How to Tell if a 1979 O-Pee-Chee Wayne Gretzky Card is Fake (Step-By-Step Guide)

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Fake 1979 O-Pee-Chee Wayne Gretzky Rookie Card
Above is a real 1979 Wayne Gretzky O-Pee-Chee RC. Notice the yellow dot on his left shoulder as it is the easiest way to ID a real Wayne Gretzky OPC RC.

When it comes to fakes, the 1979-80 O-Pee-Chee Wayne Gretzky rookie card has to be seen as one of the most popular in existence, up there with the Jordan RC in terms of the number of fraudulent versions being sold at any given time.

In part, it’s due to the high value of the card and is helped by containing a consensus GOAT of the sport. 

The first hockey card to break the $1m mark, it’s no surprise that fake cards are a risk when buying any raw copy, especially if you’re purchasing from an online seller. 

How do I know if my Wayne Gretzky rookie card is real? (Quick Summary)

Yellow dot on Wayne Gretzky’s left shoulder is REAL.
Look for smooth color schemes for REAL (pixelated color schemes will be FAKE).
Card value super low is a huge indicator of a fake/reprint Wayne Gretzky rookie card.

Imagine you send the card off for grading, and the prized RC you’ve been waiting for actually turns out to be a poor imitation of the real thing. 

It happens fairly regularly, with a recent example being retired teacher John Poole, who paid $1,000 for a raw copy that turned out to be fake.

He even headed to Stratford personally to inspect the card and found some of the telltale signs consistent with the real deal — including a yellow dot on Gretzky’s shoulder, crisp lettering, and no pixel marks. 

Of course, he was unable to get a refund when he contacted the seller afterward. 

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Every collector/investor should be wary when buying ungraded older cards, so here’s everything you need to know about spotting a fake OPC Gretzky RC.


About the Card: 1979-80 O-Pee-Chee Wayne Gretzky RC

We’ve focused on the OPC Gretzky rookie card as part of our Card Chronicles series, which looks at a particular release in-depth.

It notes that there are a couple of reasons why it’s tough to find gem mint copies as of 2021. 

The first of course is age. The card was produced in 1979, and it’s difficult to keep cards in perfect condition for such a long time. 

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Second is the light blue color that surrounds the front of the card. While it is appealing to look at, many of the cards have seen the bright blue-chip or fade, lowering the overall grade. 

Lastly, many of the cards were cut poorly – either off-center or with rough borders – due to the method used by OPC. 

These issues persist in many of the cards you’ll see today and are the reason why if you manage, by some miracle, to find a 1979 OPC Gretzky rookie card kicking around in your old collection it is likely that you will not be able to sell it for much. 

In fact, it may not be worth anything at all. 

The reason is that the 1979 O-Pee-Chee Wayne Gretzky RC is one of the most commonly counterfeited cards ever made. 

The combination of the icon on the card and the sky-high value of the card has plenty of people producing fake cards and trying to pass them off as real.

But what are the best ways to spot a fake in the wild? Here’s a step-by-step guide to ensuring that you don’t get burned. 

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1. Checking the Card Stock

One of the easiest identifiers is the card stock. 

OPC cards from 1979 used glossy, whiter stock than their US counterparts, and the difference is easy enough to identify by eye for many experts.

(Of course, this is harder to determine when looking at online auctions.)

As they were printed by OPC rather than Topps, there are differences in the cut when looking at both cards side by side. 

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Topps cards used a blade, while OPC cards were cut using a wire. This gives the latter a rougher cut, which is one of the reasons why it’s tough to find versions that have achieved a higher grade in the present.

They also tend to be slightly thicker than reproductions, which is easier to discern if you manage to get hold of a stack of cards from the set. 

However, for the best results, we’d combine checking the stock with each of the steps below. 


2. Identifying the Ink

It’s easy to find images of forgeries online, which lack a number of details compared to the real thing. 

Most forgeries are easy to spot if you know what to look for, but some are more convincing than you might have expected. 

We’d advise using a loupe to go over the card, magnifying any potential issues. 

The ink and the overall quality of the image are two of the more obvious details to look out for. 

fake wayne gretzky rookie card
Notice the Oilers red ink looks like little dots = FAKE
how to id fake wayne gretzky rookie card
Oilers smooth no dots = Real

Think of it as if the counterfeiter is doing their best to replicate the image on the front of the card. 

They might be able to produce a convincing replica, but they’ll lack the necessary printing tools needed to make it perfect. 

This can be seen when zooming in on many elements of the card, such as the name of the team at the top, or the blue tab. 

Authentic Gretzky rookies have blue dots while fakes tend to have a mixture of colors.

The collector who got burned with a $1,000 fake only used a loupe when he got home, which proved to be an expensive mistake. 

“You can’t see it with the naked eye,” Poole said. “I looked at the card and there were pixelations on different areas where there shouldn’t be.”

Lastly, look out for cards that have been reproduced too well. Perfect centering tends to be another major giveaway that it’s not a real original.


3. Yellow Dots 

Important enough to deserve its own section, the yellow dot found on Gretzky’s shoulder is one of the easiest ways to identify blatant forgeries.  

It’s extremely visible on authentic versions, with the blemish an unwanted byproduct of the printing process.  

How do you tell if Wayne Gretzky rookie card is a reprint?
Yellow Dot left shoulder = REAL

As for why it’s missing from many fakes, this is because of the reprinting process, as minor details are lost each time the image is copied. 

However, there are counterfeits that also come with a yellow dot, so ensure to look at the card with a loupe carefully while considering the other steps on this list.


4. Print Lines and Borders 

With the OPC variation, sometimes it’s as easy as checking out the back for any errors. 

Many of the OPC Gretzky rookie cards have blue lines that run vertically down the entire card, which is easy to spot when set against the plain white background.

wayne gretzky rookie fake
Above: Border smooth, solid lines = REAL
wayne gretzky rookie reprint
Above: Borders look pixelated = FAKE

Black borders on the front will be smooth if magnified, and the same is true for the white lettering for the player name. 

Forgeries will be blurry, so it’s another telltale sign that the card in question is a reprint.


5. Prices and Grading 

Considering the asking price, or checking out various graded options is another way to avoid many fakes. 


‘79 Gretzky RC: Values 

The card is a valuable collectible. In 2016 it sold for $465,000 at auction, setting the record for the most expensive hockey card ever sold. 

The version was given a PSA Gem Mint 10, the first O-Pee-Chee 1979 Gretzky to ever receive the lofty grade. 

The card was sold once more in 2020, again becoming the highest-selling hockey card of all time when the mint condition version fetched $1.29 million in an online auction in December.

There are very few of these cards that have received high grades, much less a Gem Mint 10.

In terms of fakes, a simple rule is to avoid any deal that seems too good to be true

You’d have to be living under a rock to not have heard of Gretzky, while a cursory Google search would give you a rough idea of the potential value of his RC. 

Be wary of any sellers who just happen to be selling the card for a discount price, or if they’re ‘not sure’ if it’s real. 

You can always pick up a cheap reprint yourself for next to nothing to get a feel for fake versions beforehand.

eBay is also a great source for recent sales prices.


Graded ‘79 Wayne Gretzky RCs 

Grading services tend to be a great way to avoid potential forgeries as it works as a form of due diligence. 

After all, if a card has been sent off to the likes of Beckett or PSA, it’s most probably the real deal.

A graded Gretzky RC will be worth far more than the equivalent raw version, but it does come with various benefits. 

For example, as long as the slab is legitimate, you’ll be able to check PSA cards thanks to a QR code on the reverse.

Beckett has also released a new tamper-evident certification sticker as of 2021

This new sticker features a proprietary custom branded hologram and incorporates a QR code for easier verification.

There have been reports of tampered slabs in the past and can check out a PSA Security article for more information about their ‘enhanced tamper-evident holders’ which are used to encapsulate trading cards.

It’s no coincidence that the most valuable Gretzky RC was a gem-mint-graded version. 


How do you tell if a 1979 O-Pee-Chee Wayne Gretzky Rookie Card is Fake: Summary  

In most cases, a fake card is produced by directly copying the image. 

This makes it easier to tell the difference under a microscope, but it gets a little muddier when you consider the age of the card, as well as the extreme value of versions that have achieved a high grade. 

It’s simple enough to spot a fake OPC Gretzky RC with the right know-how, but they still manage to trick many unsuspecting collectors who just can’t turn down a deal.

If it’s too good to be true, it’s probably better to look to graded versions, even if there’s not as much potential for profit. 

At worst, you can grab a reprint, and hold it up against any raw cards that you are thinking of purchasing. 

It’s also a good idea to pick up a few cheap cards from the OPC set, just so you can get a rough feel for what they should look like. 

As the most expensive hockey card ever sold, it’s always going to be a high-risk move if you decide to buy a raw copy online. 

We’d stick with graded versions, or at the very least we’d advise to take a loupe with you if you plan to check out the card in person.


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