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Velology


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 2014.

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 word is a combination of the acronym VEL, for vehicle excise licence, and -ology., and collectors are known as velologists.

The collection of tax discs was first popularised by Elite Registrations, dealers in vehicle number plates, and has since developed a niche following. In response to the interest, a collector's magazine, The Velologist, is published monthly. The study of expired and historical tax discs is also a central component of an affiliated industry: the production of replica age-appropriate tax discs for collectors of vintage and classic cars; these can be legally displayed alongside the required modern disc or Exemption certificate.

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.

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.


Annual Road Fund Licence (1921 and 1922)
Year of expiry Main colour Image (obverse) Obverse Reverse Remarks
1921 None Tax Disc (1921).jpg Cross-shaped layout with emblems of Regions of the United Kingdom; Circumference text reads: “Expiring 31 Dec. [Year]. … Licence for a mechanically propelled vehicle.” Text within circular ring reads: “This Licence Card must be exhibited in the regulation position on the vehicle when in use upon a public road [See Note in the Licence Registration Book]. It must be given up to the Post Office or to the Registration Authority on expiry. A new licence cannot be issued until the old one is surrendered. (None)
1922 Tax Disc (1922).jpg
Annual Road Fund Licence (1921-1931)
Year of Expiry Main Colour Image (obverse) Lifespan of design Obverse Reverse Remarks
1923 Green Tax Disc (1923).jpg Jan. 1923
to
Dec. 1931
— Cross-shaped layout with emblems of Regions of the United Kingdom and vertical colour band
— Circumference text reads: “Expiring 31 Dec. [Year]. … Licence for a mechanically propelled vehicle.”
— Background text: “Road Fund Licence”
Text within circular ring reads: “This Licence Card must be exhibited in the regulation position on the vehicle when in use upon a public road (See Note in the Licence Registration Book). It must be destroyed on expiry unless renewed at a Post Office when it must be surrendered. January 1923: First issue of annual licences with colour printing
1924 Red
1925 Blue Tax Disc (1925).jpg Advertisement for Shell Motor Oils
1926 Orange Tax Disc (1926).jpg Surrender of Licences text
1927 Purple
1928 Red
1929 Green
1930 Orange
1931 Blue Tax Disc (1931).jpg
These images are to scale at 0.7 pixels per millimetre. For table standards, see the banknote specification table.
Annual Vehicle Licence (1951-1956)
Year of Expiry Main Colour Image (obverse) Obverse Reverse Remarks
1951 Green Cross-shaped layout with expiry year in black; circumference text: “Vehicles (Excise) Act, 1949. - Licence for a mechanically propelled vehicle.”; background text: “Mechanically propelled vehicle licence” Surrender of Licences (Vehicles (Excise) Act, 1949, Section 12.)
1952 Orange
1953 Red
1954 Blue Certain issues were misprinted with the 1953 expiry date and were overprinted with 1954 on the top quadrant.
1955 Brown
1956 Green Tax Disc (1956).jpg
Annual Vehicle Licence (1957-1960)
Year of Expiry Main Colour Image (obverse) Obverse Reverse Remarks
1957 Red Expiry year flanked between issuing stamp area; circumference text: “Vehicles (Excise) Act, 1949. - Licence for a mechanically propelled vehicle.”; background text: “Mechanically propelled vehicle licence” Surrender of Licences (Vehicles (Excise) Act, 1949, Section 12.)
1958 Blue The type size of the expiry year was increased.
1959 Orange
1960 Green
Annual Vehicle Licence (1961–present)
Year of Expiry Main Colour Image (obverse) Lifespan of design Obverse Reverse Remarks
1967 Green Tax Disc (1967).jpg Jan 61 - May 78 Coloured ribbon with month-year expiry date; circumference text reads: “This licence expires on last day of month shown”. Colour sequence: red for leap years, then blue, brown, green. Surrender of Licences (Vehicles (Excise) Act, 1962, Section 9.)
1983 Green Tax Disc (1983).jpg 31:10:77 - 30:9:87 Expiry date (DD:MM:YY) over coloured ribbon. Refund of Duty in plain text.
1985 Blue Tax Disc (1985).jpg Minor design revisions.
1986 Brown Tax Disc (1986).jpg Final year of brown-coloured licences to date.
1987 Purple Tax Disc (1987).jpg First issue of purple-coloured licences since 1927 (annual). Subsequently purple would replace brown in the 4-yearly colour sequence.
31:10:87 - 1993 Upper half: Expiry date (DD:MM:YY) over colour ribbon with continuous wavy text “DVLC”; two elliptical holes and “EXPIRES” above the ribbon, and “DVLC” embossing.
Lower half: gradual shading and stamp area in metallic ink, with expiry date (DD:MM:YY) in pale colour; 4 rows of black dotted lines in pale colour; bottom-most line split by stamp area.
Refund of Duty; lower half inverse in colour.
1990 Purple Tax Disc (1990).jpg
1992 Red Tax Disc (1992).jpg
1993 Blue Tax Disc (1993).jpg Certain discs expiring in 1993 retain old features from the 1987 series.
1993 - 29:2:04 Upper half: Solid colour expiry date (MM YY) over colour ribbon with wavy text “EXPIRES”, with two elliptical holes near edge and “DVLA” embossing.
Lower half: Monotonic shading of roughly ⅓-width sides, with expiry date (DD:MM:YY) and 4 rows of coloured dotted lines in pale colour; bottom-most line split by stamp area in metallic ink.
Refund of Duty and Non-transferability clause; lower half inverse in colour.
1994 Purple Tax Disc (1994).jpg
1995 Green Final year of green-coloured licences to date. From 1999 discs, colour sequence became 3-yearly: red/pink, blue, purple.
1996 Red Tax Disc (1996).jpg
These images are to scale at 0.7 pixels per millimetre. For table standards, see the banknote specification table.
Vehicle Licence (expiring from 2003 to 2015)
Year of Expiry Main Colour Image (obverse) Obverse Reverse Remarks
2003 Blue Upper half: Gold expiry date (DD MM YY) in Univers type over colour background with wavy text “EXPIRES” alternating between gold and white, with two star holes above the day and year.

Centre: Barcode in middle with foil strip and two elliptical holes.
Lower half: Monotonic shading with white boxes for details and coloured stamp area.

Refund of Duty and Non-transferability clause; lower half inverse in black.
2004 Purple
2005 Red Tax discs issued from 1 September 2004 have a black expiry date with gold outline.
As before, but expiry date in black with gold outline.
2006 Blue
2007 Purple
2008 Red
2009 Blue
2010 Purple
2011 Red As before, but expiry date in Arial type and black only.
2012 Blue
2013 Purple
2014 Red
2015 Blue

  • Hill, Tony; (2006) Trade and Collect Tax Discs UK: Collecticus excerpts available online
  • Tennant, Chris, & Hitchings, Ed; (2012) Tax Discs of the British Isles UK: Revenue Society. Catalogues by John Barefoot.
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