Prefix registrations were introduced after the previous registration system, suffix registrations, came to an end. Prefix registrations ran from 1983 to 2001.
Prefix registrations with an 'A' at the beginning were first issued on August 1st, 1983 and ran until 31st July, 1984. Thus, the letter 'A' was the year identifier followed by two or three digits with three letters at the end. These three letters, at the end of prefix registrations, were not random but actually identified the year of issue. For example "LHN" indicated Darlington, "BAG"'s were issued via the Beverley local registration office etc.
Prefix registrations continued to be issued annually i.e. on August 1st until after the 'R' prefix registrations.
'S' prefix registrations were issued as usual on 1st August 1998 but finished on 25th February 1999. 'T' prefix registrations issued on 1st March 1999 and ran until 31st August 1999, with 'V' prefix registrations beginning on 1st September 1999. The system continued in this way until the 'Y' prefix registrations finished at the end of August 2001.
The following letters were never used: I, O, U, Q or Z. This was for various reasons, namely the 'I' and the 'Z' were letters reserved for Northern Ireland, the 'O' was thought to be easily confused with the number zero, the 'U' was difficult to distinguish from a 'V'. The 'Q' was used to register vehicles where the year of manufacture was unknown.
The pressure put on both the motor trade and the local registration offices on August 1st every year was tremendous. By issuing prefix registrations twice a year, the "magic" of this one day disappeared. Another result was that prefix registrations were used up more quickly, making the introduction of the millennium/new-style registration system necessary in September 2001.
DVLA had the vision to withhold the numbers 1 to 20 when the prefix registrations A, B, C, D, E, F, G and H were issued. By 1991, when the 'J' prefix registrations were issued, DVLA offered the numbers 1 to 20 plus various attractive numbers like 22, 33, 44, etc; 100, 200, 300, etc; 111, 222, 333 etc for sale over the telephone.
At various intervals, beginning with the 'H' prefix registrations, DVLA were able to raise revenue for the treasury by releasing the A, B, C, D, E and G 1 to 20's via telephone order on a designated day.
Because of the reasonable price of these prefix registrations, for the first time the world of personalised registrations became more accessible.
The most popular type of prefix registration is a year letter followed by one, two or three numbers followed by three initials. The prefix registrations that have increased in value are those that spell a word or a name, for example R7 GGY, E4 PAT - all owned by National Numbers.
The retained F prefix registrations are the last in the series to be released for general sale, again, only the 1 to 20's. They were released in October 2008, 20 years after the 'F' prefix registrations were released in the normal way in August 1998. These offer great possibilities for people named Frank, Fiona, Frost etc.
However, some top-class F registrations have already been offered through DVLA auctions but there are still some really attractive marks to be had.