What Would You Do With a Full Case of 1979-80 O-Pee-Chee Hockey Cards?

In a record-setting auction that ended Sunday, February 25, a full case of 1979-80 O-Pee-Chee Hockey cards sold at Heritage Auctions for $3.72 MILLION DOLLARS.

The winning bid, which was placed Saturday night, was for $3.1 million. The “buyer’s premium” that gets tacked on to the winning bid price was $620,000, bringing the grand total to $3.72M. 

What I want to know is, what would someone do with an entire case of 1979-80 O-Pee-Chee Hockey cards?

A case of 1979-80 O-Pee-Chee Hockey cards has 16 boxes. A box has 48 packs. A pack has 14 cards. That means that a full case would have 10,752 cards. That’s a lot of hockey cards! 

[Photo credit: Heritage Auctions]
And here’s how that $3.72M price breaks down. Each box in the case cost the buyer $242,000. That means that each pack cost them $4,843.75 and that each card cost $345.99.

Any way you divide this up, those numbers are still mind-boggling.

So, how many Wayne Gretzky rookie cards might be in that case?

With 396 cards in the set, a case would have an average of 27 or 28 of each card. Conservatively, the case may have 24 Wayne Gretzky rookie cards – or it may have upwards of 28. No card in the set was printed more or less than any other card in the set. 

Now the million – or should I say $3.72 million – dollar question is, what does one do with a full case of 1979-80 O-Pee-Chee Hockey cards?

This OPC Gretzky RC sold for $1.29M in 2020.

Do you bust open all 768 packs, hope to get around two dozen or so Gretzky rookie cards, grade them, hope that some of them get rated as PSA 10’s, and then hope to sell for over $1M each?

That sounds like a great plan…except that only two out of the 12,000 or so Gretzky rookie cards that have been graded by PSA have graded at a 10. One sold at auction in 2020 for $1.29M and the other via a private sale in 2021 for $3.75M. There’s no guarantee that a third Gretzky OPC rookie card with a grade of PSA 10 would sell for that much again. 

Plus, this plan depends an awful lot on “hope” – hope that you get enough Gretzky rookies that are NOT off-center, that DO NOT have poorly-cut edges or wax stains or 45-year-old gum stuck to it…and hope that PSA “grants” these cards the coveted grade of “10.” 

And let’s not forget that PSA Grading charges more to grade a card based on the value of that card. Getting a Gretzky rookie graded costs more than getting a Cam Connor card graded. In other words, if the plan was to make money off of this full case of 1979-80 O-Pee-Chee cards, the buyer is going to have to spend more money. 

But here’s another plan: just leave the case alone. It is a full, sealed – well, re-sealed after it was inspected – case of one of the most-iconic sets in hockey card history. Releasing another 24 or so Wayne Gretzky rookie cards “into the wild” for others to buy is a nice thought…but what to do with the other 10,750 or so other cards?

What would you do if you had this case? Open it up? Leave it alone? Open one box, chew the 48 sticks of 45-year-old gum, build a set, and hope to get one or two nice-looking Gretzky rookie cards? I think that’s what I would do. But what would you do? Leave a reply and let me know. 

Note: This article is an updated version of an editorial that originally appeared in Volume 2 – Issue 9 of the Puck Junk Newsletter. For stories like these, plus news and updates about hockey cards and collectibles, subscribe to the newsletter here.

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Author: Sal Barry

Sal Barry is the editor and webmaster of Puck Junk. He is a freelance hockey writer, college professor and terrible hockey player. Follow him on Twitter @puckjunk

4 thoughts on “What Would You Do With a Full Case of 1979-80 O-Pee-Chee Hockey Cards?”

  1. I would get a great scan of the artwork on the box and print sweatshirts and tshirts. I’ve often thought these graphics need more exposure in the collecting hobby and am sorry I didnt save more of the old wax packs.

    Thanks for a great article.

  2. This is tough. Open for the potential or save for the investment. The buyer had 3.7 million dollars to spend on cards. I don’t think finances are an issue. I would think that the buyer can afford to lose if they decide to open. Certainly the 2 10 PSA grade cards do not bode well for the odds of pulling a 10. I just think back to when I was a kid at the Ski Hut in Wayzata, MN, when these cards were available and wonder…I all I can do is wonder.

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