Treasure Chest of Collectibles –CagleApril 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"...you 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.