Record prices shattered in RM Auctions’ sale of Milhous Collection

The green was flying during RM Auctions‘ sale of the Milhous Collection in Boca Raton, Fla., last Saturday, Feb. 25. The sale of 38 vehicles appears to have set several individual world-record prices, from the $3 million paid for the 1912 Oldsmobile Limited, to $520,000 for a 1941 Chrysler Windsor Town and Country barrelback, to $300,000 for a stock 1938 Lincoln-Zephyr convertible coupe, to the $1.1 million paid for the 1933 Chrysler Imperial phaeton (these prices do not include buyer’s 10 percent premium). All vehicles in the collection were sold without reserve, and the total realized for the auction was $38.3 million in sales. The following prices were provided by Old Cars Weekly auction reporter Charles Farley, who will provide a full report in an upcoming issue of Old Cars Weekly. Until then, I have offered some analysis of some of the record prices during the Milhouse Collection sale as they compare to previous record prices in the Old Cars Report Price Guide database at www.oldcarsreport.com.

1912 Oldsmobile Limited: $3 million well-spent

Just two 1911-1912 Oldsmobile Limited models appear in the Old Cars Report Price Guide database at www.oldcarsreport.com: the unrestored 1911 Limited touring that RM Auctions sold for a jaw-dropping $1.5 million at its October 2007 sale at the Hershey Lodge, and this restored 1912 Oldsmobile Limited, which was previously sold for $1.15 million in October 2006 during the sale of Otis Chandler’s collection upon his passing. With so few Olds Limiteds extant, the chance to own an example is equally limited. At $3 million before buyer’s premium, or any price, this one-of-a-kind Limited was a rare opportunity to own an enormous slice of brass-era history.

Town and Country: There’s gold in that wood

Perhaps the biggest shocker was the $520,000 paid before buyer’s premium for the 1941 Chrysler Windsor Town and Country barrelback. All 1940s Town and Country Chryslers are hot, but 1946-’48 convertibles have been a little soft lately, selling in the $100,000 range. At $520,000 before buyer’s premium, the Milhous collection’s example blew the top price out of the water. The Old Cars Report Price Guide database at www.oldcarsreport.com shows a previous high sale for a 1941 Chrysler Town and Country barrelback at $285,000, which was attained in 2008 during RM Auctions’ January Arizona sale. At the same location two years earlier, RM Auctions sold a 1941 Royal Town and Country for $255,000.  Perhaps we’ll see prices for the slightly more common 1946-’48 Town and Country convertibles (not to mention 1942 T&C barrelbacks) head to the moon again, and soon.

 Bids of an Imperial nature

RM Auctions estimated the Milhous Collection’s 1933 Chrysler Imperial LeBaron-bodied phaeton would sell for $750,000-$1 million. That may have seemed optimistic since the closest sale for a 1933 Chrylser Imperial LeBaron-bodied phaeton was sold by RM Auctions for $420,000 in 2008 when it dispersed the Art Astor Collection. In 2011, the company sold another 1933 Imperial phaeton for $455,000 at its August Monterey sale, so prices were certainly trending upward. However, the kicker for the Milhous Collection’s Imperial was its additional custom touches: rear spares, unique headlamps, a painted radiator shell, wheel discs over the wires and more. Those unique touches, and perhaps the passage of time, brought the price of this Imperial to $1.1 million, before 10 percent buyer’s premium.

Lincoln-Zephyr chugs up to big bucks

For the $300,000 a buyer paid for the Milhous Collection’s 1938 Lincoln-Zephyr, he could have bought two Lincoln Model K’s, which are considered Classics by the CCCA. But that doesn’t mean he paid too much.  The previous two 1938 Lincoln-Zephyr convertible coupes to be sold on record were in 2006 and 2007, each in an RM sale. Before the Milhous Collection sale, a 1938 Lincoln-Zephyr convertible coupe from the Dingman Ford Collection sold for $235,000 in 2006. In 2007, a 1938 Lincoln-Zephyr with just 2,811 miles sold for $137,500 during RM’s August Monterey sale. Due to their striking beauty and perfection of streamlining, 1938-’39 Lincoln-Zephyrs are among the most sought-after Lincolns. And although they aren’t considered Classics next to Continentals and the brawny Model K’s, two-door and open Zephyrs do fetch a premium over the Classic Lincolns of this era.  I have long thought the Zephyrs should be considered Classics.  Heck, production-bodied Cadillacs of the same era are Classics, and Zephyrs have the added distinction of a V-12 engine and advanced styling. Discussion, anyone?

Here’s the official word from RM Auctions, via the company’s press release:

RM Auctions in association with Sotheby’s lifted the gavel on the renowned Milhous Collection during a two-day sale this week in Boca Raton, Florida, generating over $38.3 million in sales with an impressive 100% of all lots sold.

The result of over 50 years of dedicated collecting by brothers Bob & Paul Milhous, the sale presented a range of exceptionally rare mechanical musical instruments, automobiles and collectibles before a packed house. Bidders represented 18 countries from around the world, including as far away as China, Russia and the United Arab Emirates.

Strong prices were recorded across all categories in the sale with contests between multiple bidders and prices frequently exceeding their estimates. The highest price of the multi-day sale went to a Pebble Beach class winning 1912 Oldsmobile Limited Five-Passenger Touring, chassis number 64626. The only known surviving example from that year and featuring one-off coachwork, the Oldsmobile attracted fierce bidding, realizing a final sales price of $3,300,000 to set a new world record for an Oldsmobile sold at auction.

“We’re thrilled with the results from the Milhous Collection sale,” says Rob Myers, Chairman and Founder, RM Auctions. “The incredible quality and presentation of the collection captured the attention of the global collector world, resulting in lively bidding and setting numerous records. Never before has such a wonderful series of automobiles, mechanical musical instruments and collectibles been offered to the public in one location. In terms of its diversity, international interest and results, it set a new benchmark for this type of private collection sale.”

David Redden, Sotheby’s Vice Chairman adds, “The extraordinary success of this collection is a testament to the vision of Bob and Paul Milhous. From mechanical musical instruments to antique firearms, motor cars to clocks, petroliana to the 46-foot carousel, each item was selected as one of the finest of its type. Interest came from around the world with clients reacting with enormous enthusiasm to the chance to own a part of the magical world of Milhous.”

Headlining the sale was an impressive series of 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. Each representing ‘best of category’ examples, the automobile offering spurred spirited bidding in the room, on the telephones and over the Internet, with numerous lots exceeding pre-sale estimates. In addition to the sale-topping Oldsmobile, a flawless 1939 Lagonda V-12 Rapide Sports Roadster, delivered new to actor Robert Montgomery, more than doubled its pre-sale estimate selling for an astounding $990,000 to set a new world record for a road-going Lagonda. The Pebble Beach “Best of Show” winning 1934 Packard Super Eight Convertible Victoria by Dietrich, the first car acquired by the Milhous brothers, garnered a strong $308,000.

In addition to the motor cars, the sale was highlighted by an unprecedented offering of mechanical musical instruments, considered among the rarest, largest and most mechanically complex and decoratively elaborate examples in existence. The sale was a benchmark for these types of pieces, the range of which had never previously been seen at auction. Leading this part of the sale was the exquisite 1903 Ruth Style 38-B Fair Organ. One of only two examples known to exist, it generated a lively bidding contest before selling for an impressive $1,265,000.  Another one of the absolute highlights of the Collection and the sale was the ornate Gaudin 125-Key Dance Organ which sold for $1,150,000.

The centerpiece of the collection, the 46-foot custom built carousel also drew strong interest from collectors. A one-of-a-kind, fully-functioning work of art, it spurred a lively bidding war in the room and on the phones, realizing a final sales price of $1,207,500 to applause from the crowd.

The impressive catalogue of 509 lots was 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.  The clocks in sale were led by the E. Howard Four-Dial Painted Cast Iron Eight-Day Post Clock which soared over the high estimate to sell for $106,375. A further highlight of the clocks in the sale was a Black, Starr & Frost Hall Clock which fetched an impressive $103,500 against a pre-sale estimate of $50,000 – $60,000.

RM Auctions will wrap up an exciting two weeks in Florida, March 10 with the presentation of its 14th annual Amelia Island sale held in conjunction with the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance.

To view full results or for further information on upcoming events, visit www.rmauctions.com.

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