This week's column is chapter #12 of the story of the 1985 purchase of the "Mile High II" collection
of 1,500,000 comics.
Last week, I gave you the rational behind my belief that purchasing the Mile High II collection was
actually more important to me than my purchase of the legendary "Mile High I" collection from the
estate of Edgar Church. The fact that the second collection ended up generating more than 15 times
the revenues of the original collection has a lot to do with my logic behind that startling analysis,
as does the fact that the sales generated from the second collection helped build the customer base
that to this day sustains our operations at Mile High Comics. It is important to also note, however,
that I got in waaay over my financial head with the Mile High II collection, and that buying it darn
near put me out of business.
To give some background from earlier chapters of the story, I was only able to close the Mile High II
deal because I had the ability to borrow $100,000 from my local commercial bank against some
promissory notes I had created when selling my chain of retail stores during the 1983/1984 period.
While the $100,000 did allow me to make the deal, it also was the complete limit of my borrowing
capacity. Immediately after returning from New York, I suddenly found myself awash in all sorts of
bills relating to the purchase of the collection. For starters, I owed my truck line $11,000 in
freight charges. Next on the list was a $5,000 security deposit I need to give to my landlord to rent
the empty 12,000 square foot warehouse next to my existing building. Then there was the cost of
installing an alarm, utility deposits, legal fees, overtime labor costs to unload the trailers, etc.
I was over $30,000 in the hole on the Mile High II deal before I was able to sell the first book!
It was in this crippled financial state that I came up with what I thought was a brilliant idea. I
would have my staff go through the books as we sorted them into order, hand picking out the nicest
5-30 copies of each book. We would place those beautiful issues into Mylar sleeves, along with a
special velum paper certificate of authenticity, and market them at the 1985 San Diego Comics
Convention as the wonderful "Mile High II" collection. It seemed inevitable to me that we would be
able to translate the strong marketing cachet of the original "Mile High" collection over this new
group of books, and thus create an entirely new pedigree collection.
To implement this program, I first ordered 40,000 Mylar sleeves from Bill Cole. He was pretty
incredulous when we first called, but when my check for the first batch actually did arrive (and
cleared...) he started shipping us sleeves as fast he could make them. Even with his best efforts,
however, we were far behind schedule when the last couple of weeks before San Diego rolled around.
It was only when I instituted a mandatory overtime program for the three weeks prior to the show that
we managed to finally get all 40,000 books selected and sleeved. To this day, the people who
participated in that arduous project remember it with awe, and with at least some measure of
affection. It was hard, hard work, which we only got done because we all busted hump together as a
team. The late-night pizza parties at the bar across the street were particularly memorable...
Sadly, our work was, at least initially, for naught. When we took all 40,000 of those beautiful
comics to San Diego, no one gave a damn. In a scenario remarkably similar to when I was trying to
sell the Mile High I books for 1.5 X Guide in 1977-1980, I couldn't get but a very few fans to buy
Mile High II books at 1.5 X Guide in 1985. In reality, all the work we did only created a cash flow
nightmare for me. I had blown off some of my other creditors in order to pay Bill Cole, and found
myself after the San Diego Convention with about 39,000 wonderfully packaged comics remaining, but
almost no cash, and a huge number of bills. Suffice it to say, I was very depressed.
The good news in all of this is that the books that we didn't put into Mylar were selling like crazy
through the mail. As I gradually was able to add issues from the collection into our mail order
system, daily sales began to steadily climb. If I recall correctly, our mail order back issue sales
doubled between 1985 and 1986. It was this steady increase in overall back issue sales which
gradually bailed me out of my cash flow dilemma. I was even able to make all of my payments on time
to the seller, which may have surprised me even more than it surprised him...
One very important fringe benefit to my purchasing the Mile High II collection was my relationship
with my step-father. My childhood relationship with him at been tenuous, at best. He married my 22
year-old mother when he was 46, and only took me in because I was an inseparable part of the package.
As a result of his 39-year career as a Master Sergeant in the Army, my step-father could be (on his
good days...) very gruff and demanding. It should come as no surprise that my childhood was not
blessed with a lot of affection. No matter what, however, I think that every child seeks deep down
to please their parents, and to gain their respect. About three weeks after I closed the Mile High
II deal, my step-father came to visit me at my home in Boulder. This was the first time he had ever
been in my home without my mother being along, and we actually had a good time together. He adored
his three grandchildren, and was very fond of my wife, Nanette. What blew me away, however, was
when I took him to see the Mile High Collection II. After seeing all those hundreds of pallets of
comics, for the first time in my memory, my step-father went out of his way to tell me how proud he
was of me, and all the work I had accomplished with Mile High Comics. This became infinitely more
important to me when three weeks later his heart failed, and he died with no warning. Were it not
for that one fateful visit, I would never have had any sense of closure with the man I strove harder
to please than anyone else on earth.
To be continued...
Mile High Comics, Inc.
Attn: Chuck Rozanski
2151 W. 56th Ave.
Denver, CO 80221