Unopened Box of More Than 10,000 Hockey Cards Sells for $3.7 Million

A sealed case filled with unopened boxes of Canadian hockey trading cards sold for $3.72 million on Sunday after a father and son found them while cleaning the father’s house in Saskatchewan.

The high price takes into account the mystery inside: The case could contain as many as 30 of the holy grail of collectible hockey cards, a Wayne Gretzky rookie card from 1979. Or it might not.

The buyer is likely content with the uncertainty, and prepared to never know the answer, explained Jason Simonds, a sports card specialist at Heritage Auctions, the Dallas-based auction house that brokered the sale.

“The person who buys this, one night could crack open a couple beers and open up the case and then go to town on these 16 boxes,” Mr. Simonds said. “But chances are it’ll stay as a case for at least the foreseeable future.”

This is because unopened boxes are not purchased just for the potential riches inside. Some people appreciate the nostalgic value of boxes from the 1970s and 1980s and might display them as they are. Others buy unopened boxes as investments. If the Gretzky card and others continue to increase in value, so will the case sold on Sunday, Mr. Simonds said.

“When it comes to card collecting, a lot of times it’s not just purely for profit,” Mr. Simonds said. “It’s because they have some sort of draw toward Mickey Mantle or Babe Ruth or Joe DiMaggio or, in this case, Wayne Gretzky, which is the hockey equivalent of those guys.”

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