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BOCA RATON, Florida – Two brothers who spent a lifetime traveling the world and buying one-of-a-kind items have auctioned off their collection, with one of their antique cars fetching more than $3 million.
Two days of bidding on 550 lots neared their conclusion with the biggest sale of them all, $3.3 million for the only known surviving 1912 Oldsmobile Limited, more than double its pre-auction estimate.
All told, the winning bids were expected to total around $40 million, though organizers were still tallying the sales after the auction ended.
Most of the automobiles sold at or above their estimates, though bids for many of the rare musical instruments came in below expected ranges. The centerpiece of the collection, a stunning custom-built merry-go-round, sold for nearly $1.3 million.
"Think of all the friends you could have over," said the auctioneer, Max Girado, as the carousel went up for sale.
Bob Milhous, 75, and his brother Paul Milhous, 73, spent decades building their collection. The Milhous Collection, as it has become known, is housed in a 39,000-square-foot building.
The brothers made their fortune in the printing business and a variety of other ventures. They decided to sell off their collectibles, though, as they planned their estates. They hired two auction houses, RM Auctions and Sotheby's, to sell their prized possessions.
The offerings were eclectic, to say the least. A vintage barber chair sold for $28,875, and a toy Mercedes-Benz car went for $34,500, both far above their estimates. Also fetching higher-than-expected bids was a grandfather clock that netted $103,500, a neon sign from a Chevrolet dealership that went for $82,800 and a 1941 PT-22 airplane that sold for $241,500.
All manner of other items were sold, too: giant toy soldiers that once stood at the New York toy store FAO Schwarz, funhouse mirrors, Tiffany lamps, vintage gas pumps, fine furniture and antique guns.
The real highlights of the collection, though, were the antique cars, which sat perfectly shined in the showroom, and the rare music boxes, player pianos, organs and orchestrions, which are made to simulate the sound of an orchestra all in one piece.
Many of the instruments are elaborately decorated with oil paintings, stained glass, gold leaf and moving figurines and are considered among the finest in the world. But bids often came in low. Of the eight automated musical instruments with estimates of $1 million or more, only three netted bids of seven figures.
Girado brought a lighthearted mood as hundreds of bidders from 18 countries crowded a tent aside the museum and entered bids over the phone and online. "Are you ordering sir, or are you buying a music box?" he asked once. "Careful, a round of drinks might cost you $12,000."
The final lot to sell was a 1948 tractor that went for $11,500. When the bidding was over, Girado announced, "All done, all finished, SOOOOOLLLLLLLLDDDDDD," banging his gavel one last time.