The mighty Milhous Collection

Collections are fascinating, because they are a glimpse of the collector. If the guys with a handful of Sonny Crockett Testa Rossas are viewed one way, and the guys with one each of every 1971 Mopar are looked at another way, and even someone with a mixed bag of great roadsters is peculiar, how do you consider the guys who collect enchantment?

RM Auctions is offering the Milhous Collection this month, February 24–25, in beautiful Boca Raton, Florida.

The sale encompasses the imaginations and eyes of Bob and Paul Milhous and is a grand presentation of wonderful mechanical things. Chiefly mechanical musical instruments and automobiles, but then Colt pistols, clocks, Wurlitzers, coffee mills, steam engines, cash registers, a Rusty Wallace race suit, bikes, barber chairs, slot machines, street lamps, art, automobilia and petroliana, and an “Impressive Custom Crafted Ornamental Faux Tree With Autumn Foliage.” The brothers Milhous have a carousel, too.

Mechanical musical instruments are essentially enormous music boxes, wooden and all kinds of ornate, and full of the sounds of an orchestra. Several Milhous pieces are valued at more than $500,000, and a handful have estimates above $1 million. Centerpiece of the collection is a 1913 Welte Wotan Brass Band Orchestrion, which RM believes could sell for $2.5 million. The complexity and ingenuity of these machines is astounding; one of them has three violins mounted upright inside it, each playing their part in the performance.

The cars include several with million-dollar estimates, like a 1933 Chrysler Custom Imperial phaeton, 1930 Duesenberg Model J convertible sedan, an incredible open pair of Fleetwood-bodied Cadillac Sixteen customs, a 1912 Olds tourer and more. Throw in a couple Rolls-Royce Silver Ghosts, some lovely woodie wagons, a Pebble Beach-winning Packard, a 1951 Mercury Custom and a handful of single-seat Indy cars going back to the 1940s, and it is hard to consider this anything but the coolest collection of all time. And I haven’t even gotten to the motorcycles, the tractors or the airplane.

The catalog alone is worth a look (and a listen, to many of the instruments). Or you can just plan to watch the auction live on February 24 and 25. Either way, you’ll find out all about it at

Stefan Lombard is the Managing Editor of Hagerty magazine.

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