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MIL 1000: Millennium number plate expected to fetch an amazing pounds 100,000 at auction.

THE number plate that will last for a thousand years is going under the auctioneer's hammer.

And it is expected that whoever wants their car to sport the registration MIL 2000 will have to bid in excess of pounds 100,000 for the privilege.

Car freaks will enter an amazing bidding war for the coveted Northern Irish registration when it comes up for auction next month.

And experts are confident the sale of the century - or rather, the millennium - will smash all previous price records.

The Co Fermanagh number was issued by the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Office last year.

But wily bosses held it back when they realised how much interest it would generate in the run up to New Year.

Now they are expecting lucrative bids from all over the British Isles when it goes under the hammer on November 24 at Belfast-based auction house, Wilsons.

The firm has been selling DVLO plates for three years.

The most expensive so far has been OIL 1 which fetched pounds 22,000 when it was sold to a petrol station owner last year.

But staff hope MIL 2000 will fetch at least four times that - making it the most expensive Northern Irish number plate ever sold.

Auctioneer Peter Johnston has supervised the sale of more than 7,200 plates since the project started three years ago.

And he is convinced this will be the biggest yet.

He said: "This will be the sale of the millennium.

"We know we're going to be flooded with offers because this is such a one-off and it's genuinely exclusive.

"Drivers are all looking for something to make them stand out from the crowd to mark the start of the new millennium.

"We sell to everyone from professionals, like doctors who might pick up PIL 1, or businessmen who want OIL 1 or something else to reflect their work.

"I suppose the only common factor is they all have to be rich.

"Most of the plates that we handle fetch between pounds 700 and pounds 1,000 which isn't bad but this one will be in a different league altogether.

"Plates in general have been getting more and more popular since we started selling them in 1996.

"For some people it's a bit of fun for others it's a great investment because I think prices will keep on climbing."

He said Northern Irish registrations were in such demand because they use unusual letters and don't give away a car's age.

He explained: "Lots of people on the mainland buy them because the Belfast AZ ending can spell out nicknames like Gaz and Daz.

"One of the best requests we had was from the New Zealand ambassador in London who was interested in a Portrush plate KIW1.

DVLO chief executive, Brendan McGee, said he wasn't surprised interest was so high.

He said: "If somebody wanted to make a statement about the Millennium what better way to do it?

"Or it would make a great gimmick for advertisers.

"People love having that personal touch - a name or an unusual number.

"Repeat numbers normally sell well, apart from 666 funnily enough."

Collectors can bid for the millennium plate, which is lot 200, by phone, fax, and e-mail or by turning up in person at the sale in Newtownabbey, Belfast.

Sales of Northern Irish number plates have been a major money-spinner since they first began in February 1996.

Demand is so high there are three auctions a year, in May, September and November.

And so far collectors have helped swell Treasury coffers to the tune of pounds 4.5 million.

Next month's bumper sale will see 350 lots - including the millennium plate - go under the hammer.

The all-day sales regularly attract more than 300 bidders - a mixture of dealers and individuals - and organisers predict this one will be even more packed than usual.

Auctioneer, Peter Johnston, said: "The millennium plate is lot 200 so it's quite late in the day.

"I'm sure people will be so intrigued they'll stay on to see how much it goes for."
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Author:Donnelly, Claire
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Oct 27, 1999
Words:678
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