The Mikkelson Collection Auction Is Now History – But The Memories Will Last A Lifetime

Covering the Mikkelson Collection Auction last weekend was an absolute pleasure on so many levels. Here at Woody Boater we are always on a mission to learn more about the history and culture that makes up the fabric of the antique & classic boating hobby, and share what we learn (or stumble across along the way) with the Woody Boater community.

After our last trip to Minnesota in late October 2010, and visiting with Paul Mikkelson at his museum, and Bruce Olson at the Minnesota Lake Maritime Museum in Alexandrea, our curiosity to learn more about the history of classic boating in Minnesota has never left my mind.

It’s different here, different in a good way, and the people are wonderful. Back in 2010 Paul and Bruce fondly spoke about the many small lakes throughout Minnesota, and how boating in the area was a way of life back in the day.  Our friend Lee Wangstad has shared his passion for boating in Minnestota with us for many years now.  The visit to Willmar last weekend was the first of many for me, even though there was no time for some actual classic boating – that will be next, another day.

The first thing you see when you arrive in Willmar from the north is a beautiful lake with a public boat launch and an adjacent park. And it makes you feel good, and makes you wish you had a classic boat behind the car to explore the lake. But our mission this weekend was to simply cover the auction with Paul, and soak up as much history as possible during the auction.

When you see these lakes along the highway, and all throughout the Minnesota countryside, just for a moment it makes you think of how it must have been back in the day, and how seeing a Larson Falls Flyer running across the lake in rural Minnesota was as common as seeing a Gar Wood triple on Lake Tahoe, or a U-22 Chris-Craft cruising along the shores of Hessel, Michigan. Vintage advertising like this tells the story.

From the time we arrived in Willmar, MN on Friday afternoon until the auction event wrapped up on Sunday afternoon, if you were an enthusiast in the antique & classic hobby, or interested in the history and culture of the hobby in Minnesota, it was just a fun, enjoyable place to be.

The Willmar Civic Center was a beehive of activity, the folks were great and Paul Mikkelson and his family made us feel welcome. Rich Penn, Jim Volgarino and the entire crew from Rich Penn Auctions did an outstanding job both preparing for the event and presenting the event to the public. And first and foremost, they represented Paul Mikkelson and his collection in a respectful manner which was very impressive.

In the half dozon reports we ran of the auction throughout the weekend on Woody Boater, we covered some of the highlights of the auction, the pricing and descriptions of many of the beautiful Larson Falls Flyers boats that were the cornerstone of the Mikkelson Museum Collection. The memorabilia from the collection, such as the vintage signs were very popular, and in most cases, the sale prices reflected the popularity.

This vinatge Chris-Craft dealer sign sold for around 5,600.00 on Saturday…

This rare slatted wood Tee Nee Trailer advertising banner sold for around 350.00 – Resident Tee Nee trailer expert Del Van Emmerik commented that he had never seen another one like it…

Back in the day, outboard dealers gave away branded promotional items, and the vintage art work was fun to see… Like this original paper matchbook from Mercury Marine. Paul had hundreds of these in his collection, from every manufacturer.

The huge collection of vintage toys were also very popular, and brought (what I thought) were solid prices all weekend. The buyers at the auction were very knowledgeable, and appeared to know what they wanted. There were buyers who in some cases were there bidding on specific lots such as outboard motors, miniatures outboards, etc.

Auction Photo Courtesy - Fellow Woody Boater Dane Anderson

Or when was the last time you ran across a deck of classic boating playing cards, these were very cool. It’s these kind of items that represents how things were back in the day, and we may never get a chance to see again… but we appreciate the fact that we were able to see them at the auction.

And if you were the lucky guy that bought one of Paul’s Falls Flyers at the auction, many were carefully gift wrapped and ready to be delivered to their new home, for the next chapter in their lives.

Before we sign off, on Sunday night we received a comment from fellow Woody Boater Peter Waldon who purchased the original W84 hydroplane at the storage facility auction on Friday, once owned or driven by Gene Minar. He noticed that Gene’s team race jacket was sold at the auction on Sunday and is now interested to find who purchased it.

Peter commented – “I wish I could find the purchaser of the Gene Minar jacket (on Sunday), I purchased W84 on Friday and was unable to attend the auction and bid on the jacket on Saturday or Sunday.” So if you are out there, let us know via e-mail at and we can give you Peter’s contact information.

Well that’s it for now from Willmar, Minnesota. Special thanks to everyone who helped us this weekend, including Jim Staib from Fine Wood Boats in McHenry, Illinois.  (Jim we will get those photos of the Aluminum Prototype boat posted next week, as I have a good story on it back home).  Thanks to Steve Stevenson, Del Van Emmerik, and Lee Wangstad – who by the way will be preparing a full report of the auction in an upcoming issue of the ACBS Rudder magazine. And also, a big thanks to fellow Woody Boater Dane Anderson for sharing his awesome images from the auction.

Thanks to everyone from Rich Penn Auctions for their hospitality and full access during the event. Thanks as always to our friend Bruce Olson from the Minnesota Lakes Maritime Museum. Bruce always has a kind word to say, and a smile on his face.

And contratulations to fellow Woody Boater Paul Mikkelson and his family for a truly successful, and truly memorable weekend in Willmar – It was a fantastic experience. Proof that the hobby is alive and well in Minnesota.


16 replies
  1. Jeff P
    Jeff P says:

    Matt do you just stay up 24 hours a day.. i read your monday post already and its only 4:30 a.m. i work midnights and thats how i am able to get a jump on most readers i have also read other posts that were done very early in the morning. Keep up the great work to you and your contributing writers…..jeff

    • matt
      matt says:

      Yes i do.. But this was a Texx and Jim Staibs deal. Texx drove for two days to be at the event. Sadly i have a family event that is taken all this week and the weekend. It was fantastic to see what was going on through Woody Boater though. I am so used to being on the delivery side that I never realized how this is received, dang, it was great to feel and be a part of the auction through Woody Boater. Thanks Texx and Jim 1000 times. Thanks Thanks thank thanks Thanks Thanks thank thanks Thanks Thanks thank thanks Thanks Thanks thank thanks Thanks Thanks thank thanks Thanks Thanks thank thanks Thanks Thanks thank thanks Thanks Thanks thank thanks Thanks Thanks thank thanks Thanks Thanks thank thanks Thanks Thanks thank thanks Thanks Thanks thank thanks ……….Thanks Thanks thank thanks

  2. m-fine
    m-fine says:

    Texx and crew, you guys did a great job covering the event. Thanks for the photos and stories.

  3. John Kadimik
    John Kadimik says:

    Thanks Texx and Jim for the great coverage for those of us who couldn’t make it.

  4. Greg Lewandowski
    Greg Lewandowski says:

    Great job to all involved. This was truely one of the “special” events that you have covered and reported on.

  5. ARRRGH!
    ARRRGH! says:

    I join in with many, many accolades for Texx and Jim. The pictures and reporting were fabulous!

  6. Gilligan
    Gilligan says:

    Paul is a great stand up guy! One that is honest and plays no games. I purchased what I think was the best deal of the auction. The 1959 Larson cruiser. Paul had thousands of dollors into this boat and I bought it with a 1200 dollor bid. Paul of let it go because this was a no reserve auction and he stood by that. There wasn’t any mystery bidders or phone bids unless they were real. Thanks Paul! You get the first ride….

    • Texx
      Texx says:

      Hey Gilligan – It was great to meet you at the auction, congratulations on your new project and welcome to Woody Boater!

      I’ll try to post a few shots of the big Larson cruiser later this week.

  7. jim volgarino
    jim volgarino says:

    Texx-If I can toss in a couple of comments from the auction side of things. This is actually my first time handling something like this. Rich Penn and I go back many years in former lives (he as a marketing guru and me as a lowly printer). Speaking as a friend and “employee” Rich has to be one of the most focused and determined auction organizers in the business and doing everything just right is the only way he will accept things.

    We had a wonderful time in Willmar (12 hour days excluded?) and found not only Paul Mikkelson one of the most gracious and caring people you culd ever want to meet, but also the entire community there, from the civic center guys (thanks Kevin and crew) to everyone we met in town (make sure to got to Frieda’s for breakfast and lunch–$1.25 burgers…5 cents extra to toast your buns!)

    The vintage boating community has to be one of the most gracious and friendly of any hobby community out there. Having come from the vintage/classic car side of things, I was amazed at how knowledgeable and willing to share these people are and I’m even more excited now about owning my Chris and getting out a bit more to travel to other locales to dip it in the water.

    Thanks to all who made our time in Willmar, Minesota so memorable and I know I speak for the entire Rich Penn crew in saying we sincerely hope we get the chance to pull together another great vintage boat event in the future.

    • Dane
      Dane says:


      You describe Rich as a Focused and Determined organizer. No kidding, that’s the understatement of the year!

      I’m still in awe of the job you guys did. 650 lots in 10 hours and 15 minutes on saturday. That’s better than 1 a minute and I figured that there was at least a 25 bid average per lot.

      The lot order was also nicely done. There was something coming up every few minutes that I was interested in. I had a hard time finding an opportunity to buy a hot dog.

      Unfortunately about all I got was thank yous for keeping the bidding going, but like everyone else I came away really happy to have been a part of such a wonderful event.

      • Texx
        Texx says:

        I agree Dane, the “Flow” of the event was very well organized, considering the diversity of the collection.

        I felt comfortable being there.

  8. Wes Hague
    Wes Hague says:

    I really enjoyed the auction live from Ontario Canada and only purchased one sign but will treasure it forever, wish I could have been there..

    • jimmuh
      jimmuh says:

      @Jim V –

      Wow; only 5¢ more to toast my buns? Gee, everything IS better in Willmar I guess……

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