The numberplate M1 sold at auction for £331,500 yesterday, setting a new world record for the highest price paid for a car registration.
The plate was bought by a mystery bidder from the North West, as a birthday present for his six-year-old son.
The price paid is 46,500 more than the 285,000 paid for VIP1, the numberplate made for Pope John Paul. That plate, which was made for the Popemobile during a tour of Ireland in 1979, was purchased by Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich.
Last year the numberplate F1 sold for 144,500.
Bonhams auctioned M1 at the Goodwood Festival of Speed Sale in Chichester, West Sussex, yesterday.
Bidding started at 50,000 and there were at least five interested parties. The new owner made his successful bid over the telephone.
Bonhams expected M1 to fetch a maximum 120,000.
M1 was the first registration to be issued in Cheshire, and has been used on just three vehicles.
In 1902 it was acquired by the then owner of the grand Cheshire country estate Tatton Park for a 1903 12/16hp 2-cylinder Darracq.
In 1904, the registration number transferred to a 60hp, 20cwt dark green Panhard, and in 1924 it was transferred to a 1900 Benz Comfortable.
A Bonhams spokeswoman said: “It was bought by a private buyer over the telephone. He is from the north-west of England. He bought it for his six-year-old son for his birthday.”
Bonhams director and auctioneer Jon Baddeley made the sale. He said the appeal of a personalised numberplate was its exclusivity.
Mr Baddeley said: “A lot of people like to have their own initials. Then there are the ones that spell out a name, which can cost up to 100,000.
“The rarest of the rare are those with just one letter and one digit.
“This is one of the first 30-odd registration numberplates in the country.”
He added: “Maybe ‘M’ has some significance to the buyer
“It’s the highest price paid for a registration plate in the world.”
The 300,000 hammer price will go towards the preservation and conservation of Tatton Park, which is owned by the National Trust and leased to Cheshire County Council.
The original M1 numberplate will remain on the 1900 Benz Comfortable, kept at Tatton Park.
The general manager of Tatton Park, Brendan Flanagan, said: “The original plate will stay on the car. We’ve sold the right to use the registration on the public highway.”