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NORMAN WATSON: Personalised plates with an Orwellian twist

1984 AD number plates (Dominic Winter Auctions).
1984 AD number plates (Dominic Winter Auctions).

Many believe personalised car number plates are a waste of time – and money.

Others, though, look upon them as adding a personal or humorous touch to what is usually their most valuable asset beyond property.

And to some, they are an investment.

Dominic Winter’s dispersal in Cirencester on December 16 featured a pair of plates which had a literary feel – ‘1984 AD’.

The vendor, Michael Pirie, became the owner of the distinctive number in 1972 when, as a student, he treated himself to an Austin Mini bearing the plates.

What would George Orwell think?

Today, though, 1984 is most associated with George Orwell’s famous book of that name.

Rather presciently, Orwell noted in The Road to Wigan Pier (1937) “The danger of [car] accidents would disappear if we chose to tackle our road-planning problem seriously…the motor-car has evolved to a point at which anyone who is not blind or paralytic can drive it after a few lessons.”

One wonders what Orwell’s thoughts would have been were he to see these 1984 plates being used on a driverless car of the near future?

Some plates not allowed

Incidentally, the DVLA does not allow registrations which cause “offence, embarrassment and are in poor taste.”

Thus several  71 plate numbers were recently withheld by the DVLA. They included AN71 VAX and TA71 BAN, which may have been viewed as relating to Covid-19 or Afghanistan.

Nonetheless, at the height of the pandemic 1 NHS sold for £120,000 at auction, and the agency itself earns around £160 million each year from the sale of personalised registrations.

The pair of 1984 AD plates were offered in time for Christmas but, surprisingly, there were no takers at the pre-sale estimate of £3000-£5000.

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