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Treasure Chest of Collectibles –Cagle

April 2012 By Erik Cagle

Ever tune in to one of the cable reality shows that involves searching for valuable antiques and collectibles? They're certainly plentiful: "Pawn Stars," "Auction Hunters," "Auction Kings," "Storage Wars," "Storage Hunters," "American Pickers" get the picture. For the more literati and cultured among us, there's PBS' "Antiques Roadshow." And, if you prefer to lower your brow, then indulge in "Hardcore Pawn."

These shows, save for the veteran Antiques Roadshow, are products of not just the reality/occupational TV craze, but an unprecedented, prolonged economic slump. Given the nation's collective tightening of the belt, more and more people are taking to attics, garages, flea markets, storage auctions and other vehicles in search of hidden treasures, that golden ticket to untold fortunes.

Still, for every piece of sunken treasure discovered—and a piece of shipwreck gold actually found its way onto Pawn Stars—there are many more disappointing duds. And, contrary to how easy it seems on TV, cashing in on unpaid storage units at auction is not a panacea for the poor among us. Apparently, most people stop paying for their storage rentals after they've removed the valuables. Who knew?

Or, you could cultivate your own Field of Treasures, as was the case with Bob and Paul Milhous. Their name may ring a bell; the Milhous brothers—distant cousins of Richard Milhous Nixon—began publishing a weekly shopper (Treasure Chest of Values) in 1967. Their Treasure Chest Advertising became the king of retail inserts, and at the time it was acquired by Big Flower in 1993, Treasure Chest's revenues had touched the $761 million mark.

Can you say disposable income?

The Milhouses had a taste for the finer things in life, which includes some of your more exotic antiques and collectibles. They had been assembling a few of their favorite things for more than 50 years—Bob's passion lies in antique cars, while Paul prefers musical instruments. Their combined goodies occupied a 40,000-square-foot facility.

But, you can't take it with you, so the brothers enlisted RM Auctions and Sotheby's to auction off their, ahem, Treasure Chest of highly desired collectibles.

The roster included 29 automobiles, five motorcycles, two tractors, a popcorn and peanut wagon, and a PT-22 airplane. A 1912 Oldsmobile Limited five-seat touring car sold for a jaw-dropping $3.3 million, according to The New York Times. A 1903 Ruth Style 38-B fair organ fetched $1.3 million.

On the musical instrument end, a Hupfeld Style B Phonoliszt-Violina with Dea Violins brought in nearly $558,000, and a custom-built carousel with 42 hand-carved animals that took years to produce, brought home north of $1.2 million. When the final item from the 550-piece catalog was hammered on Feb. 25, a total of $38.3 million had been realized.

The decision to monetize their priceless artifacts wasn't easy, but was done as part of their estate planning. According to The Associated Press, the wives of Bob and Paul Milhous gave them a simple edict.

"Don't leave this burden to us," Paul Milhous said.

Somehow, the disposition of $40 million worth of fantasy-level antiques and collectibles hardly seems like a chore.

PICTURE PERFECT: Coffee-table books are a niche market. As a rule of thumb, they tend to top out at a few thousand copies, appealing primarily to the fine art aficionados. But, every now and then, a picture book will strike a chord with the masses. Apparently, women and weaponry is the perfect cocktail to move such books, according to the AFP news agency.

In its first quarter since release, "Chicks with Guns" has reached the 12,000-unit plateau and is going to press for the third time. But, instead of nearly-nude and highly-augmented bikini models—the very types of subjects the title conjures in the mind—the work takes a serious view of more than 80 women, from all ages and all walks of life.

Accompanying each individual's photo is a brief writeup on the fathers, grandfathers and husbands who helped kindle their love of guns. The profiled women ranged from hunters to law enforcement officers and even some skeet shooters. Instead of provocative images, the women are captured in pastoral settings with their guns of choice.

The photographer, Lindsay McCrum, began the project after having her interest piqued by an article in The Economist magazine about the escalating number of female hunters in America.

Providing a 21-gun salute in its thumbs-up book review was the National Rifle Association's American Rifleman magazine, which undoubtably helped move more than a few copies of "Chicks with Guns." The book's title itself is a clear indication that while upwards of 20 million U.S. women own guns, they are still considered somewhat of a curiosity.

GOOD CAUSE GONE: A Shrewsbury, United Kingdom, printing works plant that employed people with mental health issues closed its doors last month, a victim of lost funding. Abbey Works, which employed 35 patients, provided printing for the National Health Service (NHS) as well as parish magazines, community newsletters and brochures, the Shropshire Star reported.

A representative of Shropshire's adult mental health services told the newspaper that the closure wasn't just a funding issue and that employees of Abbey Works routinely move on to different work placements. Thus, their needs will continue to be met, both psychologically and vocationally. PI



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