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The Archive

Paul Mawwhinney of Pittsburgh USA spent his entire life building the worlds largest record collection. It included the first ever flat record made in 1881, 1 million albums and 1.5 million singles. It is believed that only 17% of his collection dating between 1948 and 1966 is now available on CD. This means a whopping 83% of an 18 year era of his music collection is not available anywhere, to anyone, anymore, very hard to comprehend. An appraisal from Andersen Consulting in 1999 estimated the archive to be worth $50.5m (£31.2m). (, 2011)

Unfortunately due to ill health, Paul was forced to close his Record-Rama store in 2008 and put his archive up for sale. After several sales falling through, including one for $40.8m from CD Now, Paul was finding it very hard to find a genuine buyer, he dropped his asking price so dramatically that he accepted a winning bid for the entire archive on eBay for $3 million, the bid turned out to be fraudulent.

Finally in 2011, Taiwanese engineer and businessman, Leo Yao bought the entire collection. Ironically, Leo was one of the main engineers involved in inventing the mp3, a creation that Paul blames for the destruction of music history and his life’s work.

How this could have been allowed to happen? Should music not be archived in history much the same way as books or art? How are future generations going to be made aware of their musical history if the world is prepared to de-value such an important archive? What are the ramifications of this case on the future of music, as vinyl continues to disappear are the creations they contain destined for extinction? Is the digital format going to cause decades of music to become a rumor in history, has this already happened? Is it possible to have a digital archive of the same historical significance?

How do we value musical creativity in 2013?

A few things for you to think about…


The Independent, 2011. When the price is not right: Why is a $50m record collection unable to sell for even a fraction of its value? The Independent. Available from: [Accessed 10 November 2013]

Messy Nessy Chic, 2013. Trying to sell the world’s largest record collection. Messy Nessy Chic. Available from: [Accessed 10 November 2013]

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