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$3 Million Record Auction

by Mike Garber (09/04/08).
The famous Velvet Undergound acetate. A truely rare item, but not $155,000 rare.
A photo taken from Mawhinney's Ebay auction. Exactly how many Reader's Digest sets does the Worlds Greatest Music Collection contain?

Every once in a while, there is a collector-related story that receives major media attention, yet, gets a collective moan from a majority of collectors that it should be most relevant to. Remember that Velvet Underground acetate that “sold” on Ebay for over $150,000? I do. CNN even gave it coverage. However, did you catch any follow up articles on how the winning bidder didn’t even have enough money in his bank account to buy gas for his car? Numerous others had also made exorbitant bids with no intentions of ever paying. Apparently, it’s a strange ego boost to say you briefly had the high bid on one of the rarest records ever made; sad but true.

Recently, you may have caught a story in the media about the personal archive of Paul Mawhinney, owner of Record-Rama in Pittsburgh, PA. With a modest starting bid of only THREE MILLION DOLLARS, you just might have had a shot at his self-proclaimed “Worlds Greatest Music Collection” (over 3 million LPs and 45s along with 300,000 CDs). With a feature photo of Mawhinny holding one of rock’s holy grails (The Rolling Stones 1969 promotional album) and the auction’s claim that he was once offered over $28 million for his collection, one would assume the $3 million starting bid would be a great investment. Hey, that’s less than a buck each, what a steal! However, there was one catch: at Mawhinney’s request, the winning bidder should be a private collector who has no intention of breaking this collection up. Instead, they should be a philanthropist willing to create, or donate to, a museum dedicated to the “World’s Greatest Music Collection”.

Many found the self-imposed importance Mawhinney had given his own collection pretty humorous, especially when he had made minimal effort to say what was actually in his collection. I mean, do thousands of Nat King Cole and Perry Como-esque records qualify as museum quality? Who am I to say?

Paul seems like a passionate, lifelong collector so I won’t criticize the guy’s selling technique. What had my eyes rolling was the press the auction had received.
It amazed me that many in the media would write, as fact, that the collection had SOLD for $3+ million. The AP even reported that the winning bidder was legit and had already made a $300,000 down-payment. Interesting, considering that within a day of the auction’s end the winning bidder was no longer a registered user. I guess it wasn’t a red flag that the only other item this $3 million bidder had won in the last few months was a $7 memory card.

As of this evening, the AP has corrected the story, revealing that the winning bid was indeed fraudulent. The same story reported that Mawhinney has contacted the other bidders in hopes of finding a buyer. He sounded hopeful, quoted as saying “It’s still going to happen.”

I hope so, Paul. Hopefully those other bidders aren’t the same other bidders that took a shot at that Velvet Underground acetate.

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