Music Collector Seeks $3 Million for Archive on eBay

Paul Mawhinney, owner of Record Rama of Pittsburgh, is selling an archive of 3 million record albums and 300,000 CDs on eBay this week for a minimum bid of $3 million. Mawhinney talks with Melissa Block.

Copyright © 2008 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

MELISSA BLOCK, Host:

A Pittsburgh man who claims he has the world's largest collection of recorded music is selling it all. Sixty-nine-year old Paul Mawhinney, has been stashing away vinyl for years. Now, he's auctioning off all of three million records - most of them 45s - and 300,000 CDs on, where else, eBay. His taste was eclectic, his appetite bottomless. He wasn't choosy. He even bought up tractor- trailer loads of recordings that were being returned to the manufacturer.

PAUL MAWHINNEY: I never knew what was in there, and that's part of the deal. For instance, I got ZZ Top's first single and it's on a label called Scat. I have 100 copies. And right now, that record is worth $200 a copy.

BLOCK: Mr. Mawhinney, how did all this started? How did this big collection come about?

MAWHINNY: Well, It was my hobby actually. And there came a time when I had 160,000 records in my house. And my wife finally said to me, that she'd like me to move them out of the house somehow.

BLOCK: It's me or the records, right?

MAWHINNY: Yes. And she said, why don't you open a store? And I said, you know what, that's a really good idea. What am I going to call it? And she said, Record-Rama.

BLOCK: How long ago was that?

MAWHINNEY: 1968. Forty-one years.

BLOCK: Now, your goal here is to sell this whole humongous collection altogether. Who would you hope would spring, you know, for the whole shebang? Who would have the money to do that and keep it together?

MAWHINNEY: Well, I already know that the government doesn't have it, so that rules out most of the places that Id to see it go.

BLOCK: Like the Library of Congress.

MAWHINNEY: Right. I'd like to see an individual buy the collection and then donate archive copies to the Library of Congress or a museum. Maybe, start a new museum for the purpose of preserving this collection.

BLOCK: Is that the idea, that's why you've decided to put this up for a sale? You're just tired and want more family time?

MAWHINNEY: Well, I'm legally blind. I'm a little bit crippled and it's just time. I'm going to be 69 in September. Take it easy and enjoy it by family.

BLOCK: Mr. Mawhinney, I wonder if there's one song from that huge collection of yours that you could put on the turntable and play for us to give us a sense of what you got.

MAWHINNEY: I'd love to play my favorite, "Let Me Love You" by George Goodman & The Headliners.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG "LET ME LOVE YOU")

GEORGE GOODMAN: (Singing) Take me in your heart and let me love you...

MAWHINNEY: That's a wonderful record. It was released five, six times. And it was the number one record in Pittsburgh and the number one record in Baltimore.

BLOCK: You have your whole collection - 3 million records, and Lord knows what else, up on eBay. If somebody were to buy and have the idea that they'd be selling this off piecemeal, would that be okay?

MAWHINNEY: That breaks my heart but I could do it.

BLOCK: You could do it?

MAWHINNEY: Yes. I've given all the companies in this country an opportunity and no one has acted. So it's time now for me to retire and be with my children and grandchildren.

BLOCK: Is that going to be a sentimental moment, do you think, or you're going to be glad to all see this gone?

MAWHINNEY: Well, I'll be happy to see this story end, to tell you the truth, and spend the time with my family. I'll be really thrilled if I accomplish my goal.

BLOCK: Well, Mr. Mawhinney, it's great to talk to you. Best of luck.

MAWHINNEY: Thank you very much.

BLOCK: That's Paul Mawhinney of Pittsburgh talking to us about the sale of his enormous collection of recorded music.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG "LET ME LOVE YOU")

BLOCK: You listening to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News.

Copyright © 2008 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.

Related NPR Stories

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and Terms of Use. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.