Johannesburg - Two weeks ago we ran a story on the record prices single-digit number plates are fetching in the Middle East, and now it seems the personalised plates bug has bitten South Africa too.

Earlier this week the Stephan Welz & Co auction house put a collection of Gauteng number plates (1 GP through 8 GP) under the hammer, and the lot sold for an astounding R1.89-million. And, to top it off, the missing 9 GP plate, which was owned by Springbok Rugby Player Joost van der Westhuizen (9 was his jersey number), sold separately for an additional R167 000.

The winning bid from an unknown buyer for the 1 through 8 collection came close to matching its estimated auction price of R2-million, while number 9 exceeded pre-auction estimates of between R120 000 and R150 000. Another plate, Mandela GP, sold at the same event for R66 000.

While these vanity plates can easily lay claim to the most valuable number plates sold in the country to date, they still pale in comparison to the $9-million (R120-million) ‘5’ brought at a state-run auction in Dubai just weeks ago. And even that is short of the single digit ‘1’ registered in Abu Dhabi, which snapped up $14.5-million (R199-million) in 2008.

Stephan Welz & Co says that over 500 000 personalised plates have been sold in South Africa to date, far exceeding the most optimistic projections by the Department of Transport, which has raked in over R500-million in revenue from those willing to pay for custom letter and number sequences.