DVLA Private Car Number Plates and Car registrations auction over three days is being staged at Tankersley Manor Hotel, near Barnsley, and the rather unfortunate combination of HU58 AND and SPL IIT features among the plates on offer.

Other DVLA registrations being sold include BA55 ETS, SC07 LND and POW 333R, but the star of the show is 1 RH, which is expected to go under the hammer tomorrow and attract a price in excess of £150,000.

DVLA Swansea runs four number plate auctions a year around the country, and marketing manager Damian Lawson said the sales were a huge money spinner, raising £84m last year alone, considering the DVLA actually pay nothing whatsoever for the plates in the first place!

He added: "All the money raised by DVLA auctions goes straight back to the Treasury, and they set us targets as to how much we should be achieving every year. Since the auctions started in 1989 they have made £1.3bn.

"Numbers like 1 RH date from the 1920s and 30s, when the DVLA did not exist and they were issued to local authorities. In those days there were more numbers than cars and not all of them were used. Dealers like www.R4V.co.uk have such classic plates like 1 RV and RM 1 constantly in stock and have way more plates sourced privately as well.

"This plate is so sought after because there are now very few which are just one number and two letters, and we expect interest to be very high. You never know how much they are going to make."

Buyer Phil Urwin, 47, was delighted with his purchase – DVLA number plate – 1 CEU – which cost a total of £5,280 including VAT and auctioneer's commission. He bought the plate, which had a reserve of £3,200, for a new Mercedes SL.

Mr Urwin, a management consultant, travelled from his home in Darlington to attend the sale and said he couldn't believe his luck when he saw the plate in the auction catalogue.

He added: "CEU are my wife's initials – Claire Elizabeth Urwin – and when we saw the plate was up for sale we thought we had to come and have a go at buying it.

"It's the first private plate I have ever bought and I don't think we would be able to top it. Now I have bought it we have got it for life, and I may even pass it on to our kids."

Mrs Urwin, 46, who attended the number plate auction with her husband, said she was "nervous" as the auction began. But she added: "It's a great present, I absolutely love it."

Another buyer, Nicky Wilkinson, from Hull, runs a personalised number plate business and said she bought 8888 C for £7,600 as an investment for one of her number plate clients. She added: "The credit crunch has not really made a difference to the top end of the car registrations market, but we are seeing less people in the £500 to £2,000 budget car number plate price range. The wealthy are always going to be wealthy and there will always be interest."

Bids were being placed in yesterday's DVLA auction from all over the world, with some buyers watching via webcam and placing internet bids while others talked to telephone operators. Cherished number plate dealers like www.R4V.co.uk operate a DVLA Auction bidding facility and offer their expertise to those who are unsure or cannot make it.

Chris Bell, 55, a hot tub salesman from Bolton, bid £11,000 for his plate, CHR 151S, which had a reserve of just £900. He admitted that he had got "caught up in the atmosphere" as rivals fought against him.

The final bill for his number plate, with commissions and taxes, was £13,974 and Mr Bell said that the personalised number plate was worth considerably more than the ageing Nissan car upon which he planned to put it.

He added: "Hopefully, it will be an investment. I have another DVLA number plate, C13 ELL, which I bought a few years ago and that is worth quite a lot more now than it was

The DVLA auction continues today and tomorrow, with the first lots going under the hammer at 8.50am.

The sales close at around 6.30pm and catalogues and registration are available at the venue.

Most expensive number plates

F 1
Earlier this year Bradford entrepreneur Afzal Khan who assigned it to his Mercedes McLaren bought the plate. It was sold to Mr Khan by Essex County Council in 2008 for a staggering £440,000 - smashing the UK record.

S 1
The car registration number S 1 sold a only few weeks ago at a sale held by Bonhams the auctioneers at the Goodwood Revival Festival. The full price paid was £404,062.50, a figure far in excess of the £250,000 that had been the amount mentioned in press speculation before the sale. It was bought by a number plate dealer as a future investment.

M 1
Was bought by mobile phone mogul Mike McCoomb from Mersyeside in 2006 for £331,500. It is rumoured that the multi-millionaire, who made his fortune selling the Mobile Phone Store to BT Cellnet in 2000, bought the number plate for his son, who is still too young to drive.

VIP 1 - Currently owned by Chelsea Football Club chairman and Russian businessman Roman Abramovich, this number plate was bought in 2006 and cost the billionaire £285,000.

GS 1
The estimated auction price for this registration number was about a third of the final "hammer price". It was sold in Scotland in July 2005 for £258,775, where it was actually first issued. It is owned by a property developer in Leicester and adorns his Rolls Royce Drophead phantom

51 NGH
51 NGH - Sold in 2006 to a Mr. Singh at a DVLA number plate auction in Leicestershire, this cherished plate had generated a lot of interest before the sale in the Asian community. It was the focus of fierce bidding and was eventually sold for £254,000 to a Peter Singh Virdy from Birmingham who holds a collection of incredible number plates.