How did Beatle's car number plate, expected to fetch thousands at auction, end up in Leeds for years?

Luke Hobbs of Gardiner Houlgate with the letters and the number plate set to go under the hammer,
Luke Hobbs of Gardiner Houlgate with the letters and the number plate set to go under the hammer,
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A Beatle’s car numberplate that was first sold in Leeds in return for free haircuts could fetch thousands of pounds next month when it goes up for auction.

The numberplate KMT 499C was removed from an Aston Martin DB5, once owned by the late George Harrison, by a mechanic at Arnold G. Wilson Limited’s Regent Street dealership in Leeds in the early 1970s.

The letter sent by George Harrison.

The letter sent by George Harrison.

It was one of two plates being replaced with new style reflective plates while the car was being serviced. The rear numberplate remained at the dealership for several years until a member of staff sold it to a local barber, who collected car memorabilia, in return for free haircuts for life. The numberplate was subsequently sold to the collector.

It is part of a collection of George Harrison memorabilia that is being sold at an auction house in Wiltshire by a private collector from Salisbury in order to raise funds for retirement.

The front numberplate is known to have hung on the wall of an infamous Leeds pub, the Cherry Tree, for many years but the pub has since been demolished.

George Harrison’s 1964 Aston Martin DB5 itself was sold at auction in 2011 for £350,000 to an anonymous Beatles fan from Houston, Texas.

Luke Hobbs, from the auction house Gardiner Houlgate said: "It's very hard to estimate what the numberplate will fetch as it’s never been offered for sale before. As the car it came from sold for £350,000, the plate itself easily make four figures."

The lot also includes a letter from Harrison to a fan written on the very day that the Beatles’ fourth single She Loves You was released in 1963.

Drafted on headed notepaper from the Palace Hotel, Bournemouth, where the Beatles were staying, the letter reveals that Harrison sings the wrong words on the single’s B-side I’ll Get You. Over three pages, Harrison also explains that the group were annoyed at being pelted with Jelly Babies sweets while performing live and that drummer Ringo Starr was too scared to sing on stage – even though Harrison and Paul McCartney offered to play the drums for him.

In addition to books and programmes, the collection also includes letters to Beatles fans written by Harrison’s sister, Louise Harrison, and his sister-in-law, Irene Harrison.

Luke Hobbs said: “This is a treasure trove of George Harrison memorabilia including correspondence, programmes and personal belongings. I’ve not seen anything like it before. We’re expecting strong international interest, particularly from America.

"The letter written from Bournemouth in 1963 is an intimate snapshot of the young Beatle, right on the brink of major fame. It could go as high as £10,000–£20,000.”

In September last year, Gardiner Houlgate sold George Harrison’s Maton Master Sound MS-500 guitar for £347,000.

The auction will take place at Gardiner Houlgate, Leafield Way, Corsham, Wiltshire, SN13 9SW on Wednesday June 12 and Thursday June 13 from 11am.

George Harrison’s letters and numberplate will be available for public viewing over Monday June 10 and Tuesday June 11, 9am to 5.30pm, and on sale days.