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Unopened Box of Ice Hockey Cards Sells For $3 Million

An unopened case of ice hockey cards found in a basement has earned a family $3.1m at auction.

unopened case of ice hockey cards from 1979-1980
Credit: Heritage Auctions

Heritage Auctions, which is based in Dallas, called the discovery of the pristine 1979-80 cards from the now-defunct O-Pee-Chee candy and trading card brand, "the greatest unopened find of the 21st Century".

The Canadian family who discovered the dusty case tucked away in the basement of their Saskatchewan office were "ecstatic" at the sale, an auction house spokesman said. The winning bid was made by a Canadian - who is choosing to stay anonymous - who has no certainty of what's inside the box. But there could be as many as 27 "rookie cards" of Wayne Gretzky, one of the sport's greatest ever players.

Rookie cards are the first that depict an athlete as a professional player, and many collectors will pay a premium for them.

Wayne Gretzky, ice hockey player
Wayne Gretzky | Wikipedia

An individual Gretzky card can fetch anywhere from a few thousand to hundreds of thousands of dollars. Heritage Auctions sold one 1979 O-Pee-Chee card for $3.75m three years ago - a record. So, if there are, let's say, 20 rookie cards in the box, and the buyer of the unopened box decides to sell them all - and they each achieve, say, $3m - well, you do the math.

Heritage Auctions said in its lot description that because there are 396 cards in the set, there could be about 27 physically pristine Gretzky rookies inside the brown cardboard case. "And, I mean, there's no guarantees, but it would be a pretty big statistical anomaly" for it to deviate greatly from that number, said Jason Simonds, a sports cards specialist at Heritage.

Cases like this one were originally intended to be sold to large stores who would open them and sell the individual packs to customers.


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