An entire thesis could be constructed on what turns an otherwise normal person into a collector. Whether it be fine art or beer cans, passion for collecting things knows no bounds. Take Bob and Paul Milhous for example. They started out working in the printing industry, and along the way Paul discovered an interest in musical instruments after buying a piano, while Bob kicked off his fascination with desirable motorcars with a 1934 Packard. Eventually a decision to combine the two individual, and very eclectic, collections into one saw four changes of location before finally settling in at a huge, purpose-built private complex in Florida.
But now you have the opportunity to buy history, and most have no reserve. Over the weekend of February 24-26, 2012, RM Auctions in association with Sotheby's will be auctioning 839 rare and exquisite items from the Milhous Collection.
The RM Auctions site showcases the amazing collection, from musical instruments, such as the 1913 Welte Wotan Brass Band Orchestrion worth potentially US$2.5m to rare cars, and everything in between.
Surprisingly, the motorcycle section is somewhat bland, but other things make up for it like a 1941 Ryan trainer, 1920's carousel, a big number of early American revolvers, gas-powered model cars, chandeliers, grandfather clocks, neon signs, artwork by Renoir and various Americana ... all in superb condition and representing fabulous times long gone.
It's the sort of stuff that many of us would buy if we were fabulously wealthy, or drunk. Being neither, I've chosen my top 20 wishlist based on what tickles my fancy, or the one that is simply expected to bring the most money in that particular category, or would look good in my lounge room ...
1949 Snowberger-Offy Indy 500 Roadster.
Genuine Meyer-Drake Offenhauser DOHC inline four-cylinder engine, Hilborn fuel-injection, two-speed manual transmission, solid front axle with transverse leaf spring, live rear axle with torsion bar suspension, and four-wheel hydraulic disc brakes. Driven by George Lynch during two Indianapolis "500" qualifying attempts. Classic American racer expected to bring US$175-250,000
Route 66 Gas Station. Expected to bring US$25-40,000 this replicates the gas station that Henry Klusman built in 1917 on historic Route 66 in California. It includes a full compliment of related collectibles.
Colt Single Action Army Revolver 1874. This example was in the fifth lot received from Colt to the U.S. Government and has been rebuilt by modifying the barrel length to 5.5 in., possibly for either the Spanish American War or the Philippine Insurrection. It features a six round cylinder with a three screw frame and walnut grips. Expected to bring US$6,500-9,500.
Stunning Victor S. Pearlman Co. Rococo Revival Multi-Light Chandelier. Circa 1920. Expected to bring US$50,000-70,000
Victor Six Talking Machine. An early model with wooden horn, this has original stylus, gilt corner columns and mahogany construction. Expect to pay US$4,000-6,000.
E. Howard Four-Dial Painted Cast Iron Eight-Day Post Clock. This rare post clock originally resided in a town square. All components are original but restored. Expected to bring US$40,000-60,000
1929 "Miss Columbia" Gold Cup RC Boat
Magnificent repro of the original 1929 "Miss Columbia" Gold Cup racer. Custom built by craftsman Jack Kipfer and fitted with radio control system. Expected to bring US$15,000-18,000
BB Korn Indy AWD Twin Engine Race Car.
A twin engined, twin blower tethered model race car built by Richard Beggs. Stunning engine, genuine leather seat, detailed dash and polished brightwork. Wheelbase: 13.5 inches. Expected to fetch US$8,000-12,000
Circa 1948 Wurlitzer Model 1015 "Bubbler" Jukebox. Fully operational and complete with the original mechanical systems, the "bubbler" is generally considered the iconic jukebox. US$10,000-14,000
Auburn Boat-tail Speedster Electric Pedal Car.
Hand-made in amazing detail, features include "Firestone" white-wall tires, spoked wheels, two-tone red paint, working lights, tan leather seat, fully instrumented engine-turned dash and beautiful raked windshield. Wheelbase: 43 inches. Too good for the kids. Besides, they mightn't be able to come up with the US$10,000 - 15,000!
"Speed II" by Louis Icart (1880-1950). A 1933 etching signed in pencil and stamped copyright 1933 by L. Icart, mounted in a silvered frame, French matte. 36x27 inches.
Curtiss OX-5 engine model. A famous pre-war aircraft engine in miniature. Legendary aviator Glenn Curtis used an aircooled version mounted in a motorcycle to set a land speed record. Highly detailed and accurate construction, including chassis plate, wiring, magneto, valves etc. Expected to go for US$3,000 - 4,500
Louis Bleriot 12-inch Brass Headlamps 1905
Not too sure why I chose these, other than they are beautifully made, and I'm a fan of Bleriot. At US8,000-12,000 a bit out of my price range
Winchester Model 1894 .30 Caliber Repeating Rifle. Features a 26 in. barrel with engraved .32 WCF markings and "smokeless powder" lettering. Metal stock butt. Deluxe features include pistol grip stock, half magazine and a combination round/octagonal barrel.
Love this "Wild West" stuff. Around US$1,600-2,500
1948 McCormick Farmall Cub Tractor. Powered by a 10 hp, four-cylinder engine, the 1947 Farmall Cub was International Harvester's entry in the compact tractor market, where it proved immensely popular and remained in production until 1975! No hobby farm is complete without one.
Expect to pay US$7,000-10,000 for this beautifully restored item.
1949 Rounds Rocket Race Car. First mid-engine, rear-drive Indianapolis racing car. The Rounds Rocket links the early Indy roadsters and the later March Cosworths: Meyer-Drake Offy power with mid-engine architecture. Reputedly some Howard Hughes involvement only adds to the appeal for me.
Expect to pay US$250,000 - 350,000
35 ft. Antique Front And Back Bar. Exceptional and rare, it features gilded wood, brass insets and marble. Expect to pay US$60,000-$90,000
Trophy Cabinet late 19th century. In the style of Robert Adam, the overhanging cornice of breakfront outline carved with flutes alternating with paterae, above two glazed doors with bead and reel carved borders. Around US$6,000 - $ 8,000. Why is this on my list ? I need somewhere to put some old trophies ...
1930 Duesenberg Model J Convertible. This spectacular vehicle with celebrity history, features a 265 bhp, 420 cu. in. OHC inline eight-cylinder engine with three-speed manual transmission. Expected to bring a cool US$900,000 - 1.2m
1941 Ryan PT-22 Trainer. This classic American trainer is presented in its correct WW2 USAAC livery and was in flying condition when inducted into the Milhous Collection. I personally know of three similar examples that are flying regularly. At an expected US$50,000 - 80,000 the price is realistic
To wrap up, here's RM Auctions' video overview of the Milhous Collection:
Martin spent 17 years as road and track tester for Australian Motorcycle News and has raced motorcycles for over 40 years, picking up an Australian Championship in 1993 in the Unlimited Class Historic. An aircraft builder and experienced recreational pilot, he currently operates a test flight and maintenance facility, owns a Ducati 1000 and a Buell 1200 … and writes for Gizmag. All articles by Martin Hone