an auction in 2017. Sold for $1.3 million, pricey 22 wasn’t even the most expensive plate sold that day. (Hint: the top-seller is coming up later in our list.)
18. 10 – Abu Dhabi: $1.3 Million
We all knew a No 10 plate was going to show up somewhere on this list. In this case, it’s Abu Dhabi’s No 10, which sold for $1.3 million at an online auction in 2017.
The winner’s identity was not released. However, Emirates Auctions stated that there were 511 bids before the virtual gavel came down on the final sale.
17. 99 – Abu Dhabi: $1.5 Million
Abu Dhabi plate No 99 was sold in June 2009 for $1.5 Million as part of an auction for a “5 series”. This means that the purchase enabled the winner to own the other 4 numbers in the same series — 9, 999, 9999, and 99999.
So just how popular are these auctions in the UAE? According to the CEO of Emirates Auctions, during an auction the web portal can reach as high as 36,000 visitors from 52 different countries.
16. 12 – Abu Dhabi: $1.6 Million
Abu Dhabi plate No 12 went for $1.6 million in 2010. It has since gone up on the auction block again, appearing at a sale in 2016 with a couple of other plates that went for even more staggering sums, as we’ll see below.
15. V – Hong Kong: $1.8 Million
It’s not quite clear who snatched up Hong Kong’s license plate V during the island’s Lunar New Year auction, hosted by the Transport Department in February of 2017.
What is known is that the mystery woman slapped down $1.8 million, which was 2,600 times more than its initial reservation price of HK$5,000.
14. 11 – Abu Dhabi: $1.8 Million
Abu Dhabi plate No 11 has sold for massive amounts twice in the past twenty years. The first sale occurred in May of 2007, for the princely sum of $1.4 million. It then changed hands again on November 19th, 2016 for $1.8 million.
No 11 is owned by Emirati businessman Abu Mohammad, who also bagged plate No 7 at the same auction (coming up below).
13. NSW 4 – New South Wales, Australia: $2 Million
The most expensive license plate in Australia is proudly owned by Chinese billionaire Peter Tseng, the world’s largest manufacturer of sex toys. He bought the plate at an auction for $2 million in 2017 despite the fact that 4 is an unlucky number.
According to Chinese tradition, 4 has some seriously bad luck associated with it because in both Mandarin and Cantonese, it sounds very much like the word for “death”.
12. 18 – Hong Kong: $2 Million
No 18 held the top license plate spot in Hong Kong for almost a decade, being snatched up in 2008 for $2 Million.
Chinese traditions hold that the number 18, pronounced “shi ba”, is lucky because it sounds much like the characters for “shi fa”, which translate as “will definitely become rich.”
11. 28 – Hong Kong: $2.1 Million
A recurring theme amongst the most expensive number plates in the world is a low plate number, like good old number 28. Sold in Hong Kong in 2016, 28 has the added bonus of sounding like the Cantonese phrase for “easy money”.
Hong Kong introduced bidding for coveted plate numbers back in 1973, with the money going to charity. The owner of lucky 28 remains unidentified, as they placed their bid through a proxy agent.
10. 2 – Abu Dhabi: $2.7 million
Single-digit plates are held in such high esteem in the United Arab Emirates, that when plate No 2 was introduced at its auction in November of 2017, it was given a rock-star entrance with rock music, a light show, and smoke.
The No 2 plate has an added bit of historic significance — the 2 is symbolic of December 2, 1971, the founding of the United Arab Emirates. The winner of the bidding war between 20 eager bidders was 23 year-old Emirati businessman Ahmed Al Mazroui who paid $2.7 million.
9. 9 – Dubai: $2.8 Million
The first of our United Arab Emirates entries, 9 actually sold twice for staggering amounts. The first sale was in 2008 for $2.8 million and then dipped a bit in price in 2010, dropping to the paltry sum of $2.7 million.
Citing that Dubai has no income tax, the proud owner, property developer Balwinder Sahni, says that the big purchase is a way for him to contribute to charity and toward improving the city’s infrastructure.
8. 7 – Abu Dhabi: $3.9 Million
Abu Dhabi No 7 has sold for an extraordinary amount not once, not twice, but three times!
The biggest of the No 7 sales took place on Feb 2, 2010 for a breezy $3.9 million.
The well-traveled No 7 has the prestige of being a single-digit plate of course, but like No 2, it has a bonus significance attached to its number — there are 7 emirates in the UAE.
7. 5 – Abu Dhabi: $4.6 Million
Dubai property developer Balwinder Sahni paid a cool $4.6 million in October of 2016 at a government auction for plate No 5. Sahni said that since the money will go to the government, he hopes it will be used to improve the city’s infrastructure.
We can understand Sahni’s desire for smoother roads. He wouldn’t want to damage any of his eight Rolls Royce cars, one of which became the proud new home of plate No 5.
6. 09 – Dubai: $5.7 Million
Sold in Dubai on July 7th, 2015, for $5.7 million, information is thin on the ground when it comes to plate 09. Plates in the UAE can have different categories, so the same number can be issued more than once. That being said, it’s generally held that this is a different plate than plate No 9, which we mentioned above.
5. 1 – Abu Dhabi: $9.5 Million
When asked why he paid $9.5 million at the 2008 auction for plate No 1, property mogul Saeed Abdul Ghaffar Khouri replied, “I bought it because it’s the best number.”
In the car-centric environment of Abu Dhabi, your car and its adornments are statements of power and position. By hanging 1 from his fenders, Khouri boldly let the world know that he was a man of confidence and prestige.
4. D5 – Dubai: $9.6 Million
Property developer Balwinder Sahni is back again, this time grabbing the D5 plate for one of his aforementioned Rolls-Royces in October of 2016 for $9.6 million. Why D5? Because D is the fourth letter of the English alphabet, and 4 + 5 = 9, the same number as his previous mention in this list.
3. New York – USA: $20 Million
This one is pretty self-explanatory. The most expensive license plate in New York has the designation of, you guessed it, “New York”.
The state of New York started issuing vanity plates in the late 1970s, and one unidentified family was lucky enough to get their hands on the only street-legal “New York” plate in existence.
If you think the $20 million dollar price tag is a little steep, just remember that the family is throwing in the decades-old Volvo that is currently carrying the plates.
2. F1 – England: $20 Million
Looking to usurp 25 O’s (coming up below) top spot in the UK, the plate F1 is up for sale for $20 Million. The current owner, Afzal Kahn (an automotive designer and entrepreneur) currently has the plate gracing his Bugatti Veyron.
Khan originally bought the plate back in 2008 from the Essex County Council. Previously owned by a councilman who had it on his Volvo, Khan paid $619,771, with the money going to charity.
1. MM – USA: $24.3 Million
It’s not just the most expensive license plate in California. It’s not even just the most expensive license plate in the US. Valued at $24.3 Million, California plate MM takes the top spot for the most expensive license plate in the world.
Two-character plates are the hardest to find in the U.S., and plates using the same letter for both characters are rarer still. In fact, there are only 35 of them in existence. This particular plate is also dished up with an NFT, making it more valuable still.
If you’re treating yourself to a $24 Million license plate, you should probably make sure you have a cool ride worthy of its stature. Perhaps a luxury SUV would fit the bill, or maybe a top-tier electric car. Or if two-wheelin’ it is more your thing, you could always consider a bleeding-edge motorcycle.
Additional notable license plates
25 O – England: $730k – The most expensive number plate in the UK
The UAE is definitely a hot-spot for expensive license plates, but there are plenty of collectors in other parts of the globe.
For example, the most expensive number plate in the UK (that was actually sold, as opposed to just put up for sale) is 25 O.
In 2014 sworn Ferrari-lover John Collins (a Ferrari dealership owner) dropped a cool $730k for 25 O. The current location of the most expensive number plate in the UK? Hanging off of a classic Ferrari 250 SWB.
But wait, it gets better. The SWB is a classic unto itself, but it has an added bonus — it was previously owned by none other than rock legend Eric Clapton. Learn more about the history behind the famous Italian luxury sports car brand with our Ferrari cars guide.
Delaware 11 – USA: $675k – The most expensive number plate in the US
We’re off to the lovely state of Delaware for plate No 11. Like the UAE, low-digit plates carry a lot of prestige here. (No 1 is reserved for the state’s governor, No 2 for the lieutenant governor, and No 3 goes to the secretary of state).
Another win at an auction, No 11 went to the Fuscos (a family of commercial real estate brokers) in 2008 for $675,000, making it the most expensive number plate in the US that has actually been sold (as opposed to just put up for sale).
Delaware holds a special place in the hearts of American plate collectors, since its vehicle-registration laws allow for license plate numbers to be passed down as an inheritance. Technically speaking, collectors are bidding on the number on the plate, instead of the plate itself.
12THMAN – USA: $115k – The most expensive license plate in Texas
The most expensive license plate in Texas, the Texas A&M (Texas Agricultural and Mechanical University) plate 12THMAN sold for a respectable $115,000 at an online auction in September, 2013. The plate was won by Houston attorney Tony Buzbee, who in turn gifted it to a decorated war veteran, Dan Moran, during a football game against the University of Alabama.
So who exactly is the “twelfth man”? In American football, 11 players take to the field. The “twelfth man” is the audience in the stands, cheering on the Texas A&M team.
How NFTs are changing the license plate game
The highest-valued license plate in the world, California MM, comes with an added bonus aside from its rarity – an NFT laser-inscribed in a QR code on the back of the plate.
If you’re not up to speed on NFTs (Non-Fungible Tokens), the tl;dr is that they are unique digital items (“non-fungible” basically means “one of a kind”). And they’re becoming more broadly adopted now that you can post and sell NFTs on Instagram.
For example, while a piece of digital art on the internet can be copied over and over again, there will only ever be one NFT attached to that art. (Or only one #1 NFT, one #2 NFT, and so on, if a series of NFTs for that piece of art are created).
The NFT attached to California MM is one in a series of one. So if you’re willing to dish out the $24.3 million, you’ll end up as not only the proud owner of a very rare license plate but also a one-of-a-kind NFT.
Summary: Serving it up on a plate
Maybe the coolest part of using number plates to bling up your car is that they’re more interesting than other vehicular adornments. Nice rims? You look at them, and then you’re done. Leather seats? They feel great, but there’s not much to discuss.
A license plate with a history gives owners something other upgrades lack — a conversation piece. Want a way to start chatting with your fellow car lovers? Think about getting your hands on a unique number plate.
So to recap, here are the top 20 top most expensive license plates in all their glory:
- California MM – $24.3 million USA
- F1 – $20 million UK
- New York – $20 Million USA
- D5 – $9.6 Million Dubai
- 1 – $9.5 million Abu Dhabi
- 09 – $5.7 Million Dubai
- 5 – $4.6 million Abu Dhabi
- 7 – $3.9 million Abu Dhabi
- 9 -$2.8 Million Dubai
- 2 – $2.7 million Abu Dhabi
- 28 – $2.1 million Hong Kong
- 18 – $2 Million Hong Kong
- NSW 4 – $2 Million New South Wales, Australia
- 11 – $1.8 Million Abu Dhabi
- V – $1.8 Million Hong Kong
- 12 – $1.6 Million Abu Dhabi
- 99 – $1.5 Million Abu Dhabi
- 10 – $1.3 Million Abu Dhabi
- 22 – $1.3 Million Abu Dhabi
- 66 – $1.2 Million Abu Dhabi
Frequently asked questions about expensive license plates
The most expensive license plate in the world in terms of listed value is the California MM, selling for $24.3 million. This sale price includes an NFT that is laser-inscribed onto the back of the plate.
The highest price paid for a plate that was actually sold was $9.5 million for plate D5 in Dubai. It was bought in an auction in 2016, with the money going to charity.
Plate No 1 was bought at an auction in Abu Dhabi by property developer Saeed Abdul Ghaffar Khouri in 2008. Read our ranking of the most expensive license plates in the world to see the entire list.
While it depends on one’s criteria for rarity, many number plate aficionados consider the UK 25 O plate the rarest plate in the world. It’s valued so highly because it matches up with the Ferrari-manufactured 250 GTO. It’s currently fixed to a Ferrari 250 GTO that was once owned by rockstar Eric Clapton.
The F1 plate gains its value from being an acronym for the popular Formula 1 racing events. This makes it one of a kind in the UK. The UK government specified that for this particular plate, no other letters or digits could be added to the designation.