Mile High II Collection Part II

This week's column is installment #2 of the story of my 1985 purchase Mile High II Collection.

After I sold the Mile High Comics retail stores for a handful of dubious promissory notes during 1983 and 1984, I found myself with excellent bank credit, and a far lower need for infusions of working capital as a result of no longer having to cover the losses some of my stores had been generating. This was an excellent development, as by early 1985, the majority of the books I had remaining from the original Mile High/Edgar Church deal were issues I wanted to keep in my personal collection. This put me into a real quandary, however, as I had invested the majority of the proceeds from my sales of all the other Mile High/Edgar Church books into constructing a very efficient mechanism for selling comics by mail, but I then didn't have enough Modern and Silver Age comics on hand to meet the demand that my mail order business was generating. Sending back nearly 50% of the sales we were achieving from our 1984/1985 ads in Marvel was quite frustrating.

It was within this context that I was startled by a phone call that I received from New York. Our receptionist buzzed me one day in early March, 1985, with the very strange message that there was a man on the phone who wanted to sell me 2 million comics. If I received this same message today, it would be no big deal, as there are several bulk comics dealers who today might be able to claim that they have 2 million books in stock. In 1985, however, that was a quantity equal to our entire inventory, which was probably the largest in the country. In addition, today's bulk brokers would have in stock mostly from 1992-1994, which are practically impossible to sell. In 1985, with the Direct Market still in its infancy, there were almost no unsaleable back issues. If this guy really did have two million back issue comics, it was imperative that I figure out some way to buy them.

As it turned out, I already vaguely knew the seller. I had met him, and his father, at an American Bookseller's Association (ABA) convention a few years prior to his call. His family sold remainder books as their primary business, and I had purchased 500 boxed sets of the old Simon & Schuster Origins of Marvel Comics/Son of Origins of Marvel Comics from them at that convention. After he introduced himself, he began by explaining that his father had been "investing" in back issue comics since the late 1950's, and he now had a warehouse filled with approximately two million issues in it that he needed to dispose of immediately. He estimated that at least 400,000 of his father's comics had a cover price of 12 cents, or less. The remainder were at least 5 years old, as his father had stopped purchasing comics in 1979. He then went on to tell me that the majority of the books were in "Mint" condition, as his father purchased all the books new, and just stashed them away.

By the time the seller finished telling me about what his father had, I was in a state of shock. If what he was claiming was in any way true, this collection was worth an absolute fortune! Going by even the most conservative possible estimate of $2 per issue, this was a deal with a retail potential of at least $4,000,000! Most important to me, however, was the fact that this was exactly the type of feedstock I desperately needed in order to capitalize upon the huge investment I had made in constructing the Mile High Comics mail order system. I simply could not have asked for a better potential deal to fall from the sky at that moment in my professional career.

One trick to business (and playing poker...) is to never give away your hand. Despite my overwhelming excitement, I casually asked the seller what he needed for his books. I could only gasp in dismay when he said he wanted $500,000. While that was not an unreasonable price to pay for such a potentially great deal, it was far beyond my means at that time. Calculating what I could borrow against all my store promissory notes, I figured that I had about $150,000 in potential available bank credit. Even that had to be discounted somewhat, however, because a deal of that magnitude would require at least $20,000 in shipping and handling costs. How in the world was I ever going to get my hands on these comics that I so desperately needed?

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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