Wayne Gretzky is considered by many to be the greatest player in the history of the National Hockey League.
Gretzky retired from professional play after the 1998–99 season and was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1999.
His career totals include 2,857 points and 894 goals, which are both all-time records.
Here’s what you need to know about the famous duo of Wayne Gretzky rookie cards, which made headlines after a copy sold for $3.75 million in a private sale brokered through Heritage Auctions in May 2021.
The Best Wayne Gretzky Rookie Cards
Wayne Gretzky rookie cards were released during the 1979-80 season. There’s only two to choose from, and they’re exceptionally similar in terms of design. We’ll start with the version that’s more widely available.
2. 1979-80 Topps Wayne Gretzky RC #18 (eBay)
The iconic design of 1979-80 Topps Hockey is slightly dated by modern standards, but it was released over 40 years ago! It features a simple action shot of a rookie Gretzky on the ice, with an Oilers logo found on the bottom right corner.
Incredibly rare if you’re looking for pristine copies, the blue border is prone to wear and chipping. These condition-related issues have also led to scarcity when looking at flawless copies.
There are just 2 PSA 10 copies, with a further 127 earning a PSA 9 grade. Regardless, you’ll be paying a premium to add this Wayne Gretzky rookie card to your collection.
1. 1979-80 O-Pee-Chee Wayne Gretzky RC #18 (eBay)
Almost identical to the Topps release, the Canadian O-Pee-Chee Gretzky RC was the one that broke the sales record mentioned in the intro.
That’s because there are just two O-Pee-Chee versions of this rookie card graded as Gem Mint 10s in PSA’s population report, with a further 91 graded as a 9.
A PSA 10 version sold for $1.29m in December 2020. The card that sold in December had previously sold for $465,000 in 2016 and $94,000 in 2011.
That gives some indication of just how important it is within the hobby, and highlights the massive profits achieved by a handful of collectors.
1979-80 O-Pee-Chee Hockey would be our personal preference when choosing between the two Gretzky rookie cards, given the increased scarcity seen with the Canadian version of the card.
Wayne Gretzky Rookie Cards: Fakes and Forgeries
Given the current values, it’s no real surprise that the Wayne Gretzky rookie card is one of the most faked items on the market. (Along with the likes of the Michael Jordan Fleer RC.)
After all, ungraded copies can sell for upwards of $1,000, more so if it looks to be in decent condition.
We’d be wary if you’re offered a deal which seems too good to be true. But how do you spot a fake Wayne Gretzky rookie card in the first place?
How to spot a fake Wayne Gretzky rookie card
The original OPC Wayne Gretzky rookie has a yellow ink mark on the left shoulder. This is one of the main ways to identify that the card is authentic. (It’s especially hard to recreate print spots faithfully.)
The edges of the card can also be checked out to determine legitimacy. As they were cut with a metal wire, they’re likely to be slightly rougher and less precise than modern releases.
Finally, the image itself is likely to be blurrier than the original, as it has been reprinted.
If you’re looking at a Wayne Gretzky rookie card with crisp edges and a blurrier image; it’s probably not worth taking the risk.
Of course, it’s easier to identify a fake in person, which is one of the reasons why we’d advise to stick with graded versions that have been authenticated. At the very least, look out for reputable sellers, who have a track record within the hobby.
The Best Cheap Wayne Gretzky Cards
You’ll struggle to find a decent Gretzky RC for a cheap price. Even PSA 1 graded copies will sell for roughly $700. As you may have guessed, this is because demand vastly exceeds supply.
Almost any hockey fan would love a Gretzky rookie card, and we don’t think that there’s much chance of prices falling over the next ten years.
The Best Wayne Gretzky RC
Wayne Gretzky rookie cards have to be seen as one of the best investment options within the hobby. He’s a Hall of Fame all-time record holder, who is second to none in terms of legacy.
The OPC card would be our personal pick, but you will be paying a premium for the Canadian version of the RC.
It might take a decade, but we’re confident that the 1979 Wayne Gretzky rookie cards will break further sales records in the future. There’s no denying Gretzky’s GOAT status, while it’s not like you’re spoiled for choice.
Two near-identical options have helped to keep prices stable at the lower end, even if it’ll set you back by four figures.
However, the same can’t be said for pristine versions of either card. They are some of the most valuable when looking at hockey RCs.