This time it’s personalised
I’m obsessed; it’s official. I’m addicted to vanity plates. I’m addicted to vanity plates and the endless hunt to find them. Ever since my previous post on this peculiarly Hong Kong phenomenon, I can’t walk down the street without making sure to check the licence plates of every car that passes. I take longer routes than necessary in order to walk down ‘more promising’ roads. I stand around for hours on dark corners waiting for that one sweet registration number that makes the wait worthwhile.
I try to control my craving. I try not to let it affect my work and personal relationships. But I find myself staying out longer and searching harder for something more and more ridiculous every time. It’s a problem, I don’t deny it. But I just can’t stop. Known officially as personalized vehicle registration marks or PVRMs, the streets of Hong Kong seem increasingly overrun by these nods to frivolity.
In a city where money isn’t worth having if you don’t show it off, vanity licence plates are the latest accessory for all those that have got it and are seeking to flaunt it. It’s the must-have addition for all those that are seeking to bestow some kind, any kind, of individuality on their brand-new, four-wheeled baby. It adds a little more character to your shiny new wheels; a little bit more of the ‘check me out!’ than your motor may otherwise offer.
When every other car on the road looks like it’s been driven straight from the showroom, Hong Kong’s fetish for vanity plates can be seen as a further striving for uniqueness in this commodified culture we live in. It’s an extension of the personality of the driver – the vehicular equivalent of hitting the town in a trilby and lederhosen or dressed as a Japanese cosplay character. Because you’re nothing if you don’t stand out. So why not stand out?
There’s a guy out there driving around Hong Kong with personalised licence plates that read BANKER (other first letters no doubt also apply). I’ve also got pictures of BABE MAG and THINKER in my earlier post. It’s all a lot of fun, for sure. But if this need to individualise holds true, I reckon you’ve already made your mind up which of the three you’d rather get a lift home with.
The PVRM scheme was actually introduced back in 2006 as a novel way for the Hong Kong government to raise extra funds to put towards public causes. Prospective buyers are invited to suggest licence plates they would like to bid for in return for placing a $5000 deposit. The plates are then auctioned off to the highest bidder taking this $5000 as the starting price. If the applicant gets the plates he wanted, he takes the plates, less his deposit, and goes home happy. If, however, he gets outbid, he gets his deposit back, but loses all hope he had of driving around in a car that has U STUD as its licence plate.
Since the scheme began, over 16,000 personalised number plates have been auctioned, with over HK$250 million raised so far. The majority of plates are sold to the applicant that requested it for the minimum $5000. There are plenty, however, that have gone for much more.
The most prized licence plates are those with two letter combinations. According to The Standard, 14 of the 18 licence plates that have sold for over HK$500,000 were two letter plates. CH, for example, sold for HK$1.4 million, the same as 1 L0VE U, which sold in the first auction that was held. All that, however, is small change when compared to the HK$16.5 million paid in 2008 for “18.”
You can check for yourself what has sold recently on the Hong Kong Transport Department website. The last auction, for instance, took place on 8th Sept 2013, and saw 232 plates sell for a total of HK$1,982,000. HOMER and LAMBCHOP both went for $5000. There was also SUPER, which went for HK$44,000. While the highest selling licence plate was WF, which sold for a cool HK$290,000.
It’s all a long way from HK$16.5 million. But if the popularity of recent auctions are anything to go by, Hong Kong’s obsession with vanity plates shows no signs of slowing, all of which bodes none too well for my own current neurosis.
Related Posts: Check out my other Hong Kong vanity plate posts at category: vanity plates
Get Involved: If you’ve seen, or you have photographic evidence of anything better, you can get in touch and upload that evidence in the comments section below. Enjoy!