The Original Mile High Collection Part XVII

Part #17 of the story of the discovery of the original Mile High/Edgar Church collection of Golden Age comics.

After seventeen columns on the discovery of the Mile High/Edgar Church collection, I'm finally going to bring the story to a close. While I have many more anecdotes I could tell about what happened after I found that great collection, I will spare those of you who prefer my articles about the current market for back issues from having to read endlessly about events that occurred 25 years ago. Before I move on, however, I would like to briefly discuss the Mile High "Curse."

To be succinct, the "curse" refers to the fact that I felt for years that finding Edgar Church's comics permanently precluded me from ever being able to make it on my own. As I mentioned at the beginning of this series of articles, I was dirt poor when I found the collection. On the other hand, I had managed (with very little help from anyone) to go from sleeping in the back seat of my 1963 Chevy for four months, to owning outright three comics shops in Northern Colorado. I still had many hurdles to cross, but I was young (21), healthy, and full of optimism that I would somehow find a way to build Mile High Comics into a "real" company. From the moment, however, that I brought that first van load of Edgar Church's comics to our little apartment, my life changed forever. As the rest of the comics world gradually heard about the collection, the public perception of my role went from my being a struggling, but successful comics entrepreneur, to being a guy who succeeded in the world of comics solely because the fates dealt me a lucky hand. Or worse, someone who had succeeded only by taking advantage of the Church heirs' lack of knowledge about comics values.

Like most of the rest of America, I went to see the Spider-Man movie this weekend. From the days of my early teens, Spider-Man had always been my favorite superhero, perhaps, in part, because my youth was just as miserable as Peter Parker's. The scene in the film that really resonated with me, however, was the episode in the lunchroom where Peter (and his classmates) first realizes that he's gained powers beyond that of the rest of his peers. As weird as it may sound, I felt that same way in 1977, when overnight, I went from being a scrawny 98-lb financial weakling, to the owner of the most valuable comics collection in America. When I first found the collection, I was so happy about my discovery that I told everyone I knew all about it. I gave away comics from the collection freely to current and former staff members, and I generally tried to be very open about what I had found. Boy howdy, was I ever naive. Just as Peter Parker went from being despised, to being feared, in just that single lunchroom episode, I found myself suddenly categorized as being "wealthy."

While having a reputation for being wealthy may not seem such a bad thing, it actually has enormous negative social repercussions. For example, most of my friends/peers from my struggling days drifted away. My relationships with some of my original staff members also turned sour, as I was hit with unrealistic wage demands because "I could afford it..." Most galling of all, I found myself being accosted, sometimes even attacked in public, by people I didn't even know for either buying the collection too cheaply, or selling the books for too much. I found these charges to be incredibly ironic, as the perception of my "wealth" far exceeded the reality. Truth be told, after selling costs and taxes, the Church books contributed less than $1,000 per week into the Mile High Comics cash flow. While that is a significant amount for a private individual, it is a very meager amount of growth capital for a struggling young company. I did my best to invest that money wisely, but by 1987, it was essentially all gone. All I was left with were the Red Raven #1, all the issues of The Spirit from Quality and Fiction House, and about 100 mixed issues that had piqued my personal interest. Oh, and 100% of the stock in Mile High Comics, Inc.

I mention that last item with great pride, because I poured money into the Mile High Comics bottomless pit long after everyone else I knew had given up. While it may seem obvious today that building a company with the largest operating database of comics in the world is a no-brainer for making money, it sure seemed like a fool's errand during the dark days of the late 1980's, and early 1990's, when we lived with seemingly perpetual negative cash flow. Building our database and operating system was ridiculously expensive, so much so that we came within 45 days of insolvency during an exceptionally bleak period at the end of 1996.

With the introduction of the Internet in 1997, however, all of my investments of the previous 20 years were validated. As incredible as it may sound, I realized not that long ago that if I were now given the chance to trade my stock in Mile High Comics for the return of all the Edgar Church comics, I would keep my stock in Mile High Comics. While Edgar Church's comics were his legacy, Mile High Comics will be mine. Church's comics might still have greater value on paper, but Mile High is my creation, and it grows stronger every day. We've now shipped over $70,000,000 in orders to about 400,000 comics fans around the world. We've helped those fans build their collections, and simultaneously helped the comics industry by providing critical sales volume during even the darkest days. Upon reflection, after 25 years of living with the "curse", I guess I've finally found peace. I'll still be known to most people in the comics world as the guy who found that great collection, but that's now an attribution I can accept with equanimity. Edgar Church helped me achieve my childhood dream, and I've decided that I don't mind one bit sharing the credit with him. That's why I finally wrote the columns you've just read. Thank you all very much for letting me share my story with you. I hope you found my trip down memory lane as enjoyable as I did.

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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