Number plate sells for UK record price of nearly £400,000

One of the earliest number plates ever issued fetched a world record price of £397,500 after going under the hammer at auction in 2008.

The historic car reg plate was the first registration number to be issued in Edinburgh and it belonged to a leading pioneer of motoring. It had been estimated to fetch between £200,000 and £250,000 when it was offered for sale for the first time since its original issue in 1903.

Josephine Olley of auctioneer Bonhams which handled the sale said: “There was a bidding battle between several people on the telephone and a bidder in the room. The bidder who was present eventually secured the lot to a round of applause.
“We’re obviously delighted to have broken the UK record.”
The auction house, founded in 1793, has a good track record of achieving high prices for registration numbers.
In 2005, the company sold registration “1F” for £144,500 and in 2006, it sold “M1” for a previous world record auction price of £331,500.
The mystery bidder, who declined to be named, said of the sale: “I believe that number plates in general are a good investment even at this price. The registration number will remain in the UK and will be going on an old red Skoda which will be seen around the Midlands.”
The registration number originally belonged to Sir John HA MacDonald, who was the Lord Justice Clerk of Scotland from 1888 to 1919.
Sir John, who foresaw the rapid development of the motor car and the need for a proper road system, was one of the first owners of a car north of the border.
He was also a founding member of the Automobile Club of Great Britain and Ireland, which later became the RAC, and he was the first president of the Scottish Automobile Club.
Motor registration marks were introduced in 1903 and Sir John became the owner of S1 in the same year.
It has been in his family ever since and was revived in 1958 after being allowed to lapse after the Second World War.
Bonhams said the number was the first to be issued in Edinburgh, but the unavailability of certain records meant it was not possible to say whether it was the first one issued in Scotland. Included in the sought after Lot 197 was a DVLA v778 retention certificate, which gives the buyer the right to have S1 as the registration number for their car.
The registration mark was auctioned at Bonhams’ Goodwood Revival Sale in Chichester, West Sussex and the price was inclusive of buyer’s premium.

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