Mongolia's $150,000 license plate

Mongolia's $150,000 license plate

Would you pay this much for the country’s “best” license plate?

TL:DR Mongolia auctions off a “lucky number” license plate and the bids reach 427.45 million MNT (Mongolian Tugriks) in less than three hours. That’s $150,035.10 USD at current exchange rates.

Numbers mean a lot to most Mongolians. Generally, 1, 3, 8, and 9 are considered “lucky” numbers. Mongolian phone numbers have 8 digits, and the first 4 of these numbers can tell you a lot about who is calling you. So-called “lucky” phone numbers beginning with 99 or 88 regularly sell for anywhere from $1,000 (9999-XXXX) up to $20,000 or more for the most elite (9911-XXXX). These phone numbers are sold on the “secondary market” from person to person. If a 9911-XXXX number calls you and you don’t answer, expect them to be upset…

Unfortunately, license plate numbers are assigned to a vehicle and can’t be transferred between individuals. In addition, up until recently, you couldn’t pay for a better license plate number. This caused a situation where the “best” license plates (think 0001-УБА) somehow ended up on Mercedes G-Wagon’s and Land Cruisers. I wonder how that happened?

The G-Wagon. Source: Wikimedia Commons

The general public always knew what was really happening. At one point frustration was so high that there was discussion of giving these lucky numbers to garbage trucks or other city vehicles. It seems their voice was heard when the new Motor Vehicle Registration Country Number Procedure was approved in late 2020. This procedure set up a system to allow “lucky” numbers to be auctioned on the Vehicle Registration Department’s website. This has been generally viewed as a positive development, as those willing to pay for this special license plate could pay legally for the privilege and contribute to government revenue and social programs.

I’m not sure anyone expected what happened next. On February 15, 2021, the number 0001-УАР had its day to be auctioned. The first bid was 1,000,000 MNT (approximately $350 USD). Let’s see what happened…

Cumulative bids for various license plates on February 15, 2021. Source: Author

The auction opened at 9:00AM. In less than 30 minutes bids for 0001-УАР reached the equivalent of $100,000. By 11:30AM the auction total reached 427.45 million MNT (Mongolian Tugriks). That’s $150,035.10 USD at current exchange rates.


Anyone bidding on a license plate number is required to put in a deposit for their bid of 50,000 MNT (about $17 USD). There were 957 bids for 0001-УАР. Those who didn’t win the auction will have their deposits returned. The winning bid is now expected to pay the total amount. If they don’t pay or are unable to, this number will go up for auction again.

It’s unclear how much of this auction was real interest or social media hype, as this particular license plate went somewhat viral on various Mongolian language Facebook groups. To put things in perspective, the average yearly salary in Ulaanbaatar, the capital, is about $5,300 USD.

What do you think? Is a $150,000 license plate worth it?

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