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The box went to an anonymous buyer in Canada, Mr. Simonds said, breaking the record for the most money spent on unopened sports cards and the most anyone has spent on a hockey collectible.

Baseball Card Exchange, an authenticator that specializes in unopened vintage sports cards, confirmed that 16 wax boxes were inside the case. Each box contains 48 packs of cards, with 14 cards per pack, for a total of more than 10,000 cards. The set contains 396 different player cards, which means that if the assortment were perfectly random, it would contain 27 Gretzky cards, according to the auction house’s listing.

If the case does contains a couple dozen of the prized Gretzky cards, they might not be in good condition, Mr. Simonds warned. The cards could be slightly off-center, have ink smudges or other flaws.

The buyer might never find out.

Mr. Simonds said that if the case were to be opened, it would likely be to sell the individually sealed boxes inside. “There’s not a lot of people that are willing to spend $4 million on a case of hockey cards,” he said, “but at a quarter-million dollars a box, there’s a slightly larger audience.”

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