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Car Registration Plates

Back in the early 1900’s when motor vehicles first graced the roads, motorised vehicles were not registered with any indicator of identity. After all, who would have thought it would take off cars would become the most common mode of transport over 100 years later. Initially a motor car had to be led by a man with a flag to wave pedestrians out of the way in case they were run over. In real terms, it was quicker and cheaper to travel by horseback. The ad hoc arrangements that were initially put in place to register vehicles soon led to conflicts as to who owned what and so the authorities then decided that each vehicle needed to have some sort of Identification.

Car Registration Marks By Area

It soon became apparent that the system or register of car registrations needed to be a national scheme split up into hundreds of localised areas. Each of these areas or authorities had their own individual identifiers. ‘A’ was London, ‘B’ was Hampshire, ‘C’ was Yorkshire and so on. These larger areas were then split up even further so was used ‘AA’ Hampshire, ‘AB’ Worcestershire, etc. This meant that each authority could issue 1000 car registration plates as the numbers went up to 9999. A comprehensive list of the original authorities can be found on our Cherished Registrations page.

When they were all issued, they simply reversed the plate and put the numbers first. This meant another 1000 cars could be registered. Once the reversed combinations were all used up the local authorities simply added a letter at the front of the plate so AA became AAA with 3 digits so that only six characters were used. this meant that when AAA 999 was issued, the next in line was BAA 1, then BAA 2, BAA 3 et cetera et cetera. You should get the idea now.

Suffix Registrations

Up until this point in 1963, registration marks always had 6 characters, this meant that the digits went up to 9999 on the 2 letter issues and 999 on the 3 letter reg marks. As some areas were more densely populated they were registering more cars than the rural areas and as a consequence, some of the busier areas like London ran out of the plates allocated. Enter the Suffix registration plates in 1963. A national central office in Swansea called the DVLC would now oversee the suffix system of registrations and they continued releasing this style of reg plate each august 1st until 1983 where they were superseded by the Prefix Registrations that have proved the most popular selling registrations in the last 20 years.