‘NSW 1’ number plate heads to auction, expected to sell for millions

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Australia’s first number plate is being sold at auction – and bidding has already surpassed $2 million with more than a month left.

The most sought-after number plate in Australia will soon be offered to the public for the first time in almost a century – and it is tipped to sell for a multi-million-dollar sum.

Listed by auction house Lloyds, New South Wales number plate ‘NSW 1’ is believed to be the first registration plate affixed to a vehicle in Australia, having been issued in 1910 to the state’s Police Commissioner.

The plate’s history across the next circa-20 years is undocumented, though NSW 1 was reportedly acquired by successful businessman and politician Sir Frederick Stewart in the 1930s, who affixed the registration plate to his Oldsmobile.

Following Sir Stewart’s passing in 1961, the number plate was left to his widow Lady Marjorie Stewart, who at one point put the valuable registration on her 1981 Ford LTD – the flagship sedan based on the ZJ Fairlane and XD Falcon of the day.

According to the listing, Lady Stewart declined an offer of $200,000 for NSW 1 in 1988 – more than $500,000 today when adjusted for inflation.

While the number plates were expected to become available following Lady Stewart’s passing in 2000, they are understood to have remained in the family who are auctioning them through Lloyds.

At the time of writing, bidding has surpassed $2 million despite there being more than 40 days of the auction left to run – due to close at 9:00am AEDT on 27 January 2023.

The strong start to bidding will likely result in NSW 1 becoming the most expensive number plate to sell in Australia, following the auction of NSW 4 in 2017 – which sold for $2.45 million.

New South Wales number plate ‘4’ holds the Australian auction record after selling for $2.45 million in 2017

Victoria’s record was set in May 2022, with the number plate ‘14’ selling for a hammer price of $2,270,500.

In November 2020, a South Australian number plate celebrating the 1985 Formula One Adelaide Grand Prix bearing the number ‘1’ went to auction and sold for a hammer price of $700,000.

The most expensive number plate in Queensland’s history came from the sale of ‘Q9’ in 2019, after the buyer paid $363,379 including auction fees.

Internationally, the world’s most expensive number plate was reportedly sold in 2008, with the United Arab Emirates registration ‘1’ selling for 52.2 million dirham – equivalent to almost $AU20.5 million today.

Jordan Mulach is Canberra/Ngunnawal born, currently residing in Brisbane/Turrbal. Joining the Drive team in 2022, Jordan has previously worked for Auto Action, MotorsportM8, The Supercars Collective and TouringCarTimes, WhichCar, Wheels, Motor and Street Machine. Jordan is a self-described iRacing addict and can be found on weekends either behind the wheel of his Octavia RS or swearing at his ZH Fairlane.

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