12 December 2012

Collectors stand to attention

America’s National Military History Museum realizes more than $3 million from the sale of 80 rare WW II vehicles and 100 lots of military memorabilia –– at no reserve


“Ten-shunnn!” A call to arms was well and truly heard on Saturday, Dec. 8, at the National Military History Center in Auburn, Ind. Auctions America sold 80 World War II vehicles and 100 military artifacts – all at no reserve – for an impressive $3,423,085 result, including 15 percent buyers’ premiums.

Almost 400 collectors made it standing-room-only in the auction hall, while phone lines jangled with bidders calling in from 19 countries and 34 states. The Military History Center owns 150 vehicles in all – eight of which are the only survivors in the world – but it is streamlining its collection to raise $17 million for the next stage of its construction. The museum was underwritten by the Kruse Foundation at its inception, and the first stage cost $22 million in 2003.

Many of the vehicles reportedly came from a Belgian museum, which rescued them after the Battle of the Bulge, and the top sellers were German vehicles, most of which were destroyed in the closing stages of WWII, or scrapped soon after.

Considerable interest was shown by collectors in France, Germany and Russia, as the largest number of tracked and half-tracked vehicles ever offered anywhere came under the hammer. The very rare 1935-45 Daimler-Benz DB10 12-ton Prime Mover was top sale at $230,000 and one of the biggest tracked vehicles of its time. It was used to move guns so big they had to be dismantled.

Next high bid was for a 1940-41 Hanomag S.P.W. Ausf. C SkdKfz ¾ tracked armored car, which brought $184,000. Close behind was a 1940 Horch Type EFm 4x4 Cross Country Command Car at $172,500 – triple its pre-sale estimate. A 1942 Borgward H kl 6 Halftrack sold for $166,750 and a 1944 Steyr 1500A/01 4x4 Command Car realized $149,500.

German vehicles in the sale included Adler, Auto Union, BMW, Borgward, Hanomag, Horch, Krupp, Magirus-Deutz, Opel, Phanomen, Steyr, Stoewer and Zundapp. British constructors included Humber, Loyd, Morris and Standard, while French trucks and tracked vehicles were built by Citroën, Hotchkiss, Latil, Lorraine, Renault and Unic. American manufacturers were represented by Autocar, Brockway, Chevrolet, Diamond T, Dodge, GMC, Ford, Pacific White and Windsor. Fiat trucks and cars represented Italian production.

Military motorcycles performed very well, an indication of how few survive with real service history. There were some bargains, such as a 1942 DKW 500 for $7,245, a 1941 Ariel for $7,130 and a 1940 Norton 16U at $9,200 but “everybody stood up when the 1941 Indian 841 came up,” said Ian Webb, Marketing Manager of Auctions America, and it sold for $39,582. The very rare 1942 Harley-Davidson 42XA “boxer” – one of only 1,000 – sold for $46,000 and a 1943 BMW R75 with sidecar brought $43,700. 

The collection featured some extraordinary designs. You may have seen an amphibious GMC DUKW, which sold for $109,250, but what about a 1940 Humber Hexonaut 6X6 prototype? That’s the British version of the same thing which seemed like a (rather large) bargain at $54,625. The sole survivor features two engines side-by-side, each driving one side of the vehicle. Steering was accomplished by braking either side of the vehicle, like a tank. It survived the war and was later used by a logging company.

Speaking of big bargains, Webb noted that two of the largest vehicles attracted enormous attention. One was the 1943-44 Pacific M26 6x6 Armored “Dragon Wagon” Tank Recovery Vehicle at $46,000 (“but what would you do with it?” said Webb), and the 1943 Brockway Bridge Erector Truck sold for the same price, and with the same problem.

Many weapons carriers or troop carriers were fully tracked, or half-tracked, which limits their use on modern highways and kept prices quite modest, in some cases in the $30,000-$40,000 range. Two dozen cargo trucks from American, British French, Italian and German armies were priced as low as $15,000 and there were some huge 4-wheel-steered tractors from Fiat, Laffly and Latil whose usefulness today is problematic outside a museum.

Perhaps the most alarming weapon in the sale was the 1941 Krupp “88” Flak and anti-tank gun and trailer, which attracted a lot of inquiries and sold for $74,750. Equally intimidating was the 1943/44 Opel Maultiere Panzer-Werfer half-track rocket launcher, which sold for $69,000. The accompanying 100 lots of militaria included numerous uniforms and a handful of weapons, and $100 would have given you lots of choices.

The sale opened Webb’s eyes as to rarity. ”Cars are the number one thing that people collect, but ‘rare’ is if there are 50 or a 100 survivors. These were beyond that; they were ALL rare and some of them may be the last ones left. They were just treated like rental cars.”

Check out the auction results online at http://www.auctionsamerica.com/events/all-lots.cfm?SaleCode=MM12

The National Military History Center still has many vehicles and artifacts on show, and it is located in Auburn, Ind., just west of Interstate 69 at exit 326 and the address is 5536 County Road 11A.  For more information call toll free 1-877-906-2437.

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