The Milhous brothers shared a love for everything mechanical, ranging from automobiles and petroliana to player pianos, clocks and even a full-size carousel, and collected them all. Having outgrown four previous locations, the Milhous brothers moved their collect to a 39,500 square-foot facility in Boca in the mid-'90s. And there it has remained, closed to the public, ever since. But now its contents are going under the hammer later this month by RM Auctions in association with Sotheby's.
Aside from the considerable musical and visual elements of the collection is more than a handful of noteworthy automobiles. A rare 1912 Oldsmobile Limited Five-Passenger Touring cabriolet (pictured above) is expected to go for around $1.5 million, joined by a 1933 Chrysler Custom Imperial Tourist by LeBaron, a 1939 Lagonda V1-2 Rapide Sports Roadster once owned by actor Robert Mongomery, a 1949 Rounds Rocket that was the first mid-engine/rear-drive Indy speedster and a 1934 Packard Super Eight Convertible Victoria by Dietrich that won Best in Show at Pebble Beach – just a few of the most noteworthy examples on the docket from the collection.
All-in-all, more than 30 classic automobiles, along with the rest of the collection, are to be auctioned on February 24 and 25 in conjunction with Boca Raton Concours d'Elegance. Take a stroll past the jump to delve into the full press releases, browse through the high-resolution image gallery, and follow the link for a virtual tour of the collection.
- RM Auctions, in association with Sotheby's, lifts gavel on the Milhous Collection, February 24 – 25, 2012 in Boca Raton, Florida
- Sale presents an unprecedented selection of mechanical musical instruments, automobiles and collectibles
- Musical highlights include over 100 of the world's most desirable fair, theatre and dance organs and the largest compilation of major orchestrion pieces ever offered at auction
- Automotive highlights include a rare 1912 Oldsmobile Limited Tourabout; a 1939 Lagonda V-12 Rapide Sports Roadster delivered new to actor Robert Montgomery; and a revolutionary 1949 Rounds Rocket Indianapolis Racing Car with believed Howard Hughes provenance
- Auction also features an exquisite, hand-built 46-foot custom carousel featuring over 42 animals
- Comprehensive lot list and select video highlights now available online
BLENHEIM, Ontario (December 7, 2011) – RM Auctions, in association with Sotheby's, is proud to be offering one of the world's finest private museums, the Milhous Collection, during a multi-day sale, February 24 – 25, 2012 in Boca Raton, Florida.
The result of over five decades of judicious collecting by brothers Bob & Paul Milhous, the extraordinary collection features an unparalleled series of mechanical musical instruments, automobiles and collectibles, handpicked from around the world and representing the 'best of the very best'.
In February, after playing host to countless visitors and charitable events, the museum doors will open one final time as the Milhous brothers offer the collection for auction. The upcoming sale will feature over 550 lots, presenting a diverse range of ownership opportunities for discerning collectors.
"The Milhous Collection is one of the finest of its kind anywhere in the world, with a strong emphasis on rarity, authenticity and superior quality," says Rob Myers, Chairman & Founder, RM Auctions.
"We are honored to have been entrusted with the sale of this important collection and delighted to be working in association with Sotheby's for what promises to be an unprecedented sale. Never before has such a wonderful assortment of mechanical musical instruments, motor cars and collectibles been offered to the public in one location. Compiled by connoisseurs for connoisseurs, the sale presents an unrepeatable, once-in-a-lifetime ownership opportunity for discriminating collectors."
For automotive enthusiasts, the upcoming Milhous Collection sale presents a superb gathering of over 30 automobiles, spanning the spectrum of the collector car market from high-horsepower Brass era cars to a superb roster of coachbuilt classics and historically-significant Indianapolis racing cars.
Headlining the offering is a Pebble Beach class winning 1912 Oldsmobile Limited Five-Passenger Touring, chassis number 64626, the only known surviving example from 1912 and featuring one-off coachwork (Est. $1,400,000 - $1,600,000). Other notable highlights from the various different genres include: the ex-Ralph Roberts 1933 Chrysler Custom Imperial Tourist with stunning LeBaron coachwork (Est. $750,000 - $1,000,000); a flawless 1939 Lagonda V-12 Rapide Sports Roadster, delivered new to actor Robert Montgomery (Est. $400,000 - $550,000); and the 1949 Rounds Rocket Race Car, the first mid-engine, rear-drive Indianapolis racing car and featuring superb provenance including an alleged Howard Hughes connection (Est. $250,000 - $350,000). The sale will also feature a Pebble Beach "Best of Show" winning 1934 Packard Super Eight Convertible Victoria by Dietrich, the first car acquired by the Milhous brothers and making its initial trip to the market after over 40 years (Est. $150,000 - $250,000).
Other notable entries include a majestic 1930 Duesenberg Model J Murphy Convertible Sedan (Est. $900,000 - $1,200,000); a well-documented 1932 Marmon Sixteen Convertible Sedan, just four owners from new (Est. $400,000 - $600,00); and a stunning pair of Fleetwood-designed Cadillac Sixteens (Est. $700,000 - $1,000,000 each), all of which are displayed in a faithful replica of the original Auburn-Cord-Duesenberg showroom within the private Milhous museum.
The sale also features a selection of collectible motorcycles, including a 1949 Indian Scout Motorcycle and a 1972 Harley-Davidson FLH1200 Super Glide Motorcycle (Est. $20,000 - $30,000 each), along with a pair of antique tractors including a 1946 John Deere Model LA Tractor (Est. $5,000 - $10,000).
For automotive enthusiasts, the auction will be held during the same weekend as the famed Boca Raton Concours d'Elegance, making for an ultimate vintage car weekend.
Mechanical Musical Instruments
Beyond the automobiles, the Milhous Collection's focus lies in an astonishing assortment of mechanical musical instruments, the technical sophistication of which rivals the engineering found in the finest motor cars of the era. Highlighting the offering is over 100 of the world's most desirable and exceptional theater, fair and dance organs, considered among the rarest, largest and most mechanically complex and decoratively elaborate examples in existence. One of the many jewels of the prized collection is the original Wurlitzer Family Residential / Theatre Pipe Organ, a 30-rank theater organ formerly in the Wurlitzer home in Cincinnati, Ohio (Est. $450,000 - $650,000). Other highlights include: an Art Deco styled Mortier Dance Organ (Est. $175,000 - $275,000); an ornate Ruth Style 38-B Fair Organ, one of the largest examples manufactured by the respected firm A. Ruth & Söhne (Est. $1,000,000 - $1,200,000); and, a beautifully presented Gaudin 125-Key Dance Organ, finished with gold leaf and delicate oil paintings (Est. $1,000,000 - $1,200,000). All are presented in restored condition.
The sale also features the largest compilation of major orchestrion pieces ever to be offered at auction and a world-class selection of historic music boxes, faithfully restored and maintained by specialists. Among a long list of highlights is a magnificent Welte Wotan Brass Band Orchestrion, the largest model of the Welte line, originally from the immense Bob-Lo Island Dance Hall in Detroit, Michigan (Est. $1,500,000 - $2,500,000); plus an extraordinary Hupfeld Super Pan Orchestrion, considered to be one of the most significant Hupfeld products ever built (Est. $800,000 - $1,200,000). Other notable entries include a Hupfeld Style B Phonoliszt Violina with Dea Violin System (Est. $350,000 - $450,000) and a large six cylinder Paillard Music Box (Est. $20,000 - $40,000).
Additional Collection Highlights:
Although selecting individual highlights is a challenging task, given the incredible quality of each piece, the 'crown jewel' of the collection is arguably the large, hand-built, 46-foot custom carousel. The centerpiece of the Milhous museum and specially commissioned and constructed by the Milhous brothers over several years, this exceptional piece features an extraordinary menagerie of 42 animals, all hand-carved in basswood. Accompanied by its very own Wurlitzer 153 Band Organ, it truly represents an opportunity not to be missed by established and burgeoning private collections. (Est. $1,000,000 - $1,500,000).
"It is a one-of-a-kind, fully-functioning work of art-an incredible example of custom craftsmanship, mechanical music and entertainment," describes Myers.
The Milhous Collection is rounded out by an eclectic assortment of other collectibles, ranging from ornate hall and tower clocks to such decorative art pieces as Tiffany lamps and various artworks, as well as a diverse series of petroliana, neon and porcelain signs, unique gasoline-powered tether cars and models, and a large range of firearms from the late 19th century.
Full event details, select video highlights and a complete list of auction offerings are available online at www.rmauctions.com/milhous or www.sothebys.com.
The Milhous Collection
The Milhous Collection is, without exaggeration, one of the world's most admired and extraordinary private collections. Carefully assembled over the past 50 years by brothers Bob and Paul Milhous, it represents a lifelong interest and fascination in mechanicals, encompassing everything from an unprecedented collection of mechanical musical instruments to rare and important automobiles and a wide variety of Americana and collectibles. It also reflects the brothers' meticulous collecting philosophy; items have been handpicked from around the world, with an emphasis on the rarest and most desirable examples produced by some of the industry's most prominent names.
Bob and Paul's history and involvement in collecting is equally as fascinating as the collection itself. Having been in business together since 1967, they originally entered the printing industry and have since enjoyed a long career in a wide variety of enterprises.
Paul started out collecting pianos when he bought a player piano in 1959. This lead to the purchase of a reproducing piano (one that recreates how the artist originally played a piece of music) and an American Nickelodeon. While Paul was collecting musical instruments, Bob developed his interest in unique and desirable motor cars. His first purchase was a 1934 Packard Eight Convertible Victoria that had been commissioned by the lead actress in Tugboat Annie (1933), Marie Dressler. Bob showed the car throughout the United States at all major concours events, winning awards at every appearance including a coveted Best of Show at the prestigious Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance in 1976. Building on this success, he began to grow the collection, which now includes everything from high-horsepower Brass Era cars to rare coachbuilt classics. There are a pair of Fleetwood-designed Cadillac Sixteens, French coachbuilt cars, an Oldsmobile Limited and a 1911 Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost to mention a few. Additionally, the collection also includes historically important Indianapolis racing cars.
In the mid-1970s, the brothers decided to combine their individual collections. After outgrowing four other locations, they built their current 39,500 sq. ft. building in Boca Raton, Florida in the mid-1990s. The display is, in a word, spectacular, and those that have had the privilege to tour the collection over the years can attest to its incredible presentation. Although it was not open to the public, the collection has been host to hundreds of charity events over the years, which have helped raise millions for a wide variety of good causes.
Today the collection is highlighted by one of the world's most notable assemblies of fair, dance and theatre organs and orchestrions, comprising of no less than 100 individual examples. A focal point is the Weber Maesto orchestrion, an exceptionally large instrument replete with endless pipes, pianos and drums, all playing in concert. Acquired by the Milhous brothers 15 years ago after purchasing an entire private collection from Linz, Germany, it represents one of only six ever made, four of which are in museums, leaving only two in private ownership. Other highlights include a 30-rank theatre organ, originally built for Wurlitzer's home in Cincinnati, as well as mechanically complex and decoratively elaborate instruments from such renowned names as Gaudin, Gavioli and A. Ruth & Söhne, all of which are presented in complete working order. Alongside the extraordinary selection of organs and orchestrions, the Milhous Collection also includes an impressive variety of world-class music boxes.
Another jewel of the collection is an Illions-style carousel specially commissioned and built by the Milhous brothers. Constructed over a period of four years, it is truly a one-of-a-kind, fully functioning work of art-an incredible example of custom craftsmanship, mechanical music and entertainment. Visually spectacular, it features an extraordinary menagerie of 44 intricate animal figures, all hand-carved in basswood. The carousel is accompanied by its own Wurlitzer Band Organ.
An extensive assortment of petroliana, neon and porcelain signs and rare and unique gasoline-powered tether cars and models add to the collection's diversity. Notable offerings include the rare and highly sought-after double-cylinder gas pumps, Red Crown pumps and a Shell display pump in outstanding fully restored condition. Numerous large porcelain and double-sided neon signs adorn the walls of the museum, many of which have been fully restored. There is also a large assortment of decorative arts pieces from such names as Pierre Renoir, Louis Icart and Alphonse Mucha. From Tiffany & Co. and Black, Starr & Frost ornate hall clocks to stunningly rare tower and street clocks by Seth Thomas and Howard, iconic timepieces are equally well represented. Other unique items on offer include a large assortment of firearms from the 19th Century.
RM Auctions, in association with Sotheby's, is honored to present this truly stunning collection. Assembled by connoisseurs, for connoisseurs, it truly represents the best of the very best in all areas, perfectly suited for the eclectic collector with an eye for rarity, authenticity and supreme quality.