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Buyer pays nearly US$4M for unopened hockey card boxes, hoping for the ones that will make it all worth it

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A case containing unopened boxes of rare 1979 hockey cards could contain at least one Wayne Gretzky rookie card worth millions of dollars.

Found in a Regina basement, the O-Pee-Chee (OPC) cards were put up for auction and received a closing bid of US$3.72 million — more than C$5 million at today's exchange rate.

 

What was sold?

The buyer bought 16 boxes. Each contains 48 packs, totalling about 10,000 cards from the 1979-80 OPC set.

The set contains images of players during Gretzky’s first season as a pro (1978-79).

What's inside the boxes?

Jason Simonds, consignment director of Dallas-based collectibles auction house Heritage Auctions, said he believes the boxes contain dozens of Gretzky rookie cards from the 1978-79 season.

The cards date back to when Gretzky was a member of the then-World Hockey Association’s Edmonton Oilers.

But it's not actually known which players' cards are in the boxes.

"I think if the boxes are ever opened, you're going to see 25 to 30 packed fresh Wayne Gretzky cards," Simonds said in an interview with CTV News Channel on Monday. "And these cards are going to be hopefully in mint condition and if they are, then the lucky buyer is going to have a great time with this."

What would a Gretzky rookie card sell for?

Simonds says a Gretzky card in mint condition once sold for US$3.75 million, a similar price to what this buyer paid for all 16 boxes, and potentially 30 Gretzky cards. That kind of card would sell for around the $3-million-plus range, he explained.

"Condition is very important," Simonds said. "Now there's no guarantee that you'd get a Gretzky that is in perfect condition but what we have here is a unicorn. We've never seen a case of OPG hockey like this before."

Why were the boxes never opened?

Because the boxes haven't been opened, it's not yet known what value the items may have.

Simonds said his consignor had purchased the case back in 1979 but forgot about it.

"Frankly, this was just a case he never got around to opening," he said. "He had bought two cases, he had opened one and built some sets back in 1979 and he stored the other one away just to get to it at a later point. And after many, many years sitting in his collection, he forgot about it."

Simonds said the consignor's son discovered the case after going through many boxes in the office in the house, and while the case has since been opened, the 16 boxes inside have not.

Does opening the box lessen its value?

Simonds was asked why the seller didn't open the boxes, and if the decision to keep them sealed was something to do with decreasing their value.

"It could, it's a gamble," Simonds said. "It's like the lottery. You know you could open it up and find that one-in-a-million perfect Wayne Gretzky (card), but you could also find cards that are off-centred, cards that aren't quite the condition that you're hoping for. So that's one of the reasons why there's a lot of value to having it as an unopened case because it has that unknown factor to it."

With files from CTV News Regina Digital Journalist Drew Postey 

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