Numbers count for collector

Car number plate collector Graham Freeman with Ashburton and Geraldine number plates.

Rare number plates from Mid Canterbury take pride of place in one of the larger collections of motor car registration plates in the world, owned by Canterbury man Graham Freeman.

Graham has amassed a comprehensive collection of New Zealand number plates spanning over 115 years.

His collection has featured in international motoring publications and the New Zealand history magazine Memories.

It was an interest which started in the 1960’s but his collection took off in the 80’s when he tried to find a plate example from each year.

“This soon got out of hand when I discovered the different prefixes, and the collection now amounts to over 1000 plates, with several being the only examples known,” Graham said.

New Zealand first issued registration plates in 1906 with provinces being allocated prefixes like A for Auckland and C for Canterbury.

In 1908 the system was modified when council and counties could issue their own registrations.

“This resulted in over 120 registration areas with their own prefixes like ASH for Ashburton and GD for Geraldine,” Graham said.

The black and white plates used today, known as permanent plates, were introduced in 1964.

Some of the number plates in Graham’s collection.

In his collection Graham, who lives in Christchurch, has two matching pairs of Ashburton and Geraldine plates dating from pre 1925.

The Ashburton plates have an unusual cut out style, and were made by the Christensen Foundry in Christchurch.

Graham found the plates after meeting the owner at a past Ashburton Swap Meet.

“I was invited to his place and found the Ashburton plates amongst 40 others I bought,” he said.

Bringing pairs back together is one of the satisfying challenges Graham faces with his hobby.

“One of the Geraldine plates was sourced from the other side of the world in France, the other was found in Pukekohe,” he said.

He is always looking at expanding his collection, if you have any old plates lying around or would like to view the collection contact Graham on 021365449.

-By Daniel Tobin