Hong Kong car plates: dreams, status and hubris on display

A potential car plate in Hong Kong

Potential car plate in Hong Kong. (Actually, I think this van cut me off in Sha Tin last week.)

Upon recently encountering a highly inauspicious vanity car plate, I decided to re-visit the topic of Hong Kong license plates. (See my previous post, Vanity plates of the wealthy in Hong Kong or, I’ll take “18” for 2 million USD).

The improbably unlucky plate I spotted, read “XX 44.” As the number “4” is strictly avoided in the Chinese-speaking world (“4” being a homonym for death), perhaps the driver of the yellow sports car, to which this plate was attached, feels that money buys not only fancy cars, but also bullet-proof hubris?

If you own a car in Hong Kong and would like to dress it up with a specialized plate, prepare yourself for January 25th when the following “personalized vehicle registration marks” will be auctioned by the government (official source):


Each one of these plates was submitted by someone who seeks to have it adorn his/her car, but if you can outbid them, the plate is yours. If no one else bids, the person who submitted the plate gets it for HKD 5,000 (about USD 650).

Be warned that some plates sell for much, much more than USD 650. For example, at the last auction (October 19, 2013) these plates were sold for the following prices:

SD   (USD 32,000)
BN   (USD 30,000)
168168   (USD 18,500)

Unsurprisingly, these plates sold for the minimum bid or just above it:


If money is no object and status is the ultimate goal, then save yourself for the special Lunar New Year auction, where last year the following numerologically-blessed plates sold for around 260 times Hong Kong’s monthly median wage:

18888   (USD 388,000)
85   (USD 408,000)
75   (USD 490,000)

None, however, beating the “18” sold for USD 2 million that I found during a previous search of the auction records.

What would you submit for your personalized plate?

Or, a more interesting question, what plate can you dream up that someone in Hong Kong would bid big money to own? Might I suggest:

Maybe he's a lovely person, but the original plate on this car did read "BULLET" (Original photo source here)

Maybe he’s a lovely person, but the original plate on this Bentley did read “BULLET” (Original photo source)

(The saving grace being that all proceeds raised by the government plate auction do go to charity.)

26 responses to “Hong Kong car plates: dreams, status and hubris on display

    • Ha! I hadn’t considered GROWTH in quite that light. But now that I think about it, maybe the person who wants that plate is not a banker, but rather a dermatologist!

  1. Who wouldn’t want such winners as “mr lazy” or “s pig”?

    This is a ridiculous phenomenon, thanks for sharing the weirdness!

  2. I checked the DVLA Auction list here in the UK, and they are selling some lucky Chinese number plates in their next auction in February. You can bid for 8888GC, 888AM and 888GT. Reserve prices are around £2,500. So there are plenty of people in the UK too with more money than sense.
    On the other hand, can you put a bid in for me for ZOMBIE?

    • Ha! Perhaps it’s common wherever there are Chinese residents/immigrants seeking the favor of fortune. If so, there must also be a healthy market for these plates in Vancouver.

  3. LOLOL! I needed a laugh, thanks for that!
    M0MSTER – surely that’ll be hotly fought over by all the expat wifies…! You’ve already got your bid in haven’t you! Just admit it!!!

  4. Oh man, I forgot about vanity plates. In high school, we used to flag people down to explain the ones we couldn’t understand (10 SPRO = tennis pro was one I remember). Seeing SKYFALL made me want a car so I could have Bond plate on it, though I don’t know if they offer vanity plates in France. Maybe they’re too gauche for the Fraunch.

    • Ha! 10 SPRO is too much!

      Also, if they do have vanity plates in France they probably have a rule against using English words, right? Since they don’t want the language all polluted up 😉 Do the French have a special French name for James Bond or Skyfall?

  5. how about these plates?


    need I say more?

    • By “FUK” I’m assuming you mean Cantonese for “福” meaning “blessings” or “good fortune”? 😉

      PK and DAB have me at a loss. Pakistan and Digital Audio Broadcasting?

      But seriously, I know you have some strong feelings regarding China. At the same time, please remember that this blog is just my fun personal hobby. If you really, really feel the need to express your deep feelings regarding the PRC and the CCP, you might consider creating your own hobby blog. If you already have one, please direct me to it.

      • sorry to disappoint you, I mean the FUK meant the english variety.

        PK are the cantonese variety. (pok gai) DAB is Demo Party for A Betterment of HK (pro-Beijing party)

        Personally I have a very low opinion of the Chinese gov’t AND pro-Beijing forces in HK and how HK went downhill after the handover. I personally felt that you sugarcoat a lot of the bad of the mainlander locusts and over-promote when PRC culture. Then again, I can’t expect you given your background and nature of your blog.

        I could create my own blog, but the bad acts of the HK and CCP gov’t already put other authors of blogs critical of them under surveilience (sp?) and blacklisting them. On top of current HK-CE having very good triad ties, even using triads (aka the mob) to prop up political events.

      • DAB
        Democratic (NOT!) Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong

        DAB sponsors the Youth Care Hong Kong organization that members rip and burn the old HK flag.

    • And that photo was taken on Lantau which is relatively “green” and “fresh”! Coming back from Lantau, the air over Victoria was absolutely putrid. Double cack, indeed!

  6. Frankly, I wouldn’t pay a dime to have a vanity plate. Other than that, I submit the highly traditional “I124Q” – well known among Hong Kong oldtimers. Interestingly, my UK plates back in 1979 was “PLO xxxL” and was strictly as-issued. An actual representative from the PLO did accost me to buy it off me. I was too young then to know how to sell the thing, so that opportunity just went by me.

    • It took me a few read-alouds before I got it. Snort.

      “PLO xxxL” is a funny randomly generated one. I’ve never had (or wanted) a vanity plate and all of my state-issued ones have been bland as bland.

      Surprisingly, just a few days ago I passed a car with the personalized plate “4444.” I kept my distance!

      • For the benefit of those who don’t get “I124Q,” it says “I want to fork, fark, flip, flop, flap, fig, fum, foosh, fug, etc, you.” Seriously big in the 1970s. S-e-r-i-o-u-s-l-y.

    • My mom has a vanity license plate in Washington State. I believe she said it costs an extra $75 US per year. Think of all the extra money states could raise if demand could be influenced to create this market in the US!

  7. Am I the only one who thinks that “‘UNGOOGOO” (more of less like “fxxxing dumbass”) is probably a vulgar expression in Cantonese?

    • They have a special committee that vets submissions for vulgarity or connections to organized crime terms. Cantonese or Mandarin vulgarities might be hard to slip by, but maybe, just maybe it’s something really crude in Shanghaiese.

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