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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 25 June 2018

Sold! Licence plate No 2, for Dh10.1 million

Abu Dhabi auction raises more than Dh55 million for police force on its 60th anniversary

Bidders at Abu Dhabi Police's vehicle plates auction at Emirates Palace on Saturday night (Reem Mohammed/The National)
Bidders at Abu Dhabi Police's vehicle plates auction at Emirates Palace on Saturday night (Reem Mohammed/The National)

Abu Dhabi licence plate No 2 sold for Dh10.1 million Saturday night at an auction at Emirates Palace hotel to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the Abu Dhabi Police Force.

More than Dh55 million was raised for Abu Dhabi Police in the sale of 60 Series 1 Abu Dhabi plates auctioned by Abu Dhabi Police and Emirates Auction.

The 800-strong crowd was a mix of buyers, admirers and a few sceptics who were coaxed out of millions by the auctioneer.

The multimillion dollar world of licence plates trading is typically a man’s domain, but Wadha Al Qaydi, 27, had driven from Ras Al Khaimah with her younger sister Jowahar to buy plate 1111 for her 2017 red Rolls-Royce.

At last year’s auction, she was the only woman. Then, she left empty-handed. “They were the highest, highest, highest, prices.”

The starting bid for plate 1111 was a comparatively affordable Dh120,000. The auction’s most prestigious plate, No 2, had a starting bid of Dh5 million.

Ms Al Qaydi was prepared to go as high as Dh1 million.

She curbed her enthusiasm when the auction began with plate No 1957, which started at Dh1,000 and sold for Dh53,000.

“If you have an expensive car, at least you want a good number,” she said. “But not expensive like this.”

Ms Al Qaydi had only bought a plate once before, paying Dh120,00 for an Abu Dhabi plate No 2202 for her Bentley GT. Now, she estimates it is worth Dh500,000.

“Two or three years before the Abu Dhabi plate wasn’t expensive,” said Ms Al Qaydi. “I know a lot of people who bought plates two or three years ago, and they became businessmen from this. They were buying for Dh70,000 or Dh80,000 and selling for Dh200,000. I know a lot of people here they became rich because of the plate number.”

Beside her is Khulood Saif, 37, who came for her car-obsessed 10-year-old son. She watched as bidding passed Dh6 million for plate No 111. “They pay Dh6 million for this number, and why? Dh6.2 million? You understand this? I feel my heart break. If I had Dh1 million, I would help people.”

Ms Al Qaydi was outbid for No 1111 before the bidding even began. The first bid was Dh1 million, rather than the Dh120,000 minimum written on the auction’s app.

“I knew it,” said Ms Al Qaydi.

It sold for Dh1.5 million to a Grade 5 student from Zayed Academy, Khalifa Al Mazrouei. Khalifa, age 12, had invested Dh500,000 of his own money, which he won in a Quran recitation competition last year.

The rest was from his father. “When I came inside, I told my dad I would not leave without this number,” he said.

The plate will be put on his family’s G-class Mercedes, which Khalifa drives in to and from school. “It’s capital,” said his father, Mohammed. “If you want to sell it at any time, it’s money.”

But this Dh1.5million was child’s play for others. Abu Dhabi plate No 2 was presented after several minutes of rock music, smoke and lights. “A historic number,” said the auctioneer. “The number two. The number of the Union. The second of December. Number one is no greater than this number, number two.” It sold for Dh10.1million.

Ms Al Qaydi had not given up. Out of the blue, she raised her card for No 5550, but the auctioneer was looking in the men’s section and did not notice. The price rose by Dh10,000 every second or two. Finally, he spotted her when the price had reached Dh180,000.

“Finally, the women!” he said. “No other bids?”

“The other bids have stopped,” shouted another woman, willing Ms Al Qayda to win.

She did.

“I feel happy,” said Ms Al Qaydi. “I will dance.”