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Record Collector Extraordinaire - Who is Paul Mawhinney?

Paul Mawhinney browsing his record archive

Tom |

If you have read our article on Zero Freitas - the man with the world’s largest record collection, then you might also find this one particularly interesting.

Paul Mawhinney was born in 1939 and began collecting records in his early youth. His obsession with physical music grew, and by the time he was a happily married adult, his collection had grown into the thousands. When storage space began to become an issue for Mawhinney, his wife presented him with a choice, either sell the records and prioritise their living space, or start a business around them and use them as inventory. He chose the latter and began to forge his own record-based empire. Record-Rama began trading later that year in 1968. 

Paul Mawhinney browsing his record archive
​​Decoded Magazine

Throughout the mid-1990s, Record-Rama was thriving; turning over five million dollars a year, and as a result, Mawhinney had inadvertently built the largest single collection of records on earth (for the time being at least), with over two million total records. In the years after launching the business, Mawhinney would go on to employ people to solely catalogue the entire collection, with those involved in the process making digital notes of over five hundred records per day.

Mawhinney catalogued records in a book called 'MusicMaster: The 45 RPM Record Directory' which contains music from 1947 to 1982.

Both Mawhinney and Record-Rama were doing incredibly well, with the company posting huge annual profits, and Mawhinney himself becoming ever more involved in music projects with the likes of record label RCA. It was even Mawhinney who advised RCA to re-release David Bowie’s album Space Oddity in 1972 after its initial 1969 release failed to hit its expected sales numbers.

The turn of the millennium presented a problem for both Mawhinney, and even the record industry as a whole - people weren’t rushing to buy records anymore. The rise of the internet along with more mainstream demand for cheaper-to-manufacture CDs meant record sales had begun to stagnate, and eventually decline. 

MusicMaster: The 45 RPM Record Directory- 35 Years of Recorded Music, 1947 to 1982
​​Record-Rama website archive
Record Rama price sticker
​​r/pittsburgh on Reddit

Younger audiences who were discovering new music were relying almost exclusively on these two mediums to scratch their musical itches. The growing prominence of illegal music streaming and downloading only made matters worse for Mawhinney and Record-Rama - as sales slumped to five hundred thousand dollars a year by the time 2003 came around.

Mawhinney still had an extraordinary collection to boot, however, and he continued to trade until 2008 when the store sadly closed. It was no secret that Paul had tried to sell the collection on multiple occasions though, most notably in 1997 when an offer of just under twenty-nine million dollars was presented to him. The sale was in the final stages, and closing on completion until the company who were looking to buy the collection filed for bankruptcy, a mere three weeks after the sale had been agreed. 

"RECORD COLLECTIONS. We BUY any record collection. Any style of music. We pay HIGHER prices than anyone else."

- Billboard Magazine Ad in 2013

Paul would later turn to more modern techniques to relieve himself of his stock, listing the whole collection on eBay in 2008. The collection sold for just over three million dollars to a buyer from Ireland, however, Mawhinney’s weight wasn’t quite lifted yet, as eBay ended up suspending the buyer’s account and informing Paul that the winning bid was in fact null and void. The collection remained unsold.

Mawhinney had all but given up hope until 2013 rolled around that is. A close friend of Paul’s had brought his attention to an advert in Billboard Magazine, that was posted by a man named ‘Zero Freitas’. Mawhinney managed to get hold of Freitas’ representatives, and a deal was struck.

Did you know?

It took eightsixteen-meter-long (52ft) semi-trucks to move the remainder of Mawhinney’s collection into Freitas’ warehouse in Brazil!

Below: Watch a tour of Paul Mawhinney's collection.

1 comment

What a wonderful video, fantastic collection and a great man, “Passion” it’s amazing, I have 20,000 singles + lot of LP’s, I wish I could win the lottery tonight and buy it all off you. Well done that man. Brighton Bill in Bradford West Yorkshire England.

Bill Arnold,

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