there's gold in them there barns!
August 11, 2007 3:56 AM   Subscribe

The A.K. Miller Auction "This is one of those stories that begins at the end. This was the end of A.K. Miller’s Stutz collection." Miller was a reclusive eccentric living on a ramshackle farm in Vermont. When he and his wife died, his estate was prepared for a tax sale. Sheriffs found a treasure trove of old cars, some wrapped in burlap to avoid prying eyes, stashed in a collection of dilapidated outbuildings. The auction (pdf) was eventually handled by Christie's and netted over two million dollars. [via]
posted by jessamyn (13 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Treasure trove is right! I can barely imagine stumbling across such a fortune in my daily work. On the one hand it feels a little like looting a precious collection, but on the other, these cars will be invaluable additions to collections all around the world now. The photos are wonderful too... they remind me strangely of Carter's pictures of Tutenkhamuns Tomb.
posted by Acey at 4:33 AM on August 11, 2007

posted by Kirth Gerson at 4:42 AM on August 11, 2007

Sweet. The prototypical "found in an old barn" tale. While the cars are great, I have a feeling the real excitement in the collector world is the huge cache of fresh parts. If you're a restorer, the ability to get your hands on actual factory-made parts is like manna from heaven.

No doubt the L.A. River is overflowing with Jay Leno's salivating over this find.
posted by Thorzdad at 4:46 AM on August 11, 2007

You forgot to mention that he was a gyrocopter deliveryman.
posted by srboisvert at 5:07 AM on August 11, 2007

A few things that appear not to be mentioned in the public record are the amount of the final assessed tax debt, the total value of the estate (which also included several assets not part of the Stutz auction), and its eventual beneficiary. Unfortunate, because these would be some of the more interesting details, if they were available.
posted by The Confessor at 5:30 AM on August 11, 2007

Unfortunate, because these would be some of the more interesting details, if they were available.

No kidding, TC. It seems as if the IRS gets all the good booty. Great story, sucky finish?
posted by humannaire at 5:34 AM on August 11, 2007

Ah, just read deeper into the Wikipedia article. The statement that "no heirs were found" suggests that the government took custody of the entire estate. That doesn't necessarily mean the IRS, of course; it could have passed to the city or state.
posted by The Confessor at 6:07 AM on August 11, 2007

...and the discussion page attached to that article seems to have the final word: Federal and State tax levies in excess of eight million dollars. I guess the IRS did get everything after all.
posted by The Confessor at 6:25 AM on August 11, 2007

You forgot to mention that he was a gyrocopter deliveryman.

I couldn't find a good link to that part of the story unfortunately. I was hoping to find some old ad for Miller's Flying Service or maybe a photo of the gyrocopter, but didn't see either.
posted by jessamyn at 6:30 AM on August 11, 2007

What interests me, and is probably not available now, are the reactions of Miller's neighbors. The ones who offered him charity and raised money to have him and his wife buried in the church graveyard.

I can imagine a lot of anger, confusion, and general "WTF?" amongst the church ladies who brought the family casseroles and pitied them so much.
posted by brina at 8:13 AM on August 11, 2007

I remember there was quite a stir back when I was a child in a neighboring town. I was all of 13 when this occurred, and it caused quite a ruckus in the otherwise off the map town. A friend of mine lived up the road from Alexander's house, infact his home was literally an almost abandoned looking farm house in the center of East Orange. The church and other small trailers lined the streets in the quaint town.

It was increasingly bizzare as item after item was uncovered. I wish I had a greater understanding for all the 'old junky cars' that I saw parked around the home, or took more time to investigate.

I thought that in the end most of the money went to the IRS for back taxes. I don't remember what the reaction of the towns people was, other than shock that there was such a valuable collection of cars, let alone gold buried in safes in the yard.

It was all very surreal.
posted by SirStan at 9:51 AM on August 11, 2007

So how did the Stutz Bearcat come to be the specific model of automobile that has forever been enshrined in comedy as the archetypal "hilarious jalopy"?
posted by well_balanced at 12:09 PM on August 11, 2007

This is a cool story.
posted by OmieWise at 8:38 AM on August 13, 2007

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