The Original Mile High Collection Part XV

Part #15 of the story of the discovery of the original Mile High/Edgar Church collection of Mint Golden Age comics.

During the Spring of 1977, we worked feverishly on trying to compile a catalog of the Church collection. Our job was made a bit easier by the fact that approximately 20% of the books had either been sold by that point, or traded to Jim Payne for his store. That still left us with about 14,000 different issues to individually grade and list, which took an enormous number of man-hours. Then came the task of typing up the pages (on an old manual typewriter, and laying them out on boards that fit the dimensions of THE BUYER'S GUIDE. By the time we finished, the entire catalog came to a stunning 52 full-size tabloid pages. Each page consisted of four typewritten 8 1/2 X 11 sheets, so the total list of comics was quite huge.

Before we started the listing, I had called Alan Light, who was then the owner/publisher of THE BUYER'S GUIDE (later to become COMIC'S BUYER'S GUIDE), and struck a deal with him to run our catalog at $40/page. When I sent the catalog to him in mid-May, however, he was shocked at the final number of pages. He had earlier agreed to give me 30-day billing on the advertising cost, but when he saw that he would need to add three additional signatures into that week's issue to accommodate our catalog he changed his mind, and demanded cash up front.

That put me in a real bind, as I had used every cent we had getting the catalog created. Given the enormity of the listings, it was easily evident to me the that we could have paid Alan his money within a week of publication. He wouldn't listen to my arguments, however, despite having the listings in his hands, so I had to go back to my friend Burrell Rowe to raise the money for printing.

I mention this episode primarily because it illustrates an aspect to finding the collection that most people don't realize. While from today's perspective the collection seems like an unbelievable bonanza, I found that ramping up our operations to handle the logistics of selling the collection was a very expensive endeavor. Every time I turned around I was having to sell books wholesale in order to cover costs. What made this particularly painful was that there was only one copy of each issue. Once it sold, it was gone, forever. In overall, I estimate that I had to sell nearly a third of the books in the collection just to cover the sales and administrative expenses of bringing the collection to market. Most folks don't figure in those costs when calculating the enormous windfall profit we supposedly reaped from selling the collection.

After Burrell gave me the money to satisfy Alan's last-minute demands, the catalog was finally published. As can be imagined, it caused an immediate sensation throughout the comics world. No one had ever seen such a large listing of comics from the Golden Age, and the fact that they were mostly in very high grades, simply astonished people. On the down side, the fact that I had priced all the books at between 1.5X and 2X Mint Overstreet caused an even greater reaction. While all the dealers/collectors who already owned large quantities of lower-grade Golden Age issues breathed a sigh of relief that I didn't flood the market with low-priced, high grade issues, others were not nearly so positively impressed. It worked out that I received just about as many rebukes for my pricing criteria, as we received orders.

I am mentioning this antipathy from the collecting community once again because it dominated my life for many years after 1977. I find it incredibly ironic that so many people ask me today if I regret selling all those great Edgar Church books for a tiny fraction of their present worth. Gosh, if they could only have been in my shoes in 1977. Getting hate mail from fellow comics fans, whom you thought were your friends, is no fun. I knew what I was doing was the right thing for the market, but sticking to my beliefs came with a heavy personal price. It felt terrible to be ostracized by the very community of comics fans that I had worked so hard to make an integral part of my life.

Making that bitter pill a little easier to swallow was the success of the first catalog. It didn't generate huge sales, maybe $15,000 in total, but it set the stage for many future sales. Many collectors were afraid to order from us directly (there had been a couple of big comic book mail order frauds in recent memory), but they asked their local dealers to look into picking up books for them. This led to a lively wholesale business for us, where we typically sold to other dealers at 1.33X NM Overstreet. Those dealers, in turn, sold the books at prices ranging from 2X to 3X Overstreet. It was a pretty comfortable arrangement for everyone involved.

To be continued...

View an online reproduction of the first Mile High Collection Catalog.

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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