This weeks column is Chapter 11 in the story of the 1985 purchase of the "Mile High II"
collection of 1,500,000 back issue comics.
It was only when the last truck turned the corner at the end of the seller's street that the
immensity of what I had accomplished really sank in. I've done quite a few bulk deals for comics
in my career, with several of them being in the 500,000+ comics range, and a couple being over one
million comics. In all of those instances, however, I was dealing with comics of relatively recent
vintage. More importantly, there are comics available in large bulk quantities today (especially
issues from the 1989-1995 boom period) which are almost completely valueless in the back issue
market. What made the Mile High II collection so incredible was that it was not only huge, but it
also consisted almost entirely of comics printed prior to 1979.
The reason why 1979 is such a critical date was the huge growth in Direct Market retail comics
stores that occurred beginning in 1980. The history of that 1980 period is going to be the topic
of a number of articles I plan to write in the near future, but for right now it suffices for me
to tell you that comics shops only purchased (according to statistics assembled at the time by
Marvel Editor-In-Chief Jim Shooter...) at most approximately 6% of the comics printed in 1980.
Taking the inverse of that number, the reality at that time was that 94%, or more, of all the comics
being printed were being sold through newsstands of various manifestations. As hard as it may seem
to believe today, the majority of comics sold through newsstand outlets in those non-collector years
were either read to death by being continually passed on between family members or friends, or were
simply thrown away. Only with the advent of comics shops, plastic bags, and (eventually) comics
storage boxes, did the current mania for saving all comics printed manifest itself. That being the
case, the fact that the most recent issues in the Mile High II collection dated from the 1979/1980
period almost guaranteed that these issues would eventually be in high demand from collectors.
One key point in my previous paragraph is the reference to "eventually be in high demand..." At the
time that I purchased the collection, the initial reaction from many of my fellow dealers upon
hearing the news was that I was making a big deal about nothing. The existence of the collection
had been known on the East Coast for many years, and the fact that the seller's brother had
reportedly already looted many of the best books from the deal led to a consensus that I vastly
overpaid at the $240,000 purchase price. Had I not already owned the best fulfillment service for
mail order sales in the entire comics world, that assertion on the part of my peers might well have
been correct. While I did get several hundred thousand very desirable Marvel and DC superhero issues
in the deal, I also received hundreds of thousands of slow-selling Marvel and DC titles, plus a slew
of Harvey, Archie, and Whitman issues that were practically unsaleable at the time. Clearly, this
deal was going to take many, many years to sell.
That having been said, I could not have been happier when I left New York. In my mind, this deal far
superseded the Mile High/Edgar Church deal. Why? First of all, the value of the Edgar Church deal was
only in the hundreds of thousands when I found it. While that is indeed a lot of money, it pales in
comparison with the Mile High II deal. Assuming a retail value (by our price list...) of $5-$6 per
book, the Mile High II collection had a net retail value in 1985 of approximately $8-$10 million
dollars! Taking into account the price increases that inevitably resulted from the growth in demand
in the back issue comics business from 1985-present, I estimate that we actually grossed over $15
million from the deal, with approximately 200,000 comics from the deal still in stock today, after
18 years. That makes my initial $240,000 investment seem like a pretty darn good deal.
Another very important consideration for me about the Mile High II deal was that it provided us
with the raw material we needed to justify the very complex mail order delivery system that I had
built from the proceeds of the sale of the rare Golden Age comics in the Mile High I collection. In
many instances, we received hundreds of copies of individual issues from the Mile High II deal.
While selling those high quantities would have been a very onerous problem for most comics dealers,
it worked out wonderfully for us. Unlike the Mile High I deal, where almost every issue was unique,
we could sell the the same item over and over again, often times for many years. That steady stream
of revenues is what ultimately built the Mile High Comics that exists today. In fact, had we have
not still been reaping the benefits of that wonderful deal when the dreadful crash of the comics
market occurred during the 1993-1997 period, we would have not had the resources to stay in business.
That is why I consider the Mile High II deal to have been the most important comics deal of my life.
To be continued...
Mile High Comics, Inc.
Attn: Chuck Rozanski
2151 W. 56th Ave.
Denver, CO 80221