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Sealed case of rare hockey cards found in basement sells for $3.72M

The unopened box of O-Pee-Chee trading cards is believed to be the only one from the rookie season of NHL legend Wayne "The Great One" Gretzky.
Sealed case of rare hockey cards found in basement sells for $3.72M
Posted at 2:17 PM, Feb 27, 2024

A long-forgotten box of old trading cards that was recently  rediscovered in a Canadian basement has now turned its previous owner into a millionaire overnight.

The unopened box of rare hockey cards has just sold for a staggering $3.72 million, according to Dallas-based Heritage Auctions. But it's what could be inside the box that sent collectors with deep pockets flocking with checkbooks open. 

The sealed box is filled with more than 760 unopened packs of 1979-80 O-Pee-Chee hockey cards — nearly 11,000 in total — and it's believed to be the only sealed case containing the coveted rookie card of NHL legend Wayne Gretzky. 

However, it's possible that the box may not just contain a single Gretzky rookie card — but "maybe two dozen, give or take," according to Heritage.

"We knew from the moment we heard this O-Pee-Chee case existed that it would get the attention of hockey card collectors worldwide,” says Chris Ivy, director of sports auctions at Heritage. “And those hockey collectors played an integral part in the success of this Winter Platinum Night event with world record results ... We’re just so proud to have been a part of presenting these treasures to the collecting world.”

According to Heritage, The box's consigner is from the Western Canadian province of Saskatchewan and was a dedicated trading card collector in the 1960s and '70s. However, he'd bought so many different boxes of cards over the years that his family eventually lost count — and lost track of many.

That's until Heritage Sports Card Specialist and Consignment Director Jason Simonds says the consignor's son stumbled upon the case behind "stacks and stacks of other stuff" in a basement. When the whole case was eventually brought to the Baseball Card Exchange in the U.S. to be examined, that's when it was authenticated as the only known sealed box of its kind. 

Heritage called it "the greatest unopened find of the 21st century."

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The $3.72 million price the box went for makes it the most valuable case of unopened trading cards to ever be sold at auction. It shattered the previous record set in 2020, when a sealed case of 1986-87 Fleer basketball cards — featuring the highly sought-after rookie card of NBA legend Michael Jordan — sold for $1.8 million.

Gretzky, 63, of Brantford, Ontario, started his pro career in 1978 with the Indianapolis Racers. But when the team folded, his contract was sold to the NHL's Edmonton Oilers the following year.

Gretzky would go on to win four Stanley Cups with the team and later set the league record for most career points and assists, earning him the nickname "The Great One."

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