The Original Mile High Collection Part XI

This is Chapter #11 of the story of the discovery of the original Mile High/Edgar Church collection of Golden Age comics.

In my last installment, I alluded to a phone call I received soon after I purchased the contents of Edgar Church's office. This call came in after I had a chance to review the artwork, photographs, and correspondence that I saved from probable destruction by Church's heirs. I never got to know Edgar Church in person, but I still wanted to do something positive within the comics community that would honor his legacy. The answer to how to accomplish this task came to me when my good friend, Jim Payne, called to offer me his comic book store, in exchange for some of Edgar Church's comics.

To give you some background about Jim, I started selling comics at age 14, in February, 1970. My first stand was an 8' table at the monthly Colorado Springs Antiques Fair. Later that year, I formed the Colorado Springs Comic Book Club. We met once a month, in the Civil Defense room, in the basement of the Colorado Springs Police Station. Starting out with just six of us, our membership eventually grew to about 35 fans. We didn't do too much at our meetings except talk about comics and trade scarce issues, but it was very psychologically reinforcing to know that others shared our otherwise solitary passions.

The one highlight of each meeting was Jim Payne's participation. Jim owned A-1 Comics, from all the way up in the big city of Denver. His store opened in 1967, which I believe made it one of the very first comics specialty shops in the entire country. His store was a wonderful collection of old comics, pulps, movie posters, and comics memorabilia. It was located in about 1,000 square feet in the basement of the old Ogden Street Bookstore. To this day, old-time Colorado comics collectors speak reverently of their memories of that wonderful basement filled with aging paper.

Aside from being one of the few adults who took comics seriously, Jim was as kind and gentle a man who has ever sold comics. Imagine Mr. Whipple crossed with Mr. Rogers, and you get the general idea. His enthusiasm for all manner of comics was completely infectious, and as a result, his store prospered during an age when comics were still very much socially unacceptable. He made us all feel very good about being wise enough to see the artistic merit of graphic storytelling.

While Jim loved comics, he could only open his store on Saturdays from 12-5, and on Tuesday and Thursday evenings from 6-9. The rest of his time was spent working a full-time job at a Denver printing company in order to feed his 10 (!) children. Despite his very full schedule, Jim succumbed to my pleading, and each month made the 70-mile trek from his Denver home to sell comics to the young comics fans of Colorado Springs. The great vintage comics he brought in his old car each month were the highlights of our monthly meetings.

Fast forward seven years. By this time, I am the owner of three comics shops (Boulder, Ft. Collins, and East Denver). During the intervening years Jim has lost his commodious, and cheap, location under the Ogden Street Bookstore, and has had to move to a far more expensive location on South Broadway Blvd. There are also three other new comics stores in Denver area, plus one in Colorado Springs. All these new stores carry broad selections of new comics from Phil Seuling's Seagate Distribution company. With his limited hours, Jim couldn't viably stock new books, so the handwriting was on the wall that his store had become functionally obsolete. He still had an intensely loyal following of fans of comics from the Golden Age, but their combined purchases barely covered his rent.

When Jim called me, his proposition was simple. He wanted to trade his store, plus approximately 100,000 comics he had accumulated over the previous 10 years, for a portion of the Edgar Church collection. Had this offer come from anyone besides Jim Payne, I would have told them to get lost. But my sense of obligation to Jim for all his kindness to me when I was first getting started ran very deep, so I met with him at a local Denny's, and we worked out the deal on a napkin. I gave him his pick of approximately 10% of the entire Edgar Church collection, in exchange for his store and comics.

Since I made that trade, I've had any number of people who knew the details of the deal ask me if I regretted giving up all those rare books for so little in return. My answer has always been an unequivocal No! Helping Jim Payne gracefully retire from the comics business was one of the best things I ever did in my life. Not only did my decision fulfill part of my pledge to do something positive with Edgar Church's comics, but it also eventually led to what I feel was the single most important contribution I was able make to the world of comics.

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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