Personalized Number Plates: UK W3ALTH

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Alongside a Porsche 911, chunky mobile phone, and a filofax, a personalized number plate (vanity plates for U.S. readers) was one of the ultimate symbols of 1980s yuppiedom. While they may seem ostentatious to some tastes, personalized vehicle registration plates have just added a fair chunk to the total net worth of the U.K.

The Office For National Statistics Thursday published its annual snapshot of the wealth of the U.K. and among the lists of tangible and intangible assets was this wee gem of a fact: Personalized or ‘cherished’ number plates added a whopping £2.3 billion ($3.6 billion) to the total net worth of the U.K. in 2012.

An ONS official explained that 2012 is the first year number plates have been added to National Balance sheet, hence the large number–the £2.3 billion is the value of total sales across the past 24 years, not just 2012.

The decision to include personalized number plates was made as part of the ONS’ on-going drive to improve the accuracy of its data, the official said.

Still, it would seem that personalized number plates remain a lucrative business in Britain. The government department responsible for licensing vehicles, the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency, said it made income of £67.1 million in the 2012/2013 financial year from the sales of personalized plates.

And since it started selling them in 1989, the agency has raised £1.9 billion for the Treasury.
In addition to the DVLA’s sale of plates on the ‘primary market’, there is also an established secondary market for personalized plates.

Prices for personalized number plates start at £250 in the U.K. In comparison, vanity plates in the U,S, state of Massachusetts cost around $50, while in New York they cost about $60.

The National Balance Sheet, where the value of the personalized plates was accrued, provides useful information about the state of the U.K. economy, in particular the value of assets held by British households, businesses and the government. Today’s data showed that the total net worth of the U.K. at the end of 2012 was estimated at £7.3 trillion, an increase of 1% from 2011. This is equivalent to approximately £114,000 per person or £275,000 per household.


Source: Wall Street Journal