The Iowan

April Cover Story

Rich Penn Auctions Mikkelson Collection of Toy Boats!

<< >>
Click image to zoom More information »

Imagine saying toy boats hundreds of times and being surrounded by one of the most extensive collections of toy boats in the world.

That’s what collectors will get treated to, at the Rich Penn Auction event in Willmar, Minnesota, May 18-20. The Mikkelson Collection boat museum will be sold in it’s entirety, all without reserve. Paul Mikkelson has made the difficult decision to sell his remarkable collection which has over 700 toy boats and miniature outboard motors, plus more than 50 full size vintage boats, over 100 carefully restored outboard motors, duck decoys, and a treasure trove of advertising and dealer related materials and signage. Rich Penn said, “We were honored that Paul chose us to help with this important auction. We’ve been working with him for months now and we’re looking forward to May. This is a great collection and it’s going to be a great auction.”

The Auction Event will be held in Paul’s hometown of Willmar, Minn., with the Saturday and Sunday sessions being at the Willmar Civic Center. Friday’s uncataloged session will be at Mikkelson’s 10,000 sq. ft. storage building. The building is full of boats, motors, and parts that were all part of his restoration plans. According to Paul, “Time just never allowed me to get it all done.” The Friday session will be just for those in attendance. There won’t be Internet, absentee, or telephone bidding on Friday. 

Paul’s history in Willmar is deep and rich. He grew up there, married, raised his family, and collected there. The lakes, water, and boating were a part of his life from the time he was a child. That’s where he not only developed his passion for the full size vessels, but found the hunt for the toy versions just as challenging and gratifying. “I played each summer with Falls Flyers boats,” Paul explains. “Eventually I began this collection which gave me a chance to have an adventure…the challenge of the hunt for the unusual and rare.” The Larson “Falls Flyer” collection is widely recognized as being the best, most complete collection of the classic speed boats in the world.

The Falls Flyer

Named after Charles Lindbergh, the aviator from the home of Larson boats in Little Falls, Minn., the mid 20th century Falls Flyer speedboats were classic “Woody” motor boats. They were built with a canvas skin over an oak structure and cedar body. Their styling was timeless and captured the spirit of “Flight.” Mikkelson tried to collect enough Falls Flyers to tell the story of the boat’s legacy in chronological order. He did achieve that. In the process he acquired three inboard models, of only 18 Falls Flyers built with inboard engines. Those three boats would shine at any woody boating venue in the world and are Paul’s favorites.

Toy Boats, Toy Boats...

Mikkelson’s passion crossed over into toy boats with equal vigor. With virtually hundreds of examples, the toy boat collection resided in carefully organized displays. Paul was paricular over the years with his selections, not wanting broken or non-repairable toys. So not only are these toys in excellent condition, but many have original boxes and packaging, making them some of the most unique and collectible in the hobby.

With examples in virtually every material; wood, plastic, pressed steel and even cardboard, they come with equally diverse drive power. From rubber band, wind, battery, gas & alcohol, clockwork, wind-up to steam driven, you’ll find examples in the Mikkelson Collection. And with names that are from the “Who’s Who” in toy boat manufacturing.

The toys include many rare items like the Lionel Runabout, originally manufactured by the American Lionel Train Company in New York. Powered by a clockwork wind-up motor, the boat sits among Orkin Craft, Hornby, dozens of ITO’s, Marklin, AristoCraft model boats, unique Schuco Elektro Record Speed Boats and early 1930s Sutcliffe Boat Company boats. Those were the boats that pioneered boat hulls made from a single pressing of metal. The collection has virtually every style of boat replica represented…racing, futuristic, speedsters, cruisers, and even a bevy of military vessels. 

Miniature Motors

In addition, Paul has accumulated one of the largest single collections of miniature outboard motors known, over 400. Many are still with original packaging and instructions. This has been a collection built from Paul’s passion for boats and an honest effort to capture the magic and quality represented by these creative toys. 

Outboard Motors

But he didn’t collect just miniature outboard motors. The auction will include 300 full size outboard motors, with about half of them fully restored. Among the restored examples include some of the rarest of the rare. With names like Indian, Waterman, Caille, Champion, Gray, Koban, Motorgo, Neptune, Lockwood, Wisconsin, Ferro, Evinrude, Johnson, Mercury, and others, there’s a name for every outboard collector. Among the models Mikkelson is most proud of is the Waterman. This motor is the one used in the logo of the Antique Outboard Motor Club. But there are even a number of examples of “man powered’ motors, with cranks, pedals and other devices to turn a prop.

If it walks like a duck...

It probably isn’t a decoy! If it was a decoy, Paul was interested. Mikkelson loved anything that was related to water and the lake life he grew up with in Willmar. So it stands to reason he would have an interest in duck decoys. And he did. With a collection of over 200 birds, Paul enjoyed the craft of many well known current decoy artists as well as the early wood birds. And his collection has both

Advertising seen everywhere

No museum is complete without examples of the advertising used by companies selling the things collected. Mikkelson’s museum was no exception. From hundreds of flyers, brochures, and catalogs for boats and outboards, to huge lightup signs, Mikkelson had it all. Paul was especially proud of his light up figural sign for Scott-Atwater outboards and his die cut cardboard sign for Johnson Sea-Horse Outboards. Both signs are quite rare. But much of the literature is equally rare and would be a valuable resource for any aficionado of boats and motors.

The auction will last three full days, with two of the sessions offering online and phone bidding opportunities. Those not attending in person will be able to see the sale of each and every cataloged lot as it occurs via live streaming video. Bidders will have access to both a full color printed catalog of every item being offered on Saturday & Sunday, plus an online catalog will be available with detailed, high resolution images for those wanting to carefully scrutinize their special interests. 

According to Penn, “This is a once-in-a-lifetime chance to acquire rare pieces from a lifetime collection that will likely never be assembled again.” He added, “Again, we offer live bidding on both ProxiBid and LiveAuctioneers, as well as absentee and telephone bidding.” Full color catalogs are available for $35 by contacting Rich Penn Auctions at 319.291.6688 or order online at:

More information will be available at the Rich Penn Auctions web site or at a special Facebook page for the Mikkelson Collection auction at: Interested participants can also send an e-mail to either or You will be included on both postal and e-mail lists as updates become available.

For additional information contact Rich Penn Auctions at 319.291.6688 between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. CST, Monday through Friday. 


All content © 2015 Pioneer Communications, Inc., and may not be used, reproduced, or altered in any way without prior written permission.