Brain Food: It'll never fly - Personalised plates

A lesson for anyone wanting to make a quid or two: appeal to people's egos and they'll part with thousands.

Personalised plates may be completely PO1 NTL355, but that hasn't curbed their success as a status symbol. Nor has their tacky presence on the cars of D-list celebs such as Jimmy Tarbuck ('COM 1C') and Paul Daniels ('MAG 1C'). Princess Anne ('1 ANN'), Alan Sugar ('AMS 1') and Tate & Lyle's Johnny Tate ('T 8') are just some of the high rollers wanting to stand out from the average road-user. Popularity is growing, witness the number of websites trading plates. The DVLA, the issuing authority, has generated more than £950 million in 15 years of sales, and annual totals have hit £100 million. The new 55 range has been its most popular yet, with advance orders worth £5 million. MT wonders whether anyone put in a bid for 'TO55 ER'. The first obsessive was one Earl Russell, who camped out overnight in 1904 to get the UK's first registration, A1, now worth a million or so. The record spend stands at £231,000, for K1 NGS. Plates have become a serious investment, which may explain Postman Pat's PAT 1 buy - his massive ego alone couldn't justify blowing £25,000 of his civil service salary.

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