Alkaline Paper Advocate

Volume 1, Number 5-6
Dec 1994

Pedigree Comics

by Pat Kochanek

"Pedigree Comics" appeared originally on pp. A-11 and A-12 of The Photo Journal Guide to Comic Books, about five years ago, and was reprinted in the Abbey Newsletter for November. It appears here to show that groundwood papers can stay supple and bright for many decades if they are stored under the right conditions and not used. The "right conditions" are also found in city dumps and under linoleum floor coverings.

No, they are not comic books read by our rare breed pets. They are superbly preserved comic book collections found in single accumulations and their origin record has been maintained. "Pedigree: An ancestral line; lineage; hence, derivation and development." Thank you, Mr. Webster. It may sound a bit snooty, but more and more collectors are finding themselves seeking these historic and well-preserved "finds." Common sense and a nose for good investments is not "snooty."

What's so special about collecting the well-preserved comics of a single identifiable accumulation as opposed to collecting well-preserved books from unknown and not identifiable collections? Good question. I used to criticize other collectors for paying multiples of "Guide" values for pedigree comics . . . until I saw my first full "Church" collection run; it was Jungle Comics #1 through #58. After wiping the little beads of sweat off my forehead, I knew I was hooked. It is hard to put a finger on it, but, for me, it is extra special to have not only a collection of near-perfect comics, but also to know that they were accumulated by a single collector, generally from the same corner grocery store, with the same distributor arrival dates, stored in the same way under the same environmental conditions, and aged with identical grace. It "feels" like one collection, rather than a potpourri of tints, color intensities, and markings.

Sure, condition is the single greatest reason to buy pedigree comics. However, once you start building the numbers, that extra special feeling will creep into your bones, just the way it has with me and with my fellow Pedigree collectors. Let's dig into the best-known pedigree collections.

The "Edgar Church Collection"

Also known as "The Mile High Collection," the Edgar Church collection is undoubtedly the finest collection of comic books ever found. It amazes me that, in a nation of 100 to 200 million persons, 10 billion comics were purchased between 1935 and 1965, and only one such quality collection was accumulated and safely stored! Before we get into the interesting circumstances surrounding these collections, it is important to note that many of those who found these impressive collections are reluctant to reveal the sources or circumstances for personal reasons. (Perhaps the collector requested anonymity, or perhaps no information was ever even obtained.) Our representations in this chapter are based on the best information we were able to obtain from dozens of interviews and from information circulating between collectors and dealers.

The year was 1977, the place was in the "Mile High Comics" store operated by Chuck Rozanski, Denver, Colorado. He received a call from someone stating he wanted to sell his large accumulation of comic books. Apparently, he had tried other dealers and none were willing to travel to his home to view the collection. Chuck Rozanski was willing to check it out. Reportedly, the seller already had a price in mind, $1800 cash, for 18,000 comic books. After some time had elapsed, and with help from Burrell Rowe, Chuck purchased the collection.

The comics were stored in the basement, which was dry, dark and cooler than the rest of the home. They were located in what appeared to be a large pantry located in the center of the basement. The pantry was approximately 6 ft. by 8 ft. with painted shelves all around the walls. When the Churches opened the door, Chuck was almost floored at the sight of almost a solid wall of comic books stacked to the ceiling. All the shelves were stacked solidly, and there were dozens of neat stacks of comics on the floor. Immediately, he could see that the comic books appeared to have been bought and stacked, without having even been read. Clearly, this would be a good investment of $1800.

In addition to the comic books, there were at least a couple of pallets filled with cut-up pulps, magazines of all kinds, advertising samples, calendars, artwork by Edgar Church, and other dissected printed matter. Apparently Edgar Church was a commercial artist and purchased all the newsstand materials in order to aid him in his commercial endeavors. Most of his work was for advertising and he appeared to be best at illus-trating with designs and lettering. He seemed to have some difficulty with drawing human figures. It was perhaps his desire to improve his cartooning skill that had prompted the accumulation of all the comic books, for a future time when he could develop that market for his work. Perhaps he was ready to start cutting up the comics as he did with all the other magazines!!!

Much of the cut-up pulps and magazines were from the 1920s and 1930s. The comics seemed to come later in his already developed career as commercial artist. He purchased virtually every "serious" comic book from 1939 to 1953. He generally did not purchase the "funny" books, like the Dell Publishing comics, or funny animal character comics. Once he got started buying fresh from his supplier, likely a corner store, he went to a used magazine store, "The Reader's Guild," on 14th Street, Denver. There he could buy once or twice read comics from the previous couple of years for only 5¢ to 8¢ each. These copies were sometimes marked with double pencil slashes in the upper left corner, or by the new price marked in pencil.

However, the large majority of his collection was bought from a single source. All the distributor markings are similar, generally a "D" with the arrival date on the left of the cover and a number on the right indicating how many comics were stocked by the distributor, usually 4 to 8 (certainly an indication of the popularity of certain comics in Denver at that time).

The home pictured above [not reproduced here; it was small, suburban, boxlike, with a brick front porch and stairs leading down to the sidewalk] was Edgar Church's home when he collected and stored this fabulous collection. Some of the comics he acquired were subscription copies and thus gave this street address.

I've spent the last five years tracking down copies of this fabulous collection and was able to photograph more than 12,000 of the original copies, many of which I had to purchase in order to be able to photograph. If readers are interested in obtaining any of the copies used in this book, they are for sale and a list of available copies can be obtained by writing to us; Dept: Church Collection.

The details concerning why Edgar Church stopped collecting, why the family sold the collection, or when he passed away are unclear. We intend to respect his personal privacy. While it is known that the last authentic copies from his collection were from 1953/1954, many of the copies from the 1950s do not have identifying marks, and they are not of the same superb quality.

Identifying authentic copies of the original Church collection is a science by itself. Just as authenticating a diamond is next to impossible for you and I, but a snap for a jeweler, so, too, the same applies to "Mile High" (Edgar Church) copies. You should not attempt to authenticate Church copies yourself; if you are wrong you might cheat yourself or perhaps someone else. There are a number of experts around the country who can and will help you with authentification.

We've been on a campaign to encourage owners of authentic copies to certify each with a xeroxed copy of the cover (which acts like a finger-print record) with a list of the previous owners back to original purchase from Chuck Rozanski. If you are interested in the list of qualified experts, send us a S.A.S.E. plus $1 to Dept. Experts. [Note: We at Abbey Publications do not have Pat Kochanek's address, and it is not known whether the offer still stands. -Ed.] To be continued.a

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