This article was originally published in Antique Trader
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BLENHEIM, Ontario – The Milhous Collection is, without exaggeration, one of the world’s most admired and extraordinary private antique 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. RM Auctions, in association with Sotheby’s, is offering selections from the collections during a multi-day antique auction, Feb. 24 – 25, 2012 in Boca Raton, Fla.
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 and founder of 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.”
Antique Musical Instruments
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).
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.
Exceptional Antique Automobiles
Beyond the musical instruments, the Milhous Collection sale presents a superb gathering of more than 30 automobiles, spanning the spectrum of the collector car market from high-horsepower brass era cars to a superb roster of coach-built 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.
The 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.
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