The Original Mile High Collection Part XIII

Chapter #13 in the story of the discovery of the original Mile High/Edgar Church collection.

I would like to keep telling you stories for quite some time about my discovery of Edgar Church's collection of Golden Age comics ( I have dozens of sidebar stories I will eventually relate...), but after three months on the same topic, I think I need to get back to primary purpose of this column, which is discussing trends in the market for back issue comics. Before I move on, however, I need to cover a final couple of final important details about the Church collection. This week, I want to cover the micro-economic impact of the Church collection on the 1977 market for Golden Age comics.

About six weeks after I had saved the collection from imminent destruction, I drove 20 hours to attend a CasualCon, in Anaheim, CA. While CasualCon was only a one-day show, I had heard from several friends that it was an excellent marketplace for old comics. So, Nanette and I loaded up our old 1969 Chevy window van with about 2,000 of the Edgar Church comics, and drove all night to Anaheim.

When we arrived, early the next day, we went straight to the Inn-at-the-Park convention center. I had arranged in advance for us to have a single table in the back of the room. Before the room even opened, however, we had a very surreal experience. I wheeled our boxes full of Golden Age into the hallway reserved for dealer's entry, and waited in line with about 30 other dealers for the room to open. Most of the dealers attending the show were from the Southern California area, and they were quite surprised to see us so far from home. When they inquired why we drove so far for a one-day show, I told them about the Church collection. What happened next was incredible. Dealers clustered around our boxes, and a feeding frenzy began. Within the span of 30 minutes, we sold $4,200 in comics! By the time the room opened, practically every dealer had purchased books from us.

While this should have set the stage for a great day, it actually caused just the opposite. Instead of the convention being a success, it turned into an incredibly dull affair. We sold about $500 more in comics to retail consumers, but that was it. In surveying the dealer's room, I quickly picked up on the fact that overall economic activity in the room was totally constrained. I asked some questions, and came to the startling realization that I had removed all the working capital out of that dealer's room. By taking all the cash the dealers had brought with them before the room even opened, I caused a mini economic recession!

To explain, at the time of this convention, I was also attending classes in the Business School at the University of Colorado. My major was Finance, and I had just finished one course on Micro-Economics, and another on The Federal Reserve and Monetary Policy. Applying what I had learned in my classes, I could readily see that by introducing a product that was unique in the marketplace (very high-grade Golden Age), I had upset everyone's equilibrium. In particular, by pricing my beautiful books at straight Overstreet, I created an immediate perceived reduction in value of all the lesser-grade Golden Age books in the room. Why buy comics in Fine from the dealer at the table next to you, when you can buy stunning NM/M copies from Chuck, for only slightly more?

The main problem with all the dealer's buying from us is that they then didn't purchase anything from each other. Without reciprocal sales between dealers occurring around the room, the "velocity" of transactions was greatly restrained. As a result, while every dealer ended up with a few of our great comics, they all felt the show was a failure, due to very slow business. We were the only ones who did well, and we took all the money home.

What I learned from this experience was to not price the comics from the Church collection at Overstreet. Not only was the demand there that justified higher prices, but I was also not doing anyone who already owned large quantities of Golden Age comics any favors by selling those great books too cheaply. In fact, I firmly believe that I could have crashed the entire Golden Age market nation-wide in 1977 if I had sold all the Church comics, at Overstreet, during that one year. This is an opinion shared by many others who were in the field during those formative years. Only by making the decision to sell the Church comics at the "outrageous" multiples of 1.5X - 2X Overstreet did I slow the sales enough to where the books were integrated into the Golden Age community without devaluing the rest of the comics in the market. I was absolutely ripped apart in the fan press by the "purists" in the collecting community for selling the Church books at above Guide (especially after the rumors started circulating about how inexpensively I had purchased the collection), but I darn well knew that the policy I had chosen was the right one for the long term viability of the Golden Age market. I was only 21 years old at the time, so it was hard to put up with all the vicious public criticism I engendered by my pricing decision, but I'm firmly convinced to this day that I did absolutely the right thing for the financial health of the back issue comics market. The fact that everyone who purchased books from me in those early days (even at my "inflated" prices) made a fortune on their investment, seems to bear out the ultimate wisdom of my decision to price at small multiples above Guide.

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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