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This Vacuum Salesman Needs to Unload 100K Albums

Tonka Vac/Tonka Tunes proprietor Shaun Gauld wants to retire, but first he must liquidate a mountainous music collection.


Shaun Gauld inside his shop in 2014.

Freshly laid off from the railroad industry in 1977, Shaun Gauld encountered a classifieds offer he couldn't refuse:

The gig? Selling Kirby Co. vacuum cleaners. And that's how Gauld, a native Michigander who'd moved to Minnesota four years earlier, would make his living, though his main passion—music—always percolated as a side business.

The vinyl hustle started early in life.

"I started buying and selling records when I was 12 years old," Gauld says. "I'd buy from friends that needed some cash, and then I'd sell 'em for twice as much to friends who had cash!"

In 2001 Gauld opened Tonka Vac in Mound, and a few years later the store would rebrand as Tonka Vac/Tonka Tunes. That's when the hybrid shopkeeper imported his 25,000-count record collection that had been growing since the late '60s. It just kept on growing, too, surpassing 250,000 records at its peak. That can happen when you're snapping up collector caches by the thousands.

Now it's time to exit the vacuum/vinyl business, and Gauld wants your help.

"I'm 67, and I want to retire; my target was two years ago," he says. "I've been liquidating heavily for the past 15 months, but I still have 100,000 LPs and 45s—I don't want to spend all my retirement money on paying overhead here."

A few mega-collectors have reached out, hoping for a wholesale bulk purchase, but Gauld says his trove is already priced as low as he can go. "Anybody who wants to resell 'em can still make a ton of money… you gotta find the right person," he says.

Over the years Gauld has moved plenty of Beatles butcher covers, "probably had the nicest copy in the world" of Distortions from local '60s garage band the Litter (sold for $1,200), and also sold an ultra-rare pressing from Soviet violinist Leonid Kogan (for $1,600). Gauld reports that many treasures remain among his unsold inventory. There are about 50 original-issue Beatles releases, plus hundreds of albums from the proprietor's preferred genres of psych, garage, and prog. If you're a fan of the American Metaphysical Circus or Manfred Mann's Earth Band, you're in his wheelhouse. More than 10,000 genre-spanning albums are priced between $1 to $5 a pop—country, classic rock, jazz, pop... you get the idea.

After a deal fell through to outright sell the shop a couple years ago, Gauld ramped up his liquidation efforts. Trouble struck again, however, when last year a Facebook hacker seized control of the Tonka Vac/Tonka Tunes business page, which then morphed into... an account impersonating Robert Downey Jr. Gauld had to start from scratch with a new online HQ. "Some regulars thought I had gone out of business; got no help from Meta or Facebook, they don't care," he correctly observes.

Interestingly, the 21st century vinyl resurgence has coincided with a (much more niche) spike in enthusiasm for vintage vacuum cleaners, of which Gauld still has hundreds. "I've been aware of that for many, many years—I've sold a few vintage ones online for, maybe, 20 times what they cost when they were new," he says. (Do yourself a favor and watch the How To With John Wilson ep on old-school vacuum aficionados.)

If and when he retires, Gauld doesn't anticipate saving any vinyl for himself. He's rocking with CDs, flash drives, and two terabytes of music stored inside external hard drives. Asked if unloading his lifetime collection is bittersweet, Gauld has no time for sentimentality. He's itching to hit the road with his wife in their new RV.

"I'd be excited to sell it all tomorrow," he says with a chuckle. "I'm done working."

Check out the new, Robert Downey-free Facebook page to see store hours.

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