Wayne Gretzky Rookie Card Guide, Values & Investment Analysis

December 1, 2022

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gretzky rookie card guide

When collectors think about the best hockey player of all time, they immediately focus on one player- Wayne Gretzky.

When Gretzky entered the NHL in 1979, the league hadn't seen a player with Gretzky's electrifying skills.

His dominance in the league, even as a rookie, was unheard of, leading to him winning the Hart Trophy as the league's most valuable player in his first year in the NHL.

Gretzky's rookie card has always been in high demand, but even forty years later, collectors still view the Gretzky rookie card as one of the most prized possessions in the hobby. 

Let's take a closer look at Gretzky's 1979-80 Topps and OPC rookie cards, two of the hobby's most valuable hockey cards.

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Wayne Gretzky Topps and OPC Rookie Cards

Wayne Gretzky has two official rookie cards - the 1979-1980 Topps #18 and 1979-1980 O-Pee-Cee (OPC) #18 cards.  

The Topps version was a widespread US release, whereas the O-Pee-Chee cards was sold throughout Canada.  

The fronts of the two Gretzky rookies are identical, aside from one noticeable blemish on the OPC rookie. There is a small yellow print dot on the Gretzky OPC rookie card that is noticeably absent from the Topps Gretzky rookie card. 

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Gretzky's Topps Rookie Card

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The 'Great One's' 1979 OPC Rookie card.

The major difference between the Topps and OPC Gretzky rookie cards relate to the card stock used.  

The OPC cards use a much brighter card stock, which is noticeable when comparing the backs of the cards.  

Under blacklight, the OPC card will fluoresce many times brighter versus the Topps card.  

See below for the comparison of the two backs

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Back of a 1979-1980 Topps Wayne Gretzky Rookie Card

gretzky-opc-rookie-back

Back of a 1979-80 OPC Gretzky Rookie Card

You will also notice that the OPC issue includes English and French on many of the text areas of the back of the card. This only made sense given the Canadian distribution and the predominance of French-only speakers in the country

How Much Is Wayne Gretzky's Rookie Card Worth?

A Gem-Mint (PSA 10) copy of Gretzky's Topps rookie card sold for $1.2 Million in 2022, breaking all previous sales records. 

The latest sales comp for a perfect copy of Gretzky's rookie was in 2020, when a PSA 10 (Gem-Mint) OPC Gretzky sold for $1.3 Million at auction

PSA 9 (Mint) copies of OPC Gretzky rookie cards have averaged over $130,000, while PSA 9 (Mint) Topps Gretzky rookies sell for only a fraction, with recent auction sales at around $30,000.  

Here's a chart from PSA showing Topps Gretzky rookie card values by grade:

topps-gretzky-rookie-card-values-by-grade

And here's a similar chart of Gretzky OPC rookie card values by PSA grade:

gretzky-rookie-card-opc-psa-values

While those PSA 9 and PSA 10 values might be shocking for anyone looking to buy a Gretzky rookie card, there is some good news for collectors.

Lower grade copies can found for much less; in fact an Excellent (PSA 5) copy of Gretzky's Topps rookie card can normally be found for around $1100 or lower.

This chart from PSA shows pricing along with population for each grade.  It shows that the majority of Gretzky's Topps rookie have been graded in the PSA 6 to PSA 8 range.  Note there are only two PSA 10 Topps Gretzky cards!

gretzky-topps-psa-values

When we look at Gretzky's OPC value below, it's interesting to note that the latest sale of a PSA 10 OPC rookie went for $94K but that was back in 2011.  I'm sure either sale, whether Topps or OPC would likely be in the multiple six figures today.

gretzky-opc-rookie-psa

Here's a a comparison of the values between the Topps and OPC rookie card. In nearly all instances, the OPC rookie card has sold for a premium over the Topps card.  On average there is about a 50% premium for the OPC Gretzky card. 

gretzky-rookie-values

How Rare Is Wayne Gretzky's Rookie Card?

In total, PSA has graded nearly 9000 copies of Gretzky's Topps rookie (including qualifiers).  If we included the population stats from Beckett (~4000) and SGC (~2400), this number gets closer to 15,400 total graded copies.  

And note this doesn't even include the raw population which many of can be found on eBay.  

As for Gretzky's OPC rookie card, PSA has graded nearly 10,000 copies, SGC at around 900, and Beckett has graded roughly 4300 copies, for a grand total of over 15,000 graded OPC Gretzky rookies.  

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Many collectors think that Gretzky's OPC rookie card is rarer than his Topps rookie. But the facts are that his Topps and OPC rookie cards have almost the same graded populations.  

Neither is rare, yet demand for Gretzky's rookie card remains strong, and prices continue to rise

What's An Autographed Gretzky Rookie Card Worth?

Average sales on eBay for an autographed Gretzky Rookie card are well into the multiple thousands, dependent on condition.  

Prices vary, based on the condition of the card and the grade of the actual signature. Signed copies also usually fetch a premium if the card itselt has been graded. 

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This signed Gretzky rookie is graded and certified by PSA.  

Gretzky isn't a frequent signer, so the autographed rookie cards, while available, aren't necessarily plentiful.  

Thus if you can get your hands on a nice condition autographed rookie and it isn't priced too far above retail on the regular card, go for it. 

What's The Investment Potential For Gretzky's Rookie Card?

The Gretzky rookie card isn't 'scarce', but he is also considered to be the best hockey player to ever play the game.  

Thus, higher-grade Gretzky rookie cards (both Topps and OPC ) should continue to see a consistent increase in value over time.

Consider the Gretzky rookie card as equal to the Jordan rookie card in basketball.

Thus, for hockey card collectors, the Gretzky rookie is a must-have, staple in any card collection.

How Common Are Counterfeit Gretzky Rookies?

Unfortunately, Gretzky rookie counterfeits are all too common.  The key, especially on any OPC Gretzky is to look for that yellow mark on the shoulder. Without it, you know you have a fake.

gretzky-rc-yellow-dot

That's not all, but we did write an entire piece devoted to identifying a fake Gretzky rookie. I highly encourage anyone buying a raw, ungraded copy to consult with this guide before purchase.

Check it out and if you have any additinal questions--shoot me an email at chris@allvintagecards.com

The Great One - Wayne Gretzky

Wayne Gretzky played for twenty seasons in the NHL, nine years as a member of the Edmonton Oilers, and eight years with the LA Kings. He had a brief in-season stint with the St. Louis Blues and played his final three seasons with the NY Rangers.

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Gretzky is one of, if not, the best hockey player to ever play the game.

He remains to this day, the NHL's leading scorer of all time

Gretzky won four Stanley Cup trophies with the Oilers and won the Hart Trophy (for the league's MVP) an astounding eight consecutive years from 1980-1987 (along with one more in 1989).  

His list of career achievements is mind-boggling, enough to earn its own official Wikipedia page

Gretzky was a hockey savant from an early age, even competing and dominating as a six-year-old in a league full of ten-year-olds.

"Too small, too slow," some scribbled in their notes. "Won't survive the rough play," came other sage predictions. Because he was just five feet eleven inches and 170 pounds, one wag cracked that "he could wear a fur coat on Halloween and go out disguised as a pipe cleaner."

Ken Shouler on Gretzky's Early Critics - Wine Spectator Magazine

Gretzky went on to play one season for the Edmonton Oilers in the World Hockey Association, but they ended up folding the league in 1979.  Four of the teams (including the Oilers) were merged into the NHL, paving the way for Gretzky to play in the NHL. 

Despite Gretzky's early success, many were skeptical of his chances of competing in the bigger, badder National Hockey League

And of course, the critics were wrong.  Gretzky's impact on the game of hockey went much further than his 60 all-time records that stand today.  

His grace and personality gave the sport of hockey a new face to live up to, one that had before been marred by black eyes, heavy drinking, and bloody fights on the ice

But it was his instinctive grasp of the flow of play β€” his sense of how opposing players and teammates would react to each situation β€” that made him such a creative player. His impact on hockey and the void that he left behind were symbolized by the retirement of his number (99) in the NHL. - Canadian Encyclopedia

Gretzky put up some of the most amazing stat lines of all time in his nine years with the Oilers, while leading the team to four Stanley Cup championships.  Then the unthinkable happened.  

He was traded to the LA Kings. Why on earth would the greatest player in the league (who was well on his way to becoming the best of all time) get traded?

It was pretty simple--Gretzky was going to be a free agent, the Oilers were losing money and the allure of the LA market just seemed like the most logical next step for Gretzky's career.  

Gretzky never quite achieved the same personal and team success with the Kings as he did with the Oilers, although it did help turn LA into more of a hockey town.

Wayne Gretzky Rookie Cards For Sale on eBay


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