'I'm not so passionate about it': Winner of multimillion-dollar Gretzky card case says he's changed his mind

The winner of the multimillion-dollar case of 1979-1980 O-Pee-Chee hockey cards — the set that contains Wayne Gretzky's rookie card — says he no longer wants them and is trying to find them a "better home."

Buyer says he wants to find 'better home' for cards, floats Wayne Gretzky, Drake or childhood crush

A Saskatchewan family is selling a case full of unopened 1979 hockey card boxes, and bidding has topped $1-million. The boxes contain an unknown number of Wayne Gretzky rookie cards like this one.
The case of 1979-1980 O-Pee-Chee hockey cards contain an unknown number of Wayne Gretzky rookie cards like this one. (Jason Warick/CBC)

The man who bought a highly sought-after multimillion-dollar case of hockey cards now says he doesn't want them anymore.

CBC confirmed that Ontario-based real estate agent Jack Arshawsky won the auction for a case containing thousands of unopened 1979-1980 O-Pee-Chee brand hockey cards — the set that contains Wayne Gretzky's rookie card — for $3.72 million US.

However, Arshawsky says he has not paid the full amount for the cards yet, so they remain in the auction house's "vault."

The box of unopened hockey cards was found in a Saskatchewan family's attic. American-based auction house Heritage Auctions, which ran the sale, estimated there could be as many as 25 to 27 Gretzky rookie cards in the case.

A single rookie Gretzky card has previously sold at auction for $3.75 million US.

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Online bidding for the cards went into "extended bidding time," dragging into the early morning, according to Arshawsky.

He said he chugged four Red Bull energy drinks to keep him "focused and sharp" in order to continue bidding competitively.

"I actually have one of Wayne Gretzky's 1979 rookie cards myself, right, and that's what piqued my interest when I heard about the auction coming up," Arshawsky said.

But now he's not so sure he is the best person to possess the cards, he said.

Buyer's remorse?

Arshawsky said the spark just isn't there for him when it comes to card collecting.

"I'm not so passionate about it as I've seen, like, other people in the sports collecting world, like how they're so into it, and it's like their lives kind of revolve around it," said Arshawsky.

He said he's reached out to the likes of Canadian rapper Drake, NHL team owners and Wayne Gretzky's family to see if they might want to own the cards.

He even floated the idea of gifting the cards to his "true soulmate," who he met in his childhood.

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Arshawsky said his feelings about the purchase changed after hearing an interview with a Heritage Auction executive talking about the bidder who came in second place.

The executive in the interview "explained that the runner-up bidder was, like, very disappointed that he missed out on winning the bid, and really, that caused me to have ... empathy for him," said Arshawsky.

"I realize that there are others out there that are much more passionate about this. I started a journey, I guess, to find, I think, what would be a better home for these cards."

720K not paid yet

In the last stretch of the bidding action there were about 15 unique bidders, according to the auction house. It then whittled down to two candidates, who cranked the final price to $3.72 million US, with Arshawsky winning. He said he has paid $3 million, leaving $720,000 remaining unpaid. 

Arshawsky said he believes the safest place for the cards is "in their vault in Texas" — referring to where Heritage Auctions is based out of.

"When I finalize what the final destination for these cards will be, [I] will make arrangements for them to be transferred."

Heritage Auctions said in an emailed statement that it does not provide secure storage indefinitely for items after an auction occurs. Heritage also said the time that buyers have to complete a payment "varies depending on circumstances," but that "there are no limitations" on how soon Heritage could auction the same item again.

Situation is 'bizarre': expert

Ryan Haynee, the owner of Queen City Sports Cards in Regina, said it sounds like Arshawsky "bit off maybe more than he can chew."

He said the situation is a little "bizarre" and this is not normal for a transaction of this magnitude.

"It's definitely unusual and I would say, you know, majority of the time 100 per cent is paid before anything's released."

Ryan Haynee is sitting on a couch and is wearing a grey button-up swear
Ryan Haynee, the owner of Queen City Sports Cards, said the situation that the buyer is currently in is bizarre. (Richard Agecoutay/CBC)

Profit is unlikely in the short-term, according to Haynee, but he said that if the buyer is looking to recoup some of the money, he could potentially open the unopened case — likely the only one in the world — and sell off the 16 individual boxes inside to potentially turn a profit.

Hanyee said he sees a possible outcome where the auction house reimburses Arshawsky and re-auctions the case.

Rich Mueller, an editor at Sports Collectors Daily and an expert in sports cards, agreed this is unusual.

"This is the first time that a high profile item like this, that I can remember, has sold … and the item is kind of in limbo," he said.

Mueller added that auction houses never want this type of situation for any amount of money.

"They don't want to have to, you know, put the item back up for sale again," he said. "That's not what they're in the business to doing and the consignor wants to get paid."

Mueller said there is usually legal language in the contracts that people agree to in order to bid, binding them to pay for an item regardless of what the the price is.

He said depending on what happens, Heritage may take legal action in the future, or they could decide the legal fees are not worth it and try to find another buyer.

Jack Arshawsky is holding a wayne gretzky hockey card
Jack Arshawsky is the winner of the case containing thousands of unopened 1979-1980 O-Pee-Chee brand hockey cards — which sold to him for $3.72 million US. Here he is holding a 1979 Wayne Gretzky rookie card that he already owned, which he credits with piquing his interest in buying the case. (Submitted by Jack Arshawsky)


Liam O'Connor is a reporter for CBC Saskatchewan based in Saskatoon. O'Connor graduated from the University of Regina journalism school. He covers general news for CBC. You can reach him at