Mechanical music instruments of the world famous Milhous collection revealed

Whilst Christmas is only a few days away, many collectors are looking ahead to exactly two months after festivities as a February 24-25 auction hosted by RM and Sotheby's will be offering what many would consider to be their ideal gifts - across a wide range of collectibles.

This is the sale of the famous Milhous collection, created by two brothers, Bob and Paul Milhous, together. Or rather they assembled two substantial collections and then opted to pool them in the 1970s, having been in business together since 1967.


Bob was primarily interested in unique and classic cars, and we will come to that side of the collection in time, but for now here's a look at the musical side of the collection, as there is more than enough to cover there.

Paul started out collecting pianos when he bought a player piano in 1959, which led to the purchase of a reproducing piano (one that recreates how the artist originally played a piece of music) and an American Nickelodeon. He then branched out into mechanical music instruments generally.

A central point of the collection is the Weber Maesto orchestrion which the brothers bought as part of an entire private collection in Linz, Germany - it is an exceptionally large instrument replete with endless pipes, pianos and drums, all playing in concert.

It is one of just six ever made. Whilst all survive, this is one of only two still in private ownership, and it heads up an extraordinary selection of organs and orchestrions, not to mention a wide variety of music boxes.

Whilst this might be a large enough piece for most collections, the Milhous collection, which has been held in a 39,500 square foot building in Boca Raton, Florida since the mid-1990s having outgrown four other locations, goes one better.

Carousel with Wurlitzer Organ
The unique, breathtaking carousel with Wurlitzer Organ

This is a huge Illions-style carousel in the style of the early 1920s, custom built for the collection. Composed with historically accurate designs and 42 hand-painted animals, it includes a Wurlitzer organ.

The organ is of the rare double-tracker variety, which allows for nonstop play. As a whole, it is an entirely unique and fascinating piece. The auctioneers describe it as a "one-of-a-kind, fully functioning work of art".

That is not the only piece associated with Wurlitzer in the collection, as there is also a 30-rank theatre organ that was originally built for Wurlitzer's home in Cincinnati.

Indeed the collection is one of the world's most notable assemblies of mechanical music instruments in the world and the like from such names as Gaudin, Gavioli and A. Ruth & Sohn, which are all offered in complete working order.

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