Final Note

Want to drive a NYC taxi? It could cost you $1 million

Bob Moon Oct 21, 2011

This final note today. Taxicabs are a regular sight along New York City’s busy streets. But you can’t drive one without a taxi medallion, an aluminum plate that’s riveted to the hood of each yellow cab in the city. Two of those plates sold this week for — get this — $1 million. Each.

We called up David Yassky, chairman of the city’s Taxi and Limousine Commission, to get his reaction.

David Yassky: I thought, it shows that people believe in the NYC economy, and that we know that we’re going to have a nice healthy flow of businesspeople and tourists and New Yorkers in and out of yellow cabs for a good long time.

These are corporate medallions, by the way, which can be leased out so investors can make their money without having to actually drive a cab. The plates — or permits — were first introduced for $10 a piece. That was in 1937, though. To put that in context, New York taxi medallions have risen higher than the Dow, gold, oil and the average American home.

The broker who sold the medallions goes by the terrific name of Nat Goldbetter. He’s no stranger to these sales: He handled the first sale of a medallion for $100,000, back in 1985. That’s a tenfold increase in 25 years. But does that steep rise suggest a medallion bubble? Mr. Yassky doesn’t think so.

Yaasky: I’m not going to say the price can only go in one direction, because nothing acts that way, but I do think that the fundamentals of the industry are sound, and that people are paying based on their expectation that the revenue from the taxicab will continue to be there, year in and year out.

Hmmm, the fundamentals are sound. Where have we heard that before?

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