Buyers have spent a total of nearly QR10 million ($2.7 million) in an online auction for “fancy” license plate numbers in Qatar that closed last night.
The online auction started at 12pm on Tuesday and finished at 10pm on Thursday. It was held through the government application Metrash 2.
Bidding was run by the Traffic Department, which is under the Ministry of Interior (MOI).
Those who participated in the auction had to submit a deposit of QR20,000 ($5,500). Bids started at QR100,000 ($27,500) according to the department’s announcement on Twitter.
If the successful bidders don’t pay for their purchase within two days, they lose the license plate number and their deposit.
By the numbers
By the time the two-day auction closed at 10pm on Thursday, the highest bid had surpassed QR900,000 ($257,000), for the license plate number 377773.
In the last 45 minutes of the auction, the bidding on this unique number jumped QR100,000 from QR836,000 ($230,000) to QR936,000 ($257,086).
The second most expensive license plate number, 363636, was purchased for QR802,000 ($220,000).
A total of 24 license plate numbers were up for grabs during the auction. The lowest price paid was for license plate number 335353, which went for QR228,000 ($62,600).
Each license plate in the auction consisted of six digits, starting with the number three and including two repeated digits.
In the GCC, extravagant cars, designer brands and unique license plates and phone numbers are a common way of flaunting wealth.
The millions spent this week on “vanity” license plates are much less than last year, where residents shelled out over QR220 million ($60 million).
However, some residents have criticized this auction on Twitter, saying it encouraged “superficial thinking” and “narcissism.”
@MOI_Qatar نتسأل لماذا لا نرزق خير الارض و الأمطار !من افعالنا !!؟ هذا الإجراء يزيد نرجسية البعض و يزيد سطحية الفكر
— عبدالعزيز ا. الجابر (@Optimistic_eye) April 5, 2015
Others praised the auction and its organizers, saying it gave the people the freedom to bid on special license plates, instead of handing them out as presents to prominent figures or randomly distributing them.
— أسُـــــــامـ℃° (@UsamaAlRahbi) April 5, 2015
It remains unclear how the traffic department will spend the revenues from the online auction. Bidders can pay for their license plate numbers by credit card, or writing a check to the MOI or the Financial Affairs Department.
In the UAE, where similar auctions take place, proceeds usually go to charity.
A few years ago, a UAE businessman set a world record for the most expensive license plate by bidding over Dh52 million ($14.2 million) for the unique license plate number 1.
At the time, Abdulla al Mannaie, managing director of Emirates Auctions, told ABC News that vanity plates are an investment that yield more than a 20 percent annual return.
The regional number craze isn’t limited to license plates only, and also includes easy-to-remember phone numbers.
In 2012, a wealthy Qatari businessman paid QR1.4 million ($284,000) for one of these numbers.
And in 2006, the phone number (666- 6666) was sold for QR10 million in Qatar, earning the country’s largest telecom provider Ooredoo (then known as Qtel) a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records. The proceeds of these auctions also went to charity.