Part #14 in the story of the discovery of the original Mile High/Edgar Church collection of Mint Golden Age Comics
On the 20-hour drive back to Colorado from the one-day convention we attended in Anaheim in March of 1977, I gave a great deal of thought to what I was going to do next to market the comics from Edgar Church's collection. Clearly, our participation in that show had caused significant economic turmoil, as the Church books ended up being just about the only Golden Age comics that sold that day. That was great for us, but it made the show a disaster for the dealer/collector attendees who were selling Golden Age issues in lower grades.
The factor that aggravated this situation was Bob Overstreet's very narrow pricing spread between the grades in his price guide. While it seems ludicrous by today's standards, the 1976/77 Overstreet (that was the guide that was in effect when I purchased the collection in January, 1977) had Golden Age comics in "Mint" priced at only double the "Good" price. By 1977, even Bob had come to recognize that this spread (which had been adopted for his first guide in 1970) was too narrow to reflect the true scarcity of very old comics in high grades, and changed the standard to "Mint" being triple the "Good" price in the 1977/78 guide. While this change was an improvement, I strongly felt that the demand for my high grade books was more in line with two other collectibles fields with which I was familiar, coins and stamps. In both of those hobbies older items in very high grades often commanded a premium of ten to twenty times that similar items in common grades. While I didn't believe at the time that spreads of that magnitude were possible in comics (I certainly was proved wrong about that later on...), I did believe that "Mint" should be at least 5X "Good." I also believed that any comic published prior to 1960 was worth a minimum of $5 in NM/M.
With those thoughts in mind, I began the process of cataloging what remained of the collection for an advertising section that would eventually be published in the THE BUYER'S GUIDE issue for the first week of June, 1977. This task was made easier by the fact that Nanette and I had been forced to leave our apartment just one week after I brought home the second load of Golden Age comics from Edgar Church's house. What happened was that we received a notice from our apartment complex informing us that they intended to fumigate all the apartments that week, and that we should plan for the fumigators to enter our apartment while we weren't home. Given that our apartment was completely filled with stacks of very valuable comics nearly three feet deep, this was totally unacceptable to us. When I informed the apartment manager of our objections, he offered to let us break our lease, and simply move out, if we could get it done by the end of the month.
We quickly located a three bedroom tract house in North Boulder, which had the wonderful attribute of a huge unfinished basement. We moved all the Golden Age into the basement, and used one of the bedrooms as an office. With the help of our assistant (John Desbin), we then began the very difficult task of putting 18,000 different issues in order. The job was made even more difficult because we hadn't had time (or money) to bag most of the books, so we had to be very careful in handling them, so as to not damage any of these wonderful old comics.
To safeguard the comics, we had an alarm system installed in the house. This was necessary because I had already rented every large safety deposit box available in the city of Boulder. The six boxes I rented were large enough for the 500 best comics, but all the rest had to stay at our house. Given that the word was spreading throughout the comics world about the magnitude/value of the collection, and that we heard rumors that there had recently been a house invasion by men bearing shotguns at a comics collector's home in Arizona, we also had holdup alarms installed.
The alarms were never needed, and were in fact only tripped once, by my mother. She came to stay with us one evening, and was still asleep the next morning when we left for work. She had never been to our house before, and her curiosity get the better of her. She decided to go exploring, but when she opened the basement door, she triggered the silent alarm. She had no idea of what she had done until she went out to get the newspaper, and was confronted at gunpoint by officers from Boulder PD in our carport. After a quick call to our store, the police let her go, but she never let me forget that I forgot to mention to her about the silent alarm...
To be continued...
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Mile High Comics, Inc.
Attn: Chuck Rozanski
2151 W. 56th Ave.
Denver, CO 80221