Hunting for vinyl with Seattle-based picker Jong Canimo

Rick Olivares

Posted at Oct 17 2017 08:36 AM | Updated as of Oct 17 2017 01:10 PM

Hunting for vinyl with Seattle-based picker Jong Canimo 1
Jong Canimo poses in his Kamuning shop Northwest Estate Collectibles. Photo by author

It’s the third anniversary of Northwest Estate Collectibles (NEC), that small shop of collectibles along K-1 which is perpendicular to Kamuning Road in Quezon City. This past payday weekend, October 14 and 15, NEC was packed with people taking advantage of the massive sale that encompassed vinyl records, toys, cassette players, compact discs, used American license plates, baseball cards, books, comics, clothes, and just about anything else collectible under the sun.

In the midst of the chaos of music fans, re-sellers, and collectors, stood Jong Canimo, who for the past 15-plus years has been selling collectibles he finds at flea markets, backyards, garage sales, and well, basements from in and around Washington state in the United States.

Jong is a Philippine version of the 'American Pickers' Mike Wolfe and Frank Fritz from the popular History Channel reality television series except he doesn’t do it full time as he holds a job at the Federal level in the United States. By the time he gets out of work around 2:30 p.m., he drives around in search of vinyl records and other collectibles to purchase and send back to the Philippines to sell at his Kamuning shop.

“I travel every day. Every single day,” said Canimo who himself is a massive music fan. He gets into his Honda Pilot and makes sure he has lots of coffee and cash in his pursuit of another man’s treasure that are looking for new homes.

“About 15 years ago, there was this garage sale over at Bellevue, which is where Bill Gates resides,” recounted Canimo. “I made a bunch of stops and this one was last stop for the day. It was advertised as an estate sale. When I got there, there was this guy sweeping the basement and the sale was all but done. Not wanting to waste the time and effort it took to get there, I asked the man, “Do you still have records that you are selling?”

“What do you mean records?”

“You know… vinyl, the old phonograph black phonograph records you play on a turntable…”

“Oh yeah, by that couch over there.”

What Canimo found got his heart racing. “I found a waist-high jazz collection of which 25% were 10-inch Blue Note records. You know, Art Blakely, Freddie Hubbard, and a lot of these 1950s and '60s jazz records that also had iconic cover art (designed by the late noted graphic designer Reid Miles). I asked how much he was selling them. I wasn’t even sure if I was speaking to the owner but I asked the man anyway how much he was selling the lot.”

“Five bucks,” was the reply.

“Five bucks for each record?”

“No, five bucks for everything.”

It was an incredible find. Of course this was the time vinyl had greatly gone down in popularity and the compact disc was still king.

While it was a jackpot find, it isn’t every day that Canimo lands them. “I have missed out on some good collections,” he admitted.

Most recently, Canimo was the first to answer an ad on Craigslist, that online site devoted to classified advertisements. When he got there, the man was selling only a particular collection on top of the shelf. Curious about the collection at the bottom, he asked if he could take a look. “It was a collection of rare punk rock records! So I asked if I could get them as well. To sweeten the pot, I offered to take other items such as signs. The man agreed to it.”

Some of those records -- Social Distortion, Black Flag, X, Fear, and the Dead Kennedys to name a few -- are currently on sale at NEC.

While there is exhilaration at finding very good and highly collectible collections, there are times when it seems hard especially when the owners are only parting with them to pay for medical costs or other urgent needs.

“I have had a lot of customers who have sold their collections and who later regret it. There are instances where they felt bad about it because of their emotional attachments. I just tell them that they will go to places where the new owners will love them as much as they did,” shared Canimo.

The picking business isn’t an easy one. Canimo admits there are losses as much as win situations. “You try to make sure the losses are minimal,” he said.

With the resurgence in popularity of vinyl, NEC has been one of the leading sellers of records in the Philippines. The store itself has over 20,000 records in stock. “With more to come,” promised the store’s head honcho who flew in just for the Kamuning store’s third anniversary.

“When I get back to Seattle, there’s this collection I will take a look at. I was about to board my flight to Manila for the NEC anniversary weekend when I got a call from a man with a very good collection. It’s one of the first things I will attend to when I get back home.”

A picker’s work is never done. There’s more treasure – good music and good records, if you will – that need finding.

“As they say, ‘the thrill is also in the hunt.’”