diamond geezer

 Sunday, April 04, 2021

In news that'll thrill at least one of you who previously expressed an interest, I have been playing another numberplate spotting game.

You may remember that in January I challenged myself to spot all the 'E' registrations from E1 to E20, ideally somewhere inside their correct postcode. By the end of the month I'd seen all of them except E2, E19 and E20. It took me seven weeks to spot all twenty. But what about other letters?

H 15 TRY
Y 20 XYZ

Prefix-style vehicle registrations were issued between August 1983 and August 2001, but numbers 1-20 were held back for personalised numberplates only (because the Department for Transport knew a moneyspinner when it saw one). If you see a numberplate with a single letter followed by a number from 1 to 20, somebody's paid extra for it.

So in March I challenged myself to spot all 20 As, all 20 Bs, all 20 Cs and so on - that's all the registrations from A1 to Y20.

In total I had 21×20=420 combinations to spot (because I, O, Q, U and Z aren't used). That's a heck of a lot of plates. Seeing how many I could spot in one month would keep me occupied.

Here's what my scrappy record sheet looked like after two weeks. I'd seen just over half the total by this time.

E was out in front with just E12 and E20 to go, suggesting people really do like celebrating postcodes in these parts. M wasn't far behind, missing just M3, M4 and M6. Third was H (five to go) and fourth B (six to go). Meanwhile I was struggling to spot Xs, having only seen four, and had tallied a measly six Ws. When it comes to personalised numberplates, not all letters are created equal.

As for numbers, single-digits were (not surprisingly) doing better than double-digits. 6, 8 and 9 were doing best, with sixteen different sightings, closely followed by 4 with fifteen. I confess I was expecting 1 and 7 to do better. Meanwhile 12 was in last place with eight sightings, then 10, 18, 19 and 20 with nine.

I passed the three-quarters point in my fourth week, by which time the game was getting rather slower. At the start I'd been crossing off more than twenty plates a day and now it was less than ten. On the last day of March I only spotted one, and I haven't seen another fresh combination since.

Here's my final spreadsheet tally with 369 of the 420 possible combinations spotted. 88% down, 12% to go.

Five letters of the alphabet were fully ticked off - in order of completion that's M, A, E, B and N. I think M's really popular because a lot of names (in several cultures) begin with M. A has that 'top of the shop' kudos and E is postcode related, so might not be big near you. Meanwhile X was still bottom of the heap, closely followed by F and Y.

As for numbers 4 was the first number I spotted all twenty of, and I also scored a full house with 8 and 9. I nearly saw all of the single digit combinations but in the end I still had eight of the 189 possibilities left. All the single digits beat all the double digits, as you might expect. In last place were 15, 18 and 20, with five still to spot, but at this level of game saturation I wouldn't read too much into that.

These outcomes were the result of about 300 miles of walking last month. The most fruitful spots were busy main roads and sidestreets with moneyed residents, although personalised plates could and did pop up everywhere. Certain combinations proved particularly popular, for example V6 and V8 on certain expensive cars and B3 at the start of someone's attempt to spell their name.

I am of course going to continue looking through April, given that I only have 51 more to go. I wonder how long it'll take before the final combination eventually reveals itself. But I don't recommend you give this a try unless you're particularly bored with a lot of time to spare, and a bit of a statisical masochist to boot.

I apologise that this is not the Easter content you came here looking for.

Here is a photo of a sheep to say sorry.

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