The Original Mile High Collection Part VIII

Part Eight in the story of the discovery of the original Mile High/Edgar Church collection of mint Golden Age comics.

When I flew with my future wife, Nanette, to Houston in February of 1977, we took with us a full suitcase of some of the most beautiful Golden Age comics that the industry had ever seen. My goal was to sell enough of the comics so that we could cover our operating costs, and also to have enough cash to pay the Church heirs for the part of his reference library that they hadn't yet thrown away.

To my amazement, the Saturday of that show was a complete bust. This was not a big convention, but it still had an attendance of upwards of 500 fans. We were selling the Church books at 1976 Overstreet, and I think I recall that we grossed about $200 that Saturday. That was a disaster, as it didn't even cover the cost of our airfares. Blessedly, on Sunday, a wonderful gentleman by the name of Burrell Rowe came to the convention. Burrell had heard from a friend that we had great Golden Age comics for sale at the show, and he had to come and see if the rumor was true. Once he saw our books, he picked out a large stack, and justified our entire trip. It's a darn good thing that he did, as our sales to the other attendees of the convention were just as bad on Sunday, as they had been on Saturday.

To give you some background on Burrell, he was (is) a prominent Houston attorney, and a senior partner in a law firm that specialized in selling municipal bonds. At a time when the comics hobby was primarily populated with young people of very modest means, Burrell brought both maturity, and working capital, to the hobby. His passion was for Golden Age comics, and he was a collector/dealer for about 10 years. Sadly, Burrell was too fine a gentleman for this hobby, and eventually quit in disgust after one too many bad experiences. In 1977, however, he was in his prime, and he was the second source of working capital for me to keep purchasing from the Church heirs.

With the money I obtained from Burrell, I returned to Edgar Church's house, and paid the heirs for his reference library/clippings file. I once again filled my van to the ceiling with paper, this time consisting of all manner of line art drawings, magazine covers, and advertising pieces. There was certainly nowhere near the value in these items that there had been in the comics, but overpaying the heirs for the reference library certainly seemed like the right thing to do after I had managed to get such a great deal on the comics.

What intrigued me the most about the reference library was that it also contained, scattered throughout the antique legal file boxes/books, hundreds of pieces of Edgar Church's art. Some of the pieces were originals, while other were actual advertising items printed from Church's originals. I was determined that I would buy all of the paperwork in Church's house, so that no more of his artwork would go to the dump. I didn't know what I would do with all his artwork, but it just seemed insane to me that the heirs were so hell-bent on throwing everything of Mr.Church's away.

After I finished loading most of the file books from the main room of the basement, the heirs asked me if I had any interest in old magazines. When I assured them that I did, they led me to a room in the far end of the basement. This room was set up much like a pantry, with shelves lining the walls. What was shocking to me about this room was that it only contained one shelf unit of old pulp magazines. All the other shelves were completely bare! Given that the entire rest of the basement was packed to the ceiling with all manner of paper, this was totally abnormal.

The magazines that were in the room were primarily WEIRD TALES and SPICY DETECTIVE pulps. I had seen covers for other pulp magazines in some of the books of clippings I had salvaged, but these were the first whole magazines I had seen in the basement. I told the heirs that I wasn't really an expert in pulps, but that I had some friends in Boulder who sold them regularly. I promised I would come back the following week with my friends, and that they would offer them a substantial amount for the pulp magazines.

I then asked them why the rest of that very copious room was completely empty. The heirs hemmed and hawed, and told me they didn't know. It didn't take me long to reach the conclusion, however, that the room had once been full, and that someone had emptied it. I had already seen the empty shelves in the main asement room from where the huge batch of reference files that I saw set out for the trash men (on my first visit) had been extracted, so those couldn't have been in the contents of that second room. My best guess is that whatever was in that second room was sent off to the dump before I made my first visit.

In the many discussions I've had with people about the contents of that second room, the general conclusion that we've reached is that the room contained Church's collection of humor comics. We've extrapolated this conclusion from the fact that there are some very unusual holes in the runs of super-hero comics that were in the walk-in closet from which I obtained the Golden Age. At the same time, there were a tantalizing samplings of humor comics, such as LOONEY TUNES #1, ANIMAL COMICS #1, and all the LITTLE LULU Four Color issues, mixed in with the super-hero comics. If Church was buying all the comics being printed, where were all the humor comics? Wouldn't it make sense that if Church was roughly sorting his super-hero/adventure comics into one room, while his humor books went into the second, that a few books would get put into the wrong closet? That would explain why a few of the super-hero books were missing from otherwise complete runs, and why a few humor books were mixed in with the super-heroes. Sadly, I think the most likely scenario is that all the humor comics were sent to the dump prior to my arrival. If that was the case, then the collection of Golden Age that everyone acknowledges as the best ever discovered in the history of the hobby, was actually half destroyed prior to my arrival.

To be continued...

Please send your e-mails to chuck@milehighcomics.com, and your letters to:

Mile High Comics, Inc.
Attn: Chuck Rozanski
2151 W. 56th Ave.
Denver, CO 80221



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