When Phil Schwartz was a graduate student at Millersville University, he had a Saturday morning tradition.
He walked from his Prince Street apartment to the Goodwill store that once stood on West King Street and headed straight to the basement to scour through the store’s records. An avid record collector since his childhood, Schwartz always had the records to himself. He never saw another collector there.
That was, until the day Charlie “Chas” Reinhart beat him to the stack.
On this particular morning, Reinhart was already combing through the piles before Schwartz arrived. And Schwartz noticed Reinhart had good taste, to boot.
“Charlie and I talked, and we bickered over a couple records,” says Schwartz, who now works as an optometrist. “He got a couple, I got a couple, and we talked for about an hour (and asked the question): I wonder if there are other people in the Lancaster area who are into this hobby?”
Schwartz and Reinhart, along with Steve Yohe and Ken Sweigart, went on to create the Keystone Record Collectors, a local nonprofit organization that hosts a monthly Pennsylvania Music Expo where vendors sell records, CDs and music memorabilia. The group will celebrate its 40th anniversary on Oct. 14.
The group’s monthly Pennsylvania Music Expo takes place on the second Sunday of every month, except when Mother’s Day or Easter conflicts, at Spooky Nook Sports-Lanco in East Petersburg.
Today’s September expo runs from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Singer and actor Jimmy Clanton, known as a “swamp pop R&B teenage idol” in the ’50s and ’60s, will be the special guest. Clanton starred in the films “Go, Johnny, Go!” (1951) and “Teenage Millionaire” (1961).
Dates for expos through the year’s end are Oct. 13, Nov. 10 and Dec. 8. Admission is free, as it has been since the group’s inception.
Schwartz, Yohe and Sweigart are still actively involved with the group. Reinhart remained a member until his death in March 2018. He was 72.
After Schwartz and Reinhart’s fateful meeting, the pair were inspired to find other local collectors. Some connected through their DJ jobs at local radio stations.
Their first unofficial meetings were wherever they could find space, from Sweigart’s barber shop to Schwartz’s living room. They were held round-robin style, and the host would often share information about an aspect of collecting they were passionate about, or show off a prized find.
The group periodically traveled together to Baltimore to go to an organized show, not unlike the expos Keystone Record Collectors now hosts. When those fizzled out, they saw an opportunity to officially charter their own club.
“It became so well organized,” says Sweigart, the group’s current president. “Gold Mine Magazine, which is for record collectors, used our club as a model for other cities to start their clubs.”
Derek Shaw, the club’s communications director, has proof of this. He found the club when he relocated to York from Scranton in the ’80s. He worked at a radio station at the time, and his coworkers told him they modeled their own record group after Keystone Record Collectors. Shaw is also a vendor at the expos.
“I love music, and this is a way to finance my collection,” Shaw says. “Whatever I make, I put back into the hobby for myself. I’m not out to get rich from it; I’m just out to get rich with vinyl or CDs or whatever.”
Yohe, another founding member, says its honest beginnings have served the club well.
“We just did it right,” Yohe says. “It’s partly because we’re nonprofit, and nobody’s really greedy or selfish. We share information, and that’s part of the key to the success.”
And it’s also helpful if you’re on the hunt for something special.
“When you have a want list and you’re looking for records, 12 heads are better than one,” Sweigart says. “I know what he’s looking for, and he knows what I’m looking for. It really works out.”
After officially chartering the group in 1979, the group spent a year as part of a flea market in the Columbia Market House. After the flea market ended, the Keystone Record Collectors made an arrangement with Columbia Borough to use the entirety of the market house.
Luckily for the club, the space expansion was followed by a growth in interest. Phil Schwartz realized the uptick in attendance during a meeting around 1982 when he wanted to talk to someone at the opposite side of the building.
“I realized that it would be easier to go around the building because there were so many people in the aisle I wasn’t going to be able to get through,” Schwartz says. “It took us about two years to fill it up, and it grew from there.”
The Keystone Record Collectors remained at the Columbia Market House until 1992, when it moved to Blue Ball Market House. In February 1995, the group shifted to Lancaster Catholic High School for 12 years. A handful of shows were held at various locations after that, until the group moved to the Continental Inn in 2010. Last year, the group moved to Spooky Nook Sports.
Even with so many venue changes, the record enthusiasts still come out in droves.
“They’ve followed us everywhere,” Sweigart says.
About 40 vendors sell goods at each expo. Vendors must be Keystone Record Collectors members to sell at the events, but yearly dues are just $15.
You won’t find any cut-throat competition between sellers, though. In between helping customers, the vendors enjoy catching up with one another and exchanging YouTube video and movie recommendations. There’s just a general sense of camaraderie, a feeling that for one day a month, vendors and customers get to hang out with fellow record collectors. Frank Ruehl, who has been selling records at the Expo for 30 years, says deep appreciation for music and good sound quality isn’t something that can be taught.
“It’s kind of hard to tell people who don’t realize it,” Ruehl says. “It’s almost like a religion — if you don’t get it, you don’t get it.”
Bill Tormas, a member of Keystone Record Collectors since its early days, browsed Ruehl’s selection at the August meeting. Ruehl says he’s a friendly face that comes by every month.
“Everybody here is on a first-name basis,” says Tormas, Web of Sound, a Lancaster city record stores, from 1985 to 1995. “I think we’ve all known each other ... anywhere from 10 to 40 years, at least.”
The show is still finding new audiences, too. Christina Dietrich traveled to the show from Wilmington, Delaware, with her husband. She was keeping her eye out for ’70s and ’80s Goth records.
“There are people who are looking, still,” Dietrich says. “I’m hoping it lasts, that it’s not generational. But I see more and more young people interested in vinyl.”
And what’s driving those younger listeners?
“Just the need I think, for handheld paper ephemera media,” Dietrich says. “I think we got away from it for a little while. Everything’s downloaded, and people now, I think, are craving that touchy-feely, hard copy.”
Shaw has also noticed an increase in younger record collectors.
“Kids started getting back into vinyl,” Shaw says. “They’re not buying everything, but Beatles, Hendrix, the Stones, Dylan, the Dead, Pink Floyd, all that stuff is really popular with them.”
And that’s exactly what Schwartz and the founding members see as the key to the group’s future longevity.
“I would hope that we can inspire younger people that have a passion for it as we did to continue it into the next millennium and generation,” Schwartz says.