|This article is outdated. (November 2010)|
|Headquarters||Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States|
|Area served||North America|
|Key people||Paul Mawhinney|
|Products||Records, cassettes and CDs|
Record-Rama was founded by Paul Mawhinney, himself a collector of vinyl records, and a significant help in restarting David Bowie's career by getting fellow Pittsburgher and RCA boss Tom Cossie to re-release the album Space Oddity in 1972 after its initial release in 1969 failed to hit. Mawhinney started the shop after his personal collection reached the many thousands. It was his wife who told him to get rid of the records, or start up a business around them. By the mid-1990s, Record-Rama was doing $5 million ($8 million today) a year of business. In the years that followed, Mawhinney built the world's biggest record collection. He also cataloged records in a directory he released called the MusicMaster. The first edition was released in 1982, and it came in two volumes; one listing by artist, the other by title. By 2003, the business had dropped to $500,000 a year, one tenth of what it had been. Mawhinney cites big chain stores like Wal-Mart undercutting his prices as the main factor in the drop of sales.
Record-Rama closed in the Summer of 2008, during the global credit crunch. Mawhinney stated that he'd been squeezed out of business by the recording industry and large retailers who can sell compact discs to the public for less than his wholesale costs.
The biggest record collection on Earth
Mawhinney started his record collection in 1951. The first record he ever bought was Frankie Laine's "Jezebel". He built his collection into the thousands before he founded Record-Rama. After he set up shop, he decided to keep one copy of every record he sold in the shop, thus the final copy of anything was kept and archived. In 2003, at over 2 million items, Mawhinney's collection was more than twice the size of the collection at the Library of Congress. By the time the store closed in 2008, the collection stood at more than three million items and was valued at $50 million ($54.8 million today).
Attempts to sell
One of the first attempts to sell the collection was in 1997. CD Now offered $28.5 million ($41.9 million today) for the collection plus a $100,000/year job ($146,911 today) to Mawhinney to administer the archive. The sale fell through three weeks later when CD Now went to bankruptcy court.
The Library of Congress was set to purchase Mawhinney's collection for several million dollars, in the fall of 2002. That agreement fell through because of budget cuts and difficulty in justifying the purchase using taxpayer dollars.
In 2008, Mawhinney closed his shop, and needed to sell the record archive. The collection went on sale on eBay in February 2008. A winning bid of $3,002,150 ($3.29 million today) came from Ireland. The bid turned out to be a fraud a few days later. The collection went on sale again on eBay in March 2008 but did not end in a sale.
By 2012, Mawhinney had sold various sections of the archive and various formats to other interested individuals. The remains of a once-great collection were housed in a number of storage units which were in danger of being auctioned off due to the cost of maintenance by somebody on a fixed income with no retirement funds.
Plans for preservation of the archive were set in motion by The Audio Preservation Fund in 2012 with the intent to open a museum, online database, and shop under the name The Worlds Greatest Music Collection. Efforts to raise funds to purchase the collection failed, and the Audio Preservation Fund and Mawhinney parted ways when, once again, the prospector went out of business.
In 2013, a friend of Mawhinney’s told him about a classified ad in Billboard Magazine: "RECORD COLLECTIONS. We BUY any record collection. Any style of music. We pay HIGHER prices than anyone else." Mawhinney made contact with the buyer's agent, and in the fall of 2013, eight 53-foot-long semis pulled up to Mawhinney's warehouse. They departed with what remained of the archive. The buyer was Zero Freitas of São Paulo, Brazil, a Brazilian bus magnate. Freitas has 17 interns who are cataloging, and recording, 500 records a day. Freitas is planning on opening an online museum.
- Schooley, Tim (April 25, 2003). "Failed deals for fabled musical archive strike sour note with owner, page1". Pittsburgh Business Times (American City Business Journals). ISSN 1549-1927. OCLC 40562053. Retrieved 18 August 2010.
- David Bowie Story. Retrieved 2009-10-19. Archived 9 February 2011 at WebCite
- Schooley, Tim (April 25, 2003). "Failed deals for fabled musical archive strike sour note with owner, page2". Pittsburgh Business Times (American City Business Journals). ISSN 1549-1927. OCLC 40562053. Retrieved 18 August 2010.
- Record-Rama Archives blog on Blogger. Retrieved 2009-10-19. Archived 9 February 2011 at WebCite
- "Record-Rama closes". Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (Tribune-Review Publishing Company). Associated Press. August 22, 2008. OCLC 33822100. Retrieved 19 August 2010.
- Michaels, Sean (19 February 2008). "World's greatest music collection goes on sale". The Guardian (The Guardian). ISSN 0261-3077. OCLC 60623878. Retrieved 18 August 2010.
- Behe, Regis (January 18, 2008). "Pine record collector selling 'history of music'". Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (Tribune-Review Publishing Company). OCLC 33822100. Retrieved 18 August 2010.
- Van Buskirk, Eliot (February 19, 2008), ‘World’s Greatest Record Collection’ for Sale on eBay, Wired (Condé Nast Publications), ISSN 1059-1028, retrieved 18 August 2010
- Semmes, Ben (February 22, 2008). "Record-Rama collection sells for $3M". Pittsburgh Business Times (American City Business Journals). ISSN 1549-1927. OCLC 40562053. Retrieved 18 August 2010.
- Michaels, Sean (26 February 2008). "$3m vinyl sale is scratched". The Guardian (The Guardian). ISSN 0261-3077. OCLC 60623878. Retrieved 18 August 2010.
- Mervis, Scott (February 23, 2008). "Record Rama bidder turns out to be a fraud". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (John Robinson Block). ISSN 1068-624X. Retrieved 18 August 2010.
- Van Buskirk, Eliot (March 24, 2008), ‘World’s Greatest Record Collection’ For Sale… Again, Wired (Condé Nast Publications), ISSN 1059-1028, retrieved 18 August 2010
- Semmes, Ben (March 13, 2008). "Record-Rama music collection for sale again". Pittsburgh Business Times (American City Business Journals). ISSN 1549-1927. OCLC 40562053. Retrieved 18 August 2010.
- "Paul Mawhinney and The Worlds Largest Record Collection". Chaos Cartel. Retrieved 2 October 2013.
- Reel, Monte (August 8, 2014), The Brazilian Bus Magnate Who’s Buying Up All the World’s Vinyl Records, The New York Times Magazine (The New York Times Company), retrieved 8 August 2014
- Record-Rama closes, article on Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.
- The Archive, video about the plight of the Paul Mawhinney and his collection, on Vimeo.
- Record-Rama — official website.
- The Worlds Greatest Music Collection at the Internet Archive — (former) official website.