Installment #4 of the story of the discovery of the Mile High/Edgar
Church collection of Golden Age comics.
Last week, I left off at the point in the story where I was parked in the back of the house, preparing to load some of the comics into my old Chevy van. I parked next to the area where the trash was put, and was stunned to discover a huge pile of artwork and magazine clippings laying in the snow. It was at this point that I realized that the people I was dealing with had motivations that I did not understand. Why would anyone throw away such cool and valuable material?
In the end, the answer to that question will never actually be known. Before the entire deal was over, I met with the heirs on nearly a dozen occasions. Each time I learned a bit more, but the more I understood, the more questions that were raised. I can't explain the how's and why's, but the primary driving factor for the heirs when I first met them was that they wanted the house up for sale immediately. They viewed Edgar Church's lifelong collection of paper and artwork as being just so much junk, and they wanted it out of the house immediately. That was why the Realtor had asked me during the original phone call if "I would be willing to haul these old comics away..." It wasn't that they wanted money for the comics, but rather that they wanted to sell the house as quickly as possible. They viewed the comics as an impediment to their plans, and they were determined to get rid of them in any way they could. The fact that I was willing to offer them cash for comics they had planned to junk, delighted them to no end.
One factor that I do know motivated the heirs to sell the house quickly was a fear that the house would drop in value. The Realtor mentioned to me that there was a concern that the neighborhood was turning "Mexican", and that they wanted to sell before real estate values declined. To say that this rubbed me the wrong way is a severe understatement. It is undeniable, however, that the house was located near an area with a high Hispanic population, and that it was possible that Anglo families were moving out of the neighborhood. I honestly don't know what happened in that regard in the future, but this unpleasant viewpoint seemed to have been a motivation that drove the heirs to empty the house quickly.
Once I started loading comics, it took me about two hours to fill my truck. I had brought about a dozen boxes, but they were no where near enough. In the end, I loaded about 10,000 comics into my van on the first day. Those books filled the floor of the van up to the back of the drivers seat, and made my old leaf springs sag to near breaking. Unfortunately, this didn't get me very far into the wonderful closet. To meet the heirs expectations, I first had to pack up the comics on the basement floor. That was really painful, as those books were from the 1950's, and were relatively inexpensive. To my great frustration, those newer books took up the vast majority of the space in the van. The older comics in the closet just wouldn't fit...
I don't remember most of those two hours I spent loading, as it was nerve-wracking work. I had no help, as the heirs disappeared upstairs with the Realtor after we made the deal. Hauling the books out of the basement, and back into the alley to my van, was my responsibility. Despite it being a cold and snowy January day, I was completely drenched with sweat by the time I finished. Not only was it hard work, but I was terrified that I would damage some of the books. After I ran out of boxes, I had to just pile them in the van in big unsupported stacks. Knowing that I would be turning corners, and driving on the freeway on the way home, made me be as careful as possible, but I knew it was inevitable that a few books would sustain some minor nicks. To offset this problem, I piled 1950's comics (most of which Edgar Church purchased used) around the few 1940's comics I managed to get from the closet. For the most part, this technique worked well.
What really drove me crazy about this day is that I had to leave most of the best books behind. My van would only hold slightly over half the collection, and the heirs declined to let me make two trips that day. They explained that they had other plans for the rest of the weekend, so we would just have to wait to get together again until the following Saturday. That meant that I had to wait a full week to come back for the contents of the closet! I was in absolute agony at that thought. I had no choice, however, as my van was completely full.
What made leaving the closet full of comics behind particularly hard was that I had just started to hit the good stuff. When I was stacking the comics I pulled from the rafters into the van I saw RED RAVEN #1, one of the rarest Marvel comics ever published. It was printed in 1940, and looked as though it had never been opened. Clearly, if a book of that vintage was in the closet, then there was no end to the possibilities. There were still about 8,000 books left to load, but I had to wait a week to come back for them. Suffice it to say, that was a week in which I slept very little.
To be continued...
Please send your e-mails to
your letters to:
Mile High Comics, Inc.
Attn: Chuck Rozanski
2151 W. 56th Ave.
Denver, CO 80221