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Tuesday, August 19, 2008
A Tear for Paul Mawhinney
The Archive from Sean Dunne on Vimeo.
I previously covered this saga here and here, but this video is making the rounds, so I feel the need to comment again. I guess the thing is, if you look into the whole story, get past the gee-wow factor of the number of records and the money claimed as value, things just don't add up.
First off, the issue of where this alleged value for this collection comes from is again glossed over. Can you take the word of someone who has authored price guides (a fact left out of the video) in a hobby where price guide authors have been known to bump up the book values of their own specialties? And surely I'm not the only one who is a little suspicious about someone selling something so expensive so reluctant to share details of what's exactly in it. Supposedly it's documented. Why not post it at the website?
Well, one thing is shown as again he trots out this Rolling Stones LP as the crown jewel of the collection. While it's a nice piece, if you're into the Stones, it isn't exactly a holy grail. Back in February, when he brought this out on publicity for the eBay auctions of this collection, a copy of the same album was up for $4k buy it now and no takers. Sure, you aren't just going to stumble across a copy at your local vinyl emporium, but I'd really expect a collection that large to have something much rarer as the centerpiece. Certainly something that wouldn't be up on eBay for less than you claimed it was worth and still no one wanting it.
There's also the at the least misleading, though more likely completely dishonest statement that 83% of his collection prior to 1963 isn't available at any price. The only way I can see that to be accurate would be if he owns every copy of 83% of the records produced in that time frame and they were never reissued. Not bloody likely.
And while he's going on and on about how the world just doesn't care, he fails to mention the Library of Congress bid he turned down in 2003, which was more than $3million but less than the $25million he was still expecting to get at the time. He also fails to mention the stipulations that the collection had to remain intact and only duplicates could be sold which accompanied each attempt at a sale.
And while he's painting this as his life's work, he fails to mention that he was in the business of buying cut-outs and remainders by the trailer load. He does tip his hand when he refers to the collection as "merchandise." Of course, I also noticed in researching Mawhinney that one common comment among people who visited his shop was that if he'd actually sold people records instead of insisting the dozens of copies of a title they had on the shelf were too precious to part with and offering a $50 CD-R instead, he probably wouldn't be sitting on millions of records he can't move now.
And the more I've looked at this story, the more it seems to me that this really is dead stock that he hoarded or couldn't sell than any kind of really valuable collection. Again, I feel sorry for the guy as his health is failing and this looks like it was his retirement plan. However, I'm finding the coverage of this to be very dishonest and it's probably only encouraging Mawhinney's unrealistic expectations for his collection.
What's more, this whole "well, they won't have Paul Mawhinney to kick around anymore" tone the video gives off really bugs me. I had trouble buying the "preserving culture" talk before, but after seeing this video I find it out right laughable. Instead of talking about donating all this precious cultural heritage, he's sounds like he'd rather destroy it than give it away for anything less than $3mil.
We're not talking about some lost Shakespeare works here or the legendary Buddy Bolden recording or something of that stature. We're talking about a record dealer who hoarded a ton of cut-outs. No one forced you into it and it's not like you were doing this for any reasons other than your own and your own commercial interests.
So, as always, best of luck to you and your family, Paul. But I really think you need to get real about this. How many more years are you going to keep schlepping this around, fishing for sympathy among people who don't have the resources to buy your "life's work" even if they wanted?