Qatari license plate markets in everything

by on May 6, 2014 at 2:18 pm in Economics, Uncategorized | Permalink

A Qatari man with far too much money and way too little common sense has bought Qatar’s most expensive license plate. The registration ’55555′ cost just under $4 million. I’ve never felt the urge to steal a license plate before just to inconvenience someone, now, however…

Still, I am sure that this guy feels hugely inadequate as compared to the Emirati who splashed the practically immoral sum of $14.3 million dollars for the licence plate ’1′ in 2008.

Calling Robert H. Frank…

Background is here, price information is here.

For the pointer I thank Paul Musgrave.

1 Hunter Hustus May 6, 2014 at 3:00 pm

Wouldn’t it be more special to drive without plates? $14m covers a lifetime of fines.

2 Ted Craig May 6, 2014 at 6:57 pm

Or you could buy a new car every six months like Steve Jobs:

3 Garett Jones May 6, 2014 at 3:14 pm

If government is underfunded this is a great way to raise revenue

4 The Other Jim May 6, 2014 at 8:32 pm

Exactly, and it is proof that you don’t have to spend 70,000 legislative hours trying to extract money from rich people at gunpoint.

Offer them some stupid vanity thing and watch them strive to outbid each other.

Like, say, a New York Times editorial column on economics. Or perhaps a Nobel Prize?

5 Roy May 6, 2014 at 3:32 pm

I went to college with the son of an Expat businessman who used to have the HK plate FU 4444, he would bid on it every year at auction because, well you know Cantonese and the number 4. He was the sort of guy who found that funny. Then one year, it must have been in the 80s, he had competition from some very unpleasant looking gentlemen and he decided to find a new hobby.

And then there is the Great State of Rhode Island…but they don’t have the transparency of an auction there…

6 Rob May 6, 2014 at 4:01 pm

What is special about the number ‘55555’?

7 LibertyRisk May 7, 2014 at 9:29 am

I’m guessing 5 is an important number with cultural significance over there. 5 Pillars of Islam seems like the obvious reason why that would be.

8 Just another MR Commentor May 6, 2014 at 4:04 pm

A Qatari man with far too much money and way too little common sense has bought Qatar’s most expensive license plate.

Of course this makes NO sense – how could he have a lot of money if he has no common sense. This just seems like a lot of mood affiliation, how is the author to know that this is not part of a productive investment strategy.

9 dbg May 6, 2014 at 5:51 pm

you’re good. very good. the tone is perfect. 10/10 would troll again.

10 dearieme May 6, 2014 at 4:21 pm

When we were undergraduates we were amused that the car with the number plate CUB1C was routinely parked outside the maths department: a professor of topology’s, obviously. Years later I met the owner: an administrator who had received the number free when she’d bought a new car.

11 Milo Minderbinder May 6, 2014 at 4:22 pm

You can get plate “121” for just $199,000 in Delaware.

12 Patrick May 6, 2014 at 4:24 pm

In my home state of Delaware, tags are typically numeric, and low numbers carry a lot of prestige value. The lowest numbers (under 1000) are usually sold, or auctioned if they pass back to the state, sometimes for big money:

13 Silas Barta May 6, 2014 at 4:51 pm

How much would they charge for the license plate 1IlI1l? (credit xkcd)

14 ShardPhoenix May 6, 2014 at 11:42 pm

My parent’s neighbour has a plate like that, don’t know if it actually fools cameras or not.

15 Hook May 7, 2014 at 8:59 am

I’ve seen a car with a plate like that in Massachusetts. Ironically, the car is very memorable because of the plate. They commute around the same time I do and I’ve seen them twice since.

16 Hadur May 6, 2014 at 4:52 pm

“Just another MR Commentor” is giving Ray Lopez a run for his money as the best satirical commentator on MR. Both of them can be just too dripping-wet sarcastic at times, the one that can become slightly more subtle first will be the winner.

17 vg May 6, 2014 at 5:43 pm

Should be called the idiot tax . Kudos to the Qatari/Emirati governments for thinking up a tax that leads to a feeling of satisfaction

18 Nick Rowe May 6, 2014 at 6:02 pm

Nope. The Qatari man is clearly just an altruist, and has found the most efficient way for him to give money to the government. Because this way he gets a little bit of personal pleasure too, as a side-benefit.

19 Handle May 6, 2014 at 6:12 pm

If it comes with all the other durable property rights, then it’s a lot like owning a piece of art. It retains its value – indeed the value is likely to increase with economic growth – and you get to ‘enjoy’ it. Not only that, you don’t have to secure it, because it easily replaceable, and since the value is not in the original plate, but in having the exclusive right to display that particular number.

The ‘trolling’ of “Just another MR Commentor” has a perfectly valid point. When people – or museum curators – buy Van Gogh or Cezanne or Klimt for hundreds of millions, then since owning art pieces has higher status and respect, few people would call such private ‘cultural’ expenditures either foolish or immoral. Indeed, weren’t people upset about the prospect of Detroit having to divest itself of some similarly valuable pieces in order to satisfy its creditors, including a lot of ordinary municipal employees who say their benefits cut? But if it’s a license plate instead of a work of art, we see the mood affiliation, even though the motivations and rationale behind such a purchase is the same in principle.

20 rob42 May 6, 2014 at 6:36 pm

in other words, if we think someone is acting irrationally, it’s likely they are actually rational and we’re just too dumb to see the angle

21 Just Another MR Commentor May 7, 2014 at 2:38 am

Not sure why I’m always labelled a troll, I think people here need to check their mood and update their priors.

22 Ted Craig May 6, 2014 at 7:00 pm
23 Todd K May 6, 2014 at 7:16 pm

I bet that plate won’t be so valuable in ten years when everyone is in a driverless car.

24 The Anti-Gnostic May 6, 2014 at 8:07 pm

Running on nuclear-powered electricity, after fossil fuel-combustion is outlawed.

25 Handle May 7, 2014 at 9:03 am

Self-driving with an android in the driver’s seat – like the inflatable automatic pilot in Airplane! – so it can evade the automatic traffic cams while self-driving in the HOV lane.

26 Sam May 6, 2014 at 7:18 pm

Re: Robert Frank, this is the kind of conspicuous consumption that isn’t necessary calling to be taxed. Sure for him it was a waste of money, but in the grand scheme of things it was just a transfer to the bloke who owned the license plate.

Conspicuous consumption in health care and education are the big ones, because instead of costing a rectangle of metal its costing billions in wasteful production.

27 Dan Lavatan May 6, 2014 at 9:12 pm

To be fair it is part of an elaborate plot to steal the crown jewels of Qatar with $5 million. He will apply the plate to his get away car and claim the thief got the number form the newspaper article, rather than having to generate a valid number at random.

28 Jason May 6, 2014 at 9:35 pm

Can someone explain the Robert Frank reference?

29 Rory Sutherland May 8, 2014 at 8:41 am

The Darwin Economy is Frank’s book where he proposes that runaway signalling arms races as seen in sexual selection in nature – peacocks’s tails, etc – also appear in patterns of consumption.

30 Ramagopal May 6, 2014 at 10:56 pm

I thought libertarians’ motto is “De Gustibus Non Est Disputandum.”

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