Velology is the study and collection of vehicle tax discs,
particularly of those issued in the United Kingdom
from 1 January 1921 to 30 September 2015.
Collectors value specimens which are intact, unfaded and rare. Those of particular interest include Emergency discs
(serial number prefaced with an E, issued when supplies of normal discs were interrupted)
and Welsh language discs. Another variation was the "Farmers' disc", identified by an "F",
which was displayed on agricultural vehicles.
History of tax discs
Although vehicle excise duty was first introduced in the United Kingdom in 1889,
it wasn't until 1 January 1921 that it became compulsory to display a tax disc on the vehicle.
Initially, they were issued quarterly or annually. Early discs were made from plain paper,
without perforations; the selvedge was cut or folded to create the main circular shape.
Colour printing was introduced in 1923. Advertising on the reverse of the disc was allowed from 1924,
with companies such as Shell Oil placing advertisements. This was abolished in 1926, after which the reverse
showed text relating to the refund available for unexpired licences. Perforations were used from 1938,
enabling a better fit within the standard disc holders; however, the perforations were missing from 1942 to 1952,
perhaps as a result of equipment damage during the war. In 1961 major changes occurred, with a redesign of the printed
pattern – for better security – and a new system of monthly issues, rather than the standard December
expiry of the past. From then on, the expiry month was displayed. From 2001, watermarking and embossing
were added to prevent fraud.
A tax disc was a circular certificate that vehicle owners had to place on the front windscreen
of road vehicles,
as visual proof that vehicle tax has been paid.
Similar systems exist in some other countries, such as in Ireland,
but the use of automatic number plate recognition has rendered tax discs redundant in the United Kingdom.
The most collectable tax discs are those with their borders/margins (known as selvedge) remaining intact
and in excellent condition. Early discs had no perforations and therefore selvedge had to be cut away.
This was often done poorly, and will devalue a disc.
I have been collecting tax discs since I was 18 yrs old and have a collection of over 25,000.