I received this e-mail from Chuck Rozanski via the Mile High Comics Mailing List. These stories I find inspirational, how something enormous sprouts from planting these small seeds. How making a decision (such as buying a lot of comic books) can grow into a sustainable life path. Anyway, on to the e-mail:
Chuck and Nanette
in the Smokey Mountains
(click on image for larger view)
Forty years ago today, I was preparing for my first-ever day of selling comics in public. Three weeks earlier, on a very snowy Saturday morning in January, 1970, I had relentlessly badgered my mother into driving across town on dangerous icy roads to help me buy my first major comics collection. That grouping of 4,500 comics (for which I paid 3 cents for each standard size comic, and 6 cents for each annual) contained almost all of the Marvel and DC comics from the 1960′s, ranging all the way back to FANTASTIC FOUR #4, and a slew of 10 cent cover price DC’s. I later learned that I beat out another Colorado Springs comics fan by mere hours in scoring this great collection!
The one problem with my wonderful comics purchase, however, was that it was an all-or-nothing deal. Since I had been reading comics avidly since 1960, and had built a personal collection of over 7,000 comics while we were stationed at an American army base in Frankfurt, Germany, about 3,000 of the comics from my new collection purchase were duplicates. I also owed my mother the $135 (about 1/4th of my dad’s monthly pay from the military…) that she had loaned me to buy the collection. Clearly, I had to figure out some way to turn these duplicate comics quickly back into cash.
The solution that I chose was to have my mom twist the arms of the folks who ran the Colorado Springs Antiques Fair, which was held in the City Auditorium on the first weekend of each month. This very upscale antiques show drew in dealers from all over Colorado, Kansas, and Nebraska, and was known for the high quality of its offerings. While furniture dominated the show, they did allow some collectibles, including coins. My mom was a part-time coin dealer, so she was well recognized among the coin dealers at the show. She leveraged this connection into getting Mr. and Mrs. Black, who ran the show, into letting me rent half of an 8-foot table. Their reluctance stemmed from the fact that I was only 14 years old, and actually looked younger. They did not want some little kid getting bored, and then causing trouble and neglecting their table. They did have a middle-aged lady who wanted to rent just half of a table to sell decorative Avon bottles, however, so they acquiesced to my mom’s pleadings, and reluctantly decided to stick me on the same table with her.
As things worked out, I not only sold over $100 worth of stuff during my first weekend (mostly coins that my mom had consigned to me…), but I also ended up running that Avon lady’s booth when SHE wandered off. By the time that the weekend was over, all of the other dealers at the show were so impressed with my retailing skills that I was immediately elevated to being able to rent to an 8-foot table for the following month’s show. That second show was when I met Bob Conway, the first “real” customer of Mile High Comics. Bob had been a regular at the Antiques Fair, popping in periodically looking for comics. He missed my first month, but during my second month of exhibiting he purchased about $30 of the duplicate comics from that first collection, which put me well on the path of repaying my mother’s loan. The rest, as they say, is history.
President – Mile High Comics, Inc.
I should also mention I find it interesting how much of the real success story you decipher by reading between the lines. It’s obvious this 14 year old kid knew a thing or two about comics. He was also business savvy enough to be buying 9 year old 12 cent comics at 25 percent of the cover price. He had financial backing, via his mother who was willing to make a loan equivalent to a week’s pay of his father. Also, the act of purchasing a collection that big was a pretty ballsy move for a teen-age kid, and it was another business savvy move to sell off the duplicates to pay for the collection. I wish I was that clever at 14.