AK Miller Auction
September 7 and 8,
Consider the strange
story of Alex and Imogene Miller of East Orange, VT.
They eked out an existence
on a small farm. Alex would scrounge rusty nails from burnt buildings
to repair his roof.
He drove a ratty VW Beetle, and when it died, he found another
even more ratty, and
another...the rusting carcasses littered his yard.
Alex died in 1993,
and Imogene died in 1996. The local church took up a collection so they
be buried in the churchyard,
and the state began the process of taking the farm for taxes.
That would have been
the end of a sad story, except.....
the VW: a '28 Franklin ($4500US) and a '23 HCS($14,500US)lurk inside
While preparing the
estate for auction, the sheriff discovered a cache of
bearer bonds taped
to the back of a mirror. That triggered a
of the house and outbuildings. The estate auction
would eventually be
handled by Christies, and it would bring out collectors
from all over the
Stutz Bearcat went for just $105,000US. Must have been the bad tire.
It seems that Alex
Miller was a Rutgers grad, son of a wealthy financier.
He lived in Montclair,
NJ, where he founded Miller's Flying Service in
1930. He operated
a gyrocopter (look it up, it's too much of a digression)
for mail and delivery
service through the 30's. But the Millers had a
secret, and they moved
from Montclair when they needed room for it.
behind the wheel of a 1916 Stutz Bearcat. ($155,000 US)
Choosing to live low
profile, and paranoid about tax collectors, Miller
moved to the farm
in VT, and took his collections with him. Most of his
cash had been exchanged
for gold and silver bars and coins, which he buried
in various locations
around the farm. He carefully disassembled his
gyrocopter, and stored
it in an old one-room schoolhouse on his property.
he then built a couple
of dozen sheds and barns out of scrap lumber and
recycled nails. In
the sheds he put his collection.
to remember to clean that '20 Bearcat out of the shed. ($50,000 US)
Alex Miller had an
obsession with cars. Not just any cars, but Stutz cars.
Superbearcats, DV16's and 32's. He had been buying
them since the 1920's.
When Stutz went out of business, he bought a huge
pile of spare parts,
which was also carefully stored away in his sheds.
Rolls Picadilly Roadster ($115,000US). Made in Massachusetts.
Sometimes, he would
stray, and buy other "special cars", including
Locomobiles, a Stanley,
and a Springfield Rolls Royce. He never drove them.
He'd simply move them
into his storage sheds in the middle of the night,
each car wrapped in
burlap to protect it from any prying eyes. Over the
years, the farm appeared
to grow more and more forlorn, even as the
collection was growing.
car: 1921 Stutz Bearcat. ($58,000 US)
Occasionally he would
sell some parts to raise cash. Rather than dipping
into his cache, he
would labor for hours making copies of the original
parts by hand.
factory spares. Cylinders and pistons from a brass era Stutz in forground.
Collectors knew him
as a sharp trader, who had good
merchandise but was
prone to cheating. His neighbors had no clue at all,
they thought Alex
and Imogene were paupers, and often helped out with charity.
blocks a '28 Stutz Blackhawk Boattail Speedster ($78,000 US)
The auction was a three
day circus, billed as the "Opening of King Stutz
Tomb". It attracted
celebrity collectors, as well as
thousands of curiosity
seekers. The proceeds were in the millions, some
items went for far
more than their value in the frenzy.
In the end, the IRS
took a hefty chunk of the cash for back taxes, which proves the old adage
about the only two sure things in life...
'31 SV16 Stutz Sedan ($10,000)
of the show: a '29 Stutz Blackhawk sedan for $7000 US
Stutz DV32 Sedan ($27,500)
need a new Stutz engine? Still factory fresh.
HCS ($12,000 US) lurks in the darkness of the barn
dual-cowl Stutz from 1929 ($68,000US)
Stutz AA Sedan for $6500US
Stutz Speedway Six ($9000 US)
engine in a '21 Bearcat
a '22 Stutz toruing car from this pile of parts for just $10,000US