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Super trade-in: Claremont collector swaps comic for SUV

  • Comic book collector Steve Kelley, of Claremont, N.H., recently traded a highly graded, first edition copy of Captain Marvel worth roughly $10,000 to a collector in Connecticut for a 1998 Jeep Wrangler with 90,000 miles. Kelley painted the wheel rims Tuesday morning, June 9, 2020, and continues to customize the vehicle with accessories, some that came from the former owner as a part of the deal. "It's a monster," Kelley said. "I mean the money the guy spent on it is crazy." (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Steve Kelley, of Claremont, holds a lower value copy of the Captain Marvel comic book like the one he traded for a Jeep Wrangler at a value of $10,000. The book he traded was graded 8.5 out of ten by Certified Guaranty Company. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Steve Kelley, of Claremont, shows off his newly acquired 1998 Jeep Wrangler and some of its modifications to Jim Guy, of Claremont, a co-worker at Auto Zone in Claremont, N.H., Tuesday, June 9, 2020. He continues to receive parts and accessories from the vehicle's former owner that were part of the trade deal for a high-value comic book from Kelley's collection. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Steve Kelley, of Claremont stands amidst his comic book collection at his Claremont, N.H., home Tuesday, June 9, 2020. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 6/10/2020 9:38:47 PM
Modified: 6/10/2020 9:38:36 PM

CLAREMONT — It started with a question posted in a Facebook group: What is the craziest thing you’ve ever traded for a comic book?

It ended when Claremont resident Steve Kelley picked up his dream car, a refurbished Jeep Wrangler, in Connecticut.

“And now the reaction when people see it and say, ‘Oh, Steve, you got a new Jeep. What did it cost you?’ and I say a comic book, they say, ‘Really what did it cost you?’ ” Kelley said. “I’m just ecstatic because I never thought it could happen.”

Since the 1980s, Kelley has amassed a collection of close to 100,000 comic books. Most are worth a few dollars apiece, he said, but he has others that are worth much more. In that Facebook thread, Kelley read as other comic enthusiasts described trading tools and car parts for comic books.

“Then a light bulb went off in my head,” Kelley said. He’d owned three previous Wranglers, the last of which he ended up selling because it didn’t get good mileage for his old commute. “I loved that thing. It’s one of those things that whenever you see a nice Wrangler go by you say, ‘I used to have one.’ ”

And so Kelley posed a question of his own in the group: Did anyone have a Wrangler they’d be willing to trade for a valuable comic book?

“Never in a million years expecting anyone to ever jump at that ... believe it or not I had six people message me,” said Kelley, who works as a manager at AutoZone in Claremont. “I literally could build up a used car lot with all the vehicles that people want to trade comics for.”

Not all the offers were for a Wrangler: One person offered a Corvette, another a pickup truck, another a motorcycle. Kelley started working on a deal with a man in Massachusetts, but it fell through because the condition of the Jeep wasn’t up to par. Then he connected with a man in Connecticut.

The trade: A Captain Marvel Out of the Holocaust – a Hero!, Vol. 1, published in 1968 and valued at around $10,000, for a 1998 Jeep Wrangler with around 91,000 miles on it. Kelley’s trading partner had bought the vehicle to use on his farm and no longer needed it.

“He was looking to just get back what he spent on the Wrangler in the value of a comic book,” Kelley said.

The comic book’s value was verified by an outside comic grading company, Kelley said. On a 10-point scale, it was valued at an 8.5. The comic was slabbed and graded — meaning it was sealed in a plastic shell.

“When you’re doing a deal like this, and I would do the same thing, I would want to make sure nobody messed with that comic, that it is what I’m getting,” Kelley said.

Kelley viewed photos of the Jeep and talked to the man about the work he put into it before agreeing to the trade. He said the Jeep is better than the one he had to give up.

“The odds of me right now being able to afford one passed,” he said. “Doing the comic trade right out the gate, I got one the same or better than I had before.”

Kelley has a duplicate of the comic he traded, although it is not in as good condition. Comics aren’t Kelley’s only massive collection. He was featured on an episode of the Netflix series The Toys That Made Us to talk about his collection of Star Trek toys. A longtime collector, he is in the habit of scooping up duplicates.

“You didn’t just want to trade what you have, you want to have extra ones,” Kelley said. “You’re always thinking in the same genre. Trade a comic for a comic book or a Star Trek toy for a Star Trek toy. You never think about trading a comic book for a car.”

Liz Sauchelli can be reached at esauchelli@vnews.com or 603-727-3221.




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