According to the owner of the collection, thousands of items from a large collection of sports memorabilia were stolen from a storage unit in northern Saskatchewan.
Aron Gratias said he stored his collection in a 40ft locked storage container near Shellbrook while he moved to Emma Lake.
The memorabilia included a Wayne Gretzky rookie card as well as signed and authenticated hockey jerseys.
Gratias said the collection — focused almost entirely on Gretzky memorabilia — included thousands of hockey cards as well as photos, game tickets and hockey sticks, some signed by the Great.
“My biggest fear is that it ends up in a trash can or a dumpster or a landfill somewhere.” says Gratias.
When Gratias’ father-in-law went to check on the farm over the weekend, he noticed that the locks were broken on one of the storage units and the door was open.
Gratias, who had left for work, asked his wife Tera to check and see what might be missing.
“When she arrived she immediately knew what they were looking for. Everything, every piece of the collection was gone,” he said, adding that the thieves had bypassed other valuable household items at the profit from sports memorabilia.
The couple reported the theft to local RCMP, who opened a case on the matter, Gratias said.
For me, it was invaluable.-Aron Gratias
In response to a request from the CBC, the RCMP submitted a list of items that were stolen.
- 19 signed Gretzky jerseys.
- Large photos of Gretzky and large painting, all autographed.
- Autographed sticks.
- Autographed pucks all in display cases.
- Nearly 10,000 cards including 2,200 by Gretzky, some autographed and a framed Gretzky Rookie Card PSA 8.
- 1979 Mattel dolls still in boxes.
- Figurines, some autographed.
- Autographed Team Canada photos.
“A lot of people asked me what I thought my collection was worth. For me, it was priceless,” Gratias said.
“Many of these items can never be replaced.”
Jack Jensen, owner of West Edmonton Coin and Stamp, specializes in the sale of sports memorabilia.
He said a signed and authenticated Wayne Gretzky hockey jersey could sell for $2,000 and a stick could cost $1,000 to $2,000.
“Some of them can be expensive.”
Jensen said it’s not uncommon to see sports memorabilia stolen for resale.
“Nowadays eBay, Kijiji, online is where most of these criminals are selling this stuff, because there’s not a lot of following.”
Lovers of Gretzky since childhood
Gratias became obsessed with Gretzky as a kid while playing hockey in Saskatoon.
In the 1980s, a parent who worked in Winnipeg received promotional materials, including a hockey stick and trading cards signed by Gretzky. He then passed them on to Gratias.
Thus began his 40-year-old infatuation.
“Even as a young collector, everyone collected all types of players and my passion was to get as many Gretzky cards as possible,” he said.
“I think it was just the intelligence he had for the game, his game, his finesse.”
Gratias has collected items from other players over the years, including items from Sidney Crosby and Edmonton Oilers player Chris Pronger.
But most of his collection was devoted to Gretzky.
“I had Gretzky card binders, strictly Gretzky. I think my last count was 2,100, 2,200 Gretzky cards only,” he said.
“The collection was the story of a life full of passion. It was something I loved to do in my free time. I also loved to show it. I loved to brag about it.”
Gratias’ favorite items included Gretzy’s Canada Cup jerseys from 1984 and 1987 and a 1998 Olympic jersey. He also had a Gretzky-signed photo of Gratias holding the Stanley Cup.
Gratias said people shared her story all over North America and Europe in hopes of finding some of her collection.
“You know, this collection is what’s going to be passed on to my children and to my generations.”