Early last month, the license plates from the limousine in which JFK took his fateful final journey were sold at auction for an astonishing $100,000. When the car went in for reinforcement work, Willard Hess, the owner of the mechanics company, kept hold of the plates. He passed them on to his daughter Jane Walker, who had since stored them in a kitchen drawer and occasionally taken the plates out to “show them to friends.”
Bidding on the plates started at just under $40,000 and, according to the Dallas Morning News, did not attract any advance bids. By the end of their first day on formal sale, online bidders sent the price up to nearly $75,000 before the anonymous winner claimed the plates for $100,000.
In the case of the JFK plates, it was only the physical objects themselves that were being sold; the registration of the car itself expired on 31st March 1964, just over four months after Kennedy was assassinated.
When selling personalised license plates, the registration needs to be transferred through the DVLA, whose website breaks the process down into simple steps. And while not all license plates can be as culturally significant, a set of personalised plates can be extremely desirable at auction or in the wider marketplace.
As for the plates themselves, shorter numbers attract higher prices – “25 O” sold for £518,000 last year – and more common initial/number combinations are easier to sell, though may earn you less money.
There are three main channels through which you can pass on your old personalised plates. Here are the pros and cons for each:
Ebay is a quick and easy way to find a new home for old things, and by setting your own starting price, you can guarantee the minimum return you want once someone makes the first bid. However, you will have to deal with the registration business between yourself and the buyer, and it may take more than one listing before your plates sell. Depending on your starting price, Ebay will also take a 10% final fee once your item sells, which will put a minor dent in your winnings.
Personal Registration Companies:
There are companies out there specifically designed to do all of that hard work for you. Sites like Click4Reg and Plates4Less will do a free valuation of the plates, deal with the hassles of reregistration and then sell them on. As with Ebay though, you’ll have to pay a commission, which differs between companies. That said, consulting with experts on the subject will give you a rough idea of how much your plates could go for via other channels.
Do It Yourself:
Taking out an advert in the local paper, or listing your plates on Gumtree will cut out the middleman and save you on backend fees. You may find it more difficult to make your advertisement visible and, as with Ebay, you will be able to set your own price, though you may have to set a lower price or accept lower offers. You will know that the plates are going to an appreciative buyer, and that’s something money can’t buy.