Mile High II Collection Part III

This week's column is installment #3 of the story of my 1985 purchase of the Mile High II Collection.

Once I hung up the phone with the seller of the collection, after that initial call in which he asked for $500,000 for his immense hoard of old comics, I immediately called my banker for an appointment. We met in his office the next day, and I began crafting a financial plan by which I could purchase the books. My first question for my banker was: "If the collection is as great as the seller represents it to be, how much cash could I borrow from the bank based on my current balance sheet (which consisted mostly of dubious promissory notes from the sale of my retail stores to my store managers...) to utilize for the down payment?" If I would have been borrowing strictly against my assets, I'm reasonably certain that I would have been offered very little. But I had previously borrowed several large sums from this particularly banker, and repaid them promptly. With that track record to back me up, I was offered a $100,000 three-year loan, but only if I was willing to also pledge my house, and all my personal assets. Gleep!

Once I talked my wife Nanette into pledging our house (given that we had three babies under the age of 4 at the time, Nanette showed remarkable faith in me...), I then met with my attorney and my tax advisor. We decided that the best course of action was for me to invest in a plane ticket to New York, and for me to go and check out the deal. I called up the seller, and arranged to have him pick me up at La Guardia airport.

Right from the beginning, I knew this was going to be a very strange deal. The seller turned out to be this very nervous skinny guy, about 35 years old, who drove an incredibly beat-up old "boat" of a car. When we got to the parking lot he excused himself, and immediately opened the trunk to get out some automatic transmission fluid. He told me that his car had been acting up, and that he had to periodically pour in more fluid. This turned out to be every 50 miles...

Once we got going he started going off on how I was not at all how he had envisioned me. My long hair, and very casual dress, was the complete opposite of the uptight businessman he had been expecting. I run into this a lot, even today, so I considered it no big deal. I was shocked, however, when he almost immediately offered me a snort of cocaine. Now at this time in my life I had been completely straight for a couple of years (as I remain today), but during my college days I was quite a stoner. That having been said, I was still amazed that this guy was so brazen with someone he had just met. I pretended to take a hit, and then watched him snort with gusto. Even loaded, he was still able to drive, which told me that either he was using really crappy coke, or he had done this many, many times.

Once we got to his house, it was much like entering into Ozzie and Harriet land. The loving wife and the two young boys waiting for him in the large living room of his Cape Cod House, situated in a pretty Long Island neighborhood, were just like off a movie set. I quickly discovered that all this harmony was an illusion, however, as I soon heard through my bedroom walls a strident argument about money. Clearly, this guy needed cash, fast.

The next morning, after once again adding transmission fluid to the car, we drove to the seller's office, which was located in a huge old brick warehouse. As we pulled into the parking lot next to the building, I was chilled to see a relatively new delivery truck that had burned to just a blackened shell. I asked the seller what had happened, and he said "we had an accident overnight, about a week ago." When we then entered the building, and I was amazed to see only about six workers. This building was about 60,000 square feet, and contained an incredibly huge quantity of remaindered books wrapped on pallets, but there was almost no one doing anything. The place was like a giant dark tomb. When I asked what in the world was going on, the seller informed that he had run into a little "problem" with the Teamsters Union, and that most of his staff were currently on strike.

We then drove to a mini-storage center, about five miles from his main building. The seller drove up to the largest individual unit in the complex, and unlocked this huge old rusty padlock. When he rolled up the garage door, I was stunned to see a solid wall of pallets stacked five feet tall. These pallets were butted up against each other so tightly that there were absolutely no aisles. This was in early March, 1985, and it was darn cold, even at midday. This storage unit was huge (3,000 square feet), but had no heat, and only a single light bulb hanging from the center of the room. The seller climbed up in the pallets, and walked on the boxes until he could get to the chain that turned on the lights. He then turned to me and said "Well, here they are!"

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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