During a tour of Chinese audio-equipment factories last year, I visited the home of “The World’s Number One Audiophile,” Mr. Ji Hui Li. In addition to owning perhaps $3 million dollars worth of high-end gear (my very rough estimate), Mr. Li has an LP collection comprising about 260,000 titles. At the time, I thought that surely must be the world’s largest private collection of records. (See the full story with photos at www.avguide.com/blog/the-worlds-number-one-audiophile)
But I’ve just learned of a collection that dwarfs that of Mr. Li. A fellow by the name of Paul Mawhinney bought his first record sixty years ago and hasn’t stopped buying records since. When the collection grew to 160,000 titles, his wife insisted he rent warehouse space in their native Pittsburgh. Mawhinney opened a retail store in the warehouse, but never sold the last copy of any record, thus preserving his archival nature of the collection. The LP library grew . . . and grew . . . and grew, topping out today at three million vinyl records—LPs, 78s, 45s, singles, and EPs. Fully half of these are brand new. In addition to all this vinyl, Mawhinney’s collection includes 300,000 CDs. The archive, which includes many rare and valuable titles, is housed in a 16,000 square foot, climate-controlled warehouse.
Advancing years and poor health have forced Mawhinney to put this astonishing collection up for sale. He wants it kept intact (but allowing the sale of duplicate copies) and made available for future generations. Mawhinney estimates the collection is worth about $50 million, but is asking just $3 million.