never open anything ever.

What kind of psychopath-child got Super Mario for Nintendo in the 80’s and didn’t immediately rip it open and play?

I don’t know… but around 300 of the original still-sealed Mario Bros. have been authenticated and graded to date, so it happened at least that many times. 

After Rally’s sealed copy of Mario sold for $2,000,000 in late 2021, our entire team started thinking more about the “Don’t Open It” phenomenon. With historically recent collectibles of the still-sealed variety grabbing headlines (iPhones, modern toys, etc), the “how did they not open that??” mystery grows.

In this week’s installment of Shiny Thing$, we’re answering the question “Why the F*CK didn’t they open it?” for 3 of the most expensive sealed collectibles in recent history… starting with a HUGE sale from this past week.

The $3.7M Case of Hockey Cards

For those not in the trading card world, “O-Pee-Chee” is the Canadian sister brand of Topps Trading Cards, and as such, is the brand on some of the most important Hockey cards of all time. None are more important than the Wayne Gretzky Rookie card from the 1979/80 set. While over 6,000 of that Gretzky Rookie Card have been authenticated and graded, a grand total of TWO have received a PSA 10 distinction - perfect copies - and they’re worth millions.

So when an entire CASE of the 1979/80 O-Pee-Chee cards became available (containing 16 boxes and 10,752 total chances to pull a Gretzky rookie card), it was big news. It was the first time a case of the famed set has ever surfaced, and the box was in perfect condition after 43 years.

But How?

Some collectors just keep buying and buying, stacking boxes for years, and basically forget what they have… and somehow, that was the case here (no pun intended). The owner is described as a "rabid collector" and apparently was not aware that he even had the case for around 3 decades until a “very recent accounting of a long-forgotten pile of boxes in his home in Saskatchewan.” 

This dream of misplaced-millions usually never materializes, but this time it did, and the reward for this particular find was a final price of $3.7M. According to Heritage Auctions who sold the case, the find was “a thrilling miracle of survival, and one of the greatest trading card lots that Heritage has ever had the privilege to offer.”

PS - Wayne Gretzky rookie cards only receive a grade of 9 or higher about 1.5% of the time, but you can currently make an offer of $4.65M through Heritage if you want to take it off the new owners hand and gamble. 

1,000 Songs (+ $29K) in Your Pocket

Sometime last year, sealed iPhones started getting a lot of attention as they broke the 6-figure mark at auction. But waiting in the wings was the original life-changing pocket-sized Apple device - the iPod.

In August of 2023, Rally’s sealed first-generation iPod sold for a world record $29,000. But it wasn’t just any sealed iPod. This one had not seen the light of day since its initial release, and even came with the original (now retired) iconic blue Apple shopping bag, and the crazy bulky leather carrying case that Steve Jobs must have HATED, which was also still sealed.

So who got an iPod during the launch and didn’t immediately load it with hits from Destiny's Child, Sugar Ray, and Staind?

His name is Joseph Goodwin, and it was a Christmas present from his parents Fred and Betty. The 5GB iPod was originally purchased for $399 + tax in December of 2001 at Willowbrook Mall in Plano Texas at an Apple Store that was actually opened just before the iPod release in anticipation of the release. It was such a celebrated opening that the Fire Department had to show up to do crowd control. 

When he received the iPod, Joseph was almost scared to open it - he saw it as a gift that was too extravagant. In his own words, it was “for that reason, I decided to leave it unopened until I decided what to do with it. So shortly after Christmas I placed the blue Apple Store bag with the iPod on a shelf in a closet.” It remained in that bag on that shelf in the same closet until the summer of 2020 when it was rediscovered while cleaning out the house after the passing of his father. 

His goal was to have it “become part of a respectful, appreciative Apple enthusiasts collection or go to some other institution such as a museum, where it can be displayed for others to see and enjoy” - which is by chance where it sat in the Rally Museum in NYC until it found its new home. 

A Rolex Worth a Month’s Salary

The pandemic was a crazy time for collectibles, and the prices had everyone checking their closets, attics, and basements for the million dollar item they stashed away long ago. But basically everything everyone had was worthless junk.

Not the case for a US Air Force Veteran named David, who appeared on the PBS classic Antiques Roadshow in 2020. His military draft number was 7 - one of the earliest men enlisted, and her moved around multiple bases throughout the early 70’s. His story, and the windfall that came with it created one of the most viral collectible moments of 2020.

The item in question: a pristine Rolex Daytona reference 6263, known as a “Paul Newman Rolex” to most collectors, as it was Newman’s watch of choice that he made famous after being gifted one in 1968 and wearing it religiously. 

David bought the watch while stationed in Thailand in the early 70s, almost by pure luck. It was out of his price range - in his words “a month’s salary” - at $345. He knew of the brand “Rolex” only because he had heard it was a good brand for scuba diving, and after flying around Asia, he noticed that most pilots were wearing Rolexes. So he ordered it through the base exchange as one of those can’t-stop-thinking-about-it purchases that you often feel like you shouldn’t make.

He NEVER wore it.

According to David, after the purchase he realized “the watch was too nice to take down into salty water, so I just kept it.” He put it in a safety deposit box for 40 years, taking it out twice “too look at it” but never put it on his wrist. 

Fast forward 45 years, and David found himself on the set of Antiques Roadshow with a watch that over that period had taken on a life of its own with collectors, becoming one of the most highly sought after Rolex watches of any era. Not only that, his example included every piece of documentation, handwritten receipt, all boxes and brochures, and super rare blank warranty papers. His was also “Oyster” stamped, which was only done for a very short time in the early 70s.

As it goes with Antiques Roadshow, watch expert and host on this particular episode, Peter Planes, eventually gave David the big reveal: “because of the condition of it… your watch at auction today, 500,000 to 700,000 dollars.” 

At that point, David collapsed on set

Planes continued, “one of the greatest watches to ever been seen on Antiques Roadshow, and thank you very much for your service.”

Keep checking those attics, and keep it sealed… Until Next Week...