During his 75 years on the planet, Jim Rogers:
- Founded the Sunbelt Communications media company, which became Intermountain West Communications and, among other things, owned the NBC affiliate in Las Vegas;
- Donated $137 million to his own alma mater, the University of Arizona law school;
- Donated another $28.5 million to the law school of the University of Nevada-Las Vegas;
- Donated $20 million to the Idaho State University Foundation (Rogers was born in Idaho);
- Made a major contribution to Carroll College in Montana;
- Was honored by Time magazine as one of the nation’s top dozen philanthropists;
- Served as chancellor of the Nevada state board of regents for four years and donated his annual salary back to the state’s university system;
- Created the Rogers Foundation to benefit students and artists in southern Nevada;
- Built a 230-plus car collection built around the cars to which a typical American working man might aspire.
Rogers died last June, and his family has decided to sell the Rogers Classic Car Museum collection, with all proceeds going to the Rogers Foundation and its work to improve the lives of southern Nevada school children and artists.
Those cars will be sold at a Mecum Auctions sale February 27-28 at the museum building in Las Vegas, with the preview that Friday and the auction on Saturday.
“We have known Jim for a long time, and have a relationship we established a long time ago with Mike Pratt, the curator of the collection,” said John Kraman, consignment manager at Mecum.
“This was a very difficult family decision to sell the cars. All proceeds are going to the Rogers Foundation, which is a big deal,” Kraman added.
Rogers cars span a 100-year period, Kraman said, noting that the oldest car is a 1915 Ford Model T and that the newest are British luxury vehicles that are just a few years old.
“His strategy was to collect the kinds of cars that might represent an evolution from the working man’s cars as he moved up the prestige ladder,” Kraman said, noting that the collection includes many pristine Mercury, Dodge and Oldsmobile vehicles, plus pre-war classics and later model Roll-Royces and Bentleys, which Kraman said were the sort of cars Rogers believed would be purchased by “a working-class guy who pulled himself up to the top and wanted a luxury car.”
Although the collection is called the Rogers Classic Car Museum, it was never open to the public.
“There was an intention to open this up to the public, but they never did,” Kraman said, adding that local Las Vegas car clubs were invited into the facility on a frequent basis for meetings and to see the cars.
The Rogers sale will be the first of two major collection auctions Mecum will do within a month in Las Vegas. March 20-21, it will be the sale of the E.J. Cole motorcycle collection.
Kraman said Cole has been collecting American-made motorcycles for 50 years but has decided it is time for others to enjoy them. His collection includes some 220 motorcycles produced from 1902 to 1969.
“I really didn’t have a preference (among makes),” Cole recently told the Mecum staff. “As long as it was a motorcycle and American-made and I didn’t have one, I went after it. I just mainly tried to buy one of everything there was.
“If my age hadn’t gotten ahead of me, why I’d still be out trying to add to it, but being that I’m 89, I feel like it’s time to quit.”
“Here at my place, nobody gets to see them and they need to be out where people can enjoy them.”