Another batch of 240 personalised car number plates is to be sold this month, but with low expectations for the prices.
Plates with 'AC', 'AS' and 'Lee' are expected to draw the highest bids, estimated to be between HK$200,000 and HK$400,000, at the auction of personalised vehicle registration marks at the Convention and Exhibition Centre on October 27.
This is far short of the record HK$1.4 million paid for '1 L0VE U' at the first auction and the HK$700,000 for 'FERRAR1' at the second.
Among the creative plates in the latest batch is 'HEL0K1TY', but dealers expect it to fetch less than HK$10,000, despite its link to the Japanese pop-culture icon.
'It cannot be too expensive as there are some letters missing in between,' Ngan Man-hon, director of the Lucky Number Centre, said.
'In comparison, a shorter combination like AC is of much higher value because it could stand for the initials of many people's names.'
It is the tenth auction since then-financial secretary Henry Tang Ying-yen launched the scheme last September to raise cash to help the poor.
The scheme raised HK$57.8 million in its first year - well below the annual target of HK$70 million set by the government.
'It is harder and harder for people to come up with good numbers after so many auctions,' Mr Ngan said.
Over the past few months, the centre had cut the price of more than 60 personalised car plates sold, from about HK$600,000 to HK$300,000, in the hope of attracting more buyers.
'We used to believe that we could cash in from the second-hand market of personalised car plates, but it is actually quite small,' he said. 'Most people prefer traditional plates to personalised ones.'
Andy Kwan Cheuk-chiu, a professor of economics at Chinese University, said people's enthusiasm for the plates was bound to fade.
'An auction of personalised plates is different from that of luxury cars or valuable paintings. The latter can show one's social status and wealth, but a personalised car plate is simply considered to be creative and interesting in people's eyes,' he said.
It would be more realistic for the government to carry out other large-scale programmes if it really wanted to help the poor, he said.