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Unopened Case With Wayne Gretzky Rookie Cards Sells for $3.1M

A discovery of Wayne Gretzky rookie cards turns into a windfall as sealed 1979-80 cards fetch millions at auction.

A basement office discovery in Saskatchewan, Canada, has turned into a windfall for a family after an unopened case of ice hockey cards fetched $3.1 million USD ($4.2 million CAD; £2.4 million) at auction this past week. The case, which likely includes multiple Wayne Gretzky rookie cards became a hot auction item. Whether it will ever be opened remains to be seen.

The sealed 1979-80 O-Pee-Chee cards, featuring potential rookie cards of ice hockey legend Wayne Gretzky, were deemed “the greatest unopened find of the 21st Century” by Heritage Auctions in Dallas. The 396-card set could contain over 20 Gretzky rookie cards, each holding significant value in the collector’s market.

The issue for the buyer is whether or not to open the cards and individually see what he’s got. The risk there isn’t that the Gretzky cards won’t be there, but what condition they’ll be in. The most valuable individual Gretzky rookies sell at high prices when the cards are graded well. Bends, creases, off-center cutting, gum issues, and more were often synonymous with cards back then. What that means, is that for each Gretzky found that isn’t in good shape, the value decreases. Whereas, the box unopened will always leave a hint of mystery that all Gretzky cards inside are in mint condition.

Sometimes, the allure of what’s inside is worth more than actually finding out.

Among the Greatest Finds in Sports Card History

The winning bid, made by an anonymous Canadian, will amount to about $3.7 million with a 20% premium. Heritage Auctions had previously sold a Gretzky rookie card for $3.75 million. The family, who wishes to remain anonymous, expressed their joy at the unexpected windfall, having stumbled upon the valuable case while clearing out the father’s office in Regina. The father, described as an “old-school collector,” had purchased the case years ago with intentions of building and selling card sets but never opened it.

Wayne Gretzky’s case sells at auction for $3.7 million. One of the great collectible finds in history: photo via Heritage Auctions

The sealed case, containing 16 boxes with a total of over 10,000 cards, was authenticated before going to auction, marking a remarkable find in the world of sports memorabilia. The discovery has ignited interest in the collector’s community, emphasizing the enduring allure of vintage sports cards and their potential value decades later.

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