Tax disc enthusiast from Preston amasses over 10,000 in collection
For most, the humble tax disc belongs in a bygone age of post office queues and pre-digital inconvenience.
But for Ribbleton resident Robert Watkinson, these paper circles, which can still be found languishing in some vehicle windscreens, are highly prized collectibles.
Speaking to the Lancashire Post the 60-year-old has revealed how, over the past 52 years he has amassed thousands of discs through his unusual hobby, with his current collection standing at around 10,000.
Tax disc collecting, or velology, has grown in popularity in recent years.
But for Robert his collection began as a result of a childhood fascination with cars. His family, he says, was unable to afford a car but collecting tax discs allowed him to follow his passion and be close to vehicles.
He said: “As a child, all I was interested in was anything to do with vehicles. I was really interested in cars, and my first tax disc was given to me by my auntie.
“When I started driving I managed to get them that way and when I began my work as a fork lift truck driver I got even more.
“It’s quite a sociable hobby and it gets me out of the house and speaking to people now that I’ve retired. Some people think it’s a strange hobby, but there are quite a lot of us out there.”
And the pensioner has revealed that his wife does not find his hobby too taxing and even helps to sort and categorise his collection into folders.
In 2014 the government decided to stop issuing the discs after the use of automatic number plate recognition systems meant that the discs were no longer necessary.
But Robert has vowed to continue with his hobby despite the new challenges.
He said: “I’ve managed to get 500 since March, so I’m still doing ok. It is getting harder and you don’t see so many of them out and about.
“But then, when people hear about my collection they are more willing to let me have them.
“When people still needed to show them in their windscreens there were sometimes a few mix-ups. I had people knocking on my door asking me to give them back when they realised they were still in date.
“The discs are still issued in the Isle of Man and Ireland so there are still a few being made.”
Velology experts say that there is still a large interest in collecting tax discs which they say provide many with a piece of motoring history.
Speaking on behalf of Collecticus magazine, Ben Hillier said: “There still appears to be an interest in collecting tax discs.
“Some very rare discs have sold at just over £1,000 each.
“We think that tax discs are great items to collect, as they are so colourful and of course are now a piece of motoring history.
“Many motorists threw their expired discs away and therefore the supply is limited and those who kept them, may just, with a bit of luck, be quids in.”