I’ve never really been into the San Diego Comic Convention. For years now it’s become an annual pilgrimage of geeks, nerds, and comic book fans alike. An orgy of licensed mayhem. It’s fun to sit back and read/view/watch all the mayhem, and occasionally I’ll get somewhat melancholy about something cool happening, or read about some awesome con-only variant or limited edition bit of schwag that makes me think for a half second, “that’d be cool to have”. Then just as quickly, I remember that I hate clutter, I hate comic “chotchkies“, and a quick trip to eBay confirms my belief that there’s a sucker born not quite every minute, but pretty close.
However, if there’s one person who every year makes me second guess my conviction, it’s Chuck Rozanski. If you don’t know who Chuck is, you don’t collect comics. Chuck is the owner/founder of Mile High Comics, and the man responsible for perhaps the greatest “find” in comic history, appropriately named, “The Mile High Collection”. If you’ve never heard the story of its discovery, then I urge you to read Chuck’s first-hand account here. It’s broken into multiple parts, so make sure you set aside some time and read all of them. It’s amazing. A collection so profoundly “perfect” that it single-handedly adjusted the pricing scale for what’s considered “near-mint”. It actually started the practice of labeling comic pedigrees, and is still the benchmark that all other pedigrees are measured against.
Personally, I’ve never seen a “Mile High Copy” of a book. I’ve seen them on eBay, and I’ve seen them get snatched up at auction for many multiples of guide value (In other words, if the near mint price of a book is, say, $20,000, a “Mile High” near mint copy of that same book would go for upwards of ten times that price).
The thing about the Mile High Collection though, is the books we haven’t seen. The ones Chuck kept. The ones he’s never shown in public.
Recently, in Chuck’s newsletter (one of the most eloquent, prolific, consistently entertaining and simultaneously riveting pieces of writing on the subject of comics & the comics business in existence, I believe) he revealed that this year he’s going to take about 40 of his personal “Mile High” comics to display and sell at this year’s San Diego Comic Convention. The collection includes books such as a 1940″Red Raven #1” which is widely considered to be the rarest known Timely-Marvel book ever published, a complete, 22 issue run of Will Eisner’s “Spirit”, published between 1944 and 1948, and a copy of “Feature Book #26”, the highest graded Prince Valiant comic in the world.
Of all the things I am, comic book lover is perhaps the most descriptive. Sure, I collect them, but I collect books I love. I have a deep appreciation for the art form and its history. I wouldn’t normally consider a trip to San Diego, but this year I’ll be truly sad that I’m going to miss an opportunity to see these books. Knowing the pedigree of these books, and knowing the audience of likely buyers, I think there’s a good chance that not only will these books be snatched up and considered a bargain by whoever gets them, but they’ll likely never see the light of day in public again once they’re out of Chuck’s hands. That’s really a shame, but I understand.
So if you’re at San Diego this year, do yourself a favor and stop by Chuck’s booth. Take some pictures, enjoy the experience of the convention, but don’t forget what put that convention on the map in the first place… comic books.