Could this be Victoria's oldest surviving trailer number plate?
Norm Geary thinks so.
The Boorool farmer, who runs cattle and a livestock transport business near the Gippsland town of Mirboo North, has owned the plates since acquiring them from his grandfather in 1968.
The T2 number plate is still registered to this day, however, the original enamel-baked plate has since been retired and a new one installed to protect the patina of the nine-decade-old piece of metal.
According to VicRoads, commercial trailers were first issued with number plates in Victoria in 1932 - some 90 years ago - with the format T1 to T36 999 in use until 1963 before a new configuration was introduced.
The white writing on a black porcelain base has been in the family since new.
Originally, the T2 plate was attached to an old wooden-spoke-wheeled trailer, which Mr Geary said was long gone, however, the plate has been continuously registered in the same family since it was first issued.
Mr Geary said the T2 plate was issued in Leongatha in the early 1930s, and believes other low-number plates could still be around in the district.
"The police officer at Leongatha at the time, Arthur Bentley, walked over to the pig and calf saleyards and started handing the number plates out," Mr Geary said.
"My grandfather, WG Drowley, was issued number T2, so I suspect number T1 and quite a number of the early plates were issued in the district.
"The reason I believe that might be the case is because these plates were issued in batches to towns across Victoria, so we reckon the first batch may have made its way to Leongatha."
In May, a Victorian heritage car number plate which simply included the double-digit number 14 sold for a staggering $2.38 million at auction.
Meanwhile, in 2019, Shannon's sold 11 of Victoria's highly desirable early three-digit heritage numerical plates at a special number plate sale, with the best-selling plate, 781, fetching $140,000.
T2 is now attached to a tandem CARAC car trailer, purchased from Dandenong in 1968, which the South Gippsland grazier uses frequently to this day.
"I've been pulled over a number of times and been accused of having a motorcycle number plate on a trailer or a number plate which is half missing," he said.
"Recently I was pulled over in Traralgon by two motorcycle policemen who said a speed camera wouldn't be able to read the number plate.
"After realising it was in fact a genuine plate and registered in my name, they sort of apologised and went on their way."
Mr Geary is no stranger to unique and quirky items; he owns more than 10 pre-1930 vintage tractors, a handful of classic vehicles, and sheds full of old memorabilia from yesteryear.
These tractors and pieces of machinery are displayed in a private museum.
"Funnily enough, all of those tractors have been brought to my property through the use of my tandem trailer which has the T2 number plate," he said.
His prized piece of machinery is a 1926 12-tonne Ruston Hornsby powerhouse engine which was used as a standby power generator in the Regent Theatre in Melbourne.
Mr Geary purchased the working stationary engine in 2010, originally used during power outages, from the three brothers who rescued the engine from the basement of the Collins Street building in 1994.
He said he had no idea what he would do with the T2 plate, nor what it was worth.
"I would have thought people who were right into restoring old trucks would want a number plate like that on a trailer," he said.
"I'm not too fussed, I'll just leave it there."
Number Plate Collectors' Club of Australia committee member David West said the plate would command a "reasonably high fee" if it was offered for sale.
"These enamel plates only went from T1 to to T36 000 and the problem is a lot earlier plates have been lost or cancelled.
"If someone has kept one continuously registered, this is particularly important from a collector's point of view because once a trailer registration is cancelled, it can't be renewed.
"It's hard to put a value on it but I'd say it would be worth more than $10,000, but it's very hard to know because it's a very specialised market."
Classic and vintage vehicle specialist, Shannons, said the T2 configuration was unique.
"That's quite desirable for someone who puts value on trailer number plates," Shannon national auctions and external relations manager Christophe Boribon said.
"We don't see trailer number plates come up for sale, in fact we've never sold a trailer number plate and I don't know of any other auctioneers that have sold them either."
Bryce is an agricultural journalist for Australian Community Media's Stock & Land. He covers all aspects of ag from markets to politics and everything in between. Bryce is also the president of the Rural Press Club of Victoria. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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