While we normally like to focus on cards for our readers to invest in, it’s helpful to see what the highest-end values look like. These rookie cards are too expensive for the everyday collector to obtain but serve as an excellent example of how high the hockey market has been trending. Here are the ten most expensive hockey rookie cards sold.
1. 1979 O-Pee-Chee Wayne Gretzky #18 (PSA 10)
Sale Price: $3.75 million
In his iconic rookie card, Gretzky leans in a near-perfect diagonal from the bottom left corner. Stick held towards the bottom right, he looks across the card to the right with the crowd in the background. The blue of his jersey blends with the crowd while the orange trim pops.
The image is framed by a light blue that matches the Oilers logo in the bottom right. The logo itself lies in a small white circle which connects to the ribboned frame of the team name above the image. The city is in black text, the team name in red. Above that, centered, is Gretzky’s name and position in white.
It should come as no surprise that the most valuable card in the hockey market would belong to Wayne Gretzky. The man stands as the greatest scorer in the history of the sport, with first place all-time records in goals, assists, points, and hat tricks. With only two copies of the card graded PSA 10, it stands as an appropriately rare grail among the hobby. Even with a PSA 9 grade, the card has only 91 copies and sells for six figures.
2. 1979 Topps Wayne Gretzky #18 (PSA 10)
Sale Price: $1.2 million
On his Topps rookie card, Gretzky looks… exactly the same as his O-Pee-Chee. The image, the design, even the card number are all the same. The only visible differences between the two cards are on the back. The text is the same, though the O-Pee-Chee has French translations present in addition to the English. To ensure further clarity about which is which, the two cards carry branding between the skate and the blade.
So why the drastic difference in price? In terms of PSA submissions, the two are close. Both have only two tens, but the O-Pee-Chee has an extra thousand or so submissions. While that means the Topps card is rarer, percentage wise, the O-Pee-Chee has a lower chance of being graded a 10. There’s also some historical favor towards O-Pee-Chee; the company has been printing hockey significantly longer than Topps and is doing so in the country that founded the sport.
3. 1966 Topps Bobby Orr #35 (BVG 10)
Sale Price: $276,000
This hockey set from Topps features a simple design in horizontal format. The image is just a headshot of the player, in this case Bobby Orr, in front of an illustration of a match complete with ice, benches, and a crowd.
The image is centered on what looks like a tube television set with a wooden frame. Beneath the image is the player’s name in large yellow text to the left of the center. To the right are the players’ position and team.
As opposed to the 20 years of Gretzky, Orr played only 12 seasons in the NHL. Even so, he managed to carve his name as one of the true legends of the ice. His first season ended with the Calder Memorial Trophy, and in eight others his defensive prowess earned him the James Norris Memorial Trophy. He also earned three Hart Memorial Trophies, two Art Ross Trophies, two Conn Smythe Trophies, and a Ted Lindsay Award.
4. 2015 Upper Deck The Cup Connor McDavid RPA #197 (PSA 10)
Sale Price: $228,000
Wearing the Oilers’ white jersey with blue shoulders and orange trim, McDavid is cut out of the action on this card. Even so, his raised stick and leaned left shoulder make it clear he’s in game time form.
At the top left is the set logo for The Cup in silver. On the opposite side is the card’s serial number out of 99. Each side also has an ice-blue semicircle with bold “ROOKIE” text. Centered just below McDavid’s image is a patch, specified as worn during a rookie photo shoot. Still, it’s a tricolor patch and looks nice – especially with the blue autograph, including his jersey number, below. Interestingly, the auto is over the card text rather than isolated from it, “Autographed ROOKIE PATCH” visible underneath. At the bottom of the card is his name.
Whereas the two previous players on our list have long since finished their careers, McDavid’s is still underway. In fact, his Oilers are currently battling the Golden Knights in the Playoffs as he eyes his first Stanley Cup. Though missing that accolade, he’s earned four Art Ross Trophies, three Ted Lindsay Awards, and two Hart Memorial Trophies. He also sits fourth all-time in career points and assists per game, and first active in both.
5. 1951 Parkhurst Gordie Howe #66 (PSA 8.5)
Sale Price: $205,200
A reasonable expectation from a 1951 card, this one is even simpler than Orr’s ’66 Topps. Howe leans slightly forward with his right shoulder leading. His stick is held low to the ice, slightly cut off by the image’s border. He wears the Red Wings’ red jersey, trimmed with white and paired with yellow gloves. The background is a gradient of light purple and blue.
The simplicity of the card really shines through the design. Below the image is his name, position, and team, along with stats and biographical info. The card’s number isn’t even isolated, stated as “No. 66 in the “PARKIE” 1951-52 Hockey Series” in red. The cards back contain nothing but the cardboard it’s printed on.
Howe played a whopping 26 seasons in the NHL, all with the Red Wings. He helped secure four Stanley Cups for Detroit and earned five Art Ross Trophies and six Hart Memorials for his individual performance. He’s the all-time leader in adjusted goals, 4th in points, and 10th in assists.
6. 2015 Upper Deck The Cup Connor McDavid Exquisite RPA #97 (PSA 10)
Sale Price: $144,000
Like his earlier RPA entry McDavid is cut out of the ice in this card, here resembling a bust sculpture. A few semicircles extend from the four cardinal directions around the patch. The upper bears his name, auto, and “ROOKIE” in bold, while the lower carries the UD logo and Exquisite Collection. The left semicircle states his position, and the right the card’s serial number of 97 – his jersey number.
It’s interesting to see how different the sales price is between these two cards. Both are RPAs, and both patches are stated to be from a rookie photo shoot. Even if only two fewer copies, one would expect the smaller count to fetch a larger price. Given the constant fluctuations of the market, it may simply be the result of when they were sold.
7. 2005 Upper Deck The Cup Sidney Crosby RPA #180 (BGS 10)
Sale Price: $125,200
This card’s image is another small one, taking up a small section of the top third with an action headshot. Only the shoulders and helmet of the Penguins’ white uniform are visible. Unlike McDavid’s entries from The Cup, we can see a bit of background here.
The central design resembles an elongated shield, Crosby’s image in the top section under a bold “ROOKIE” and the patch in a smaller shield in the bottom section. A bolted-on overlay divides the middle, with Crosby’s auto at its center. Also on the overlay is his name above, and his position and team below. The card’s serial number out of 99 is in the top left, “The Cup” logo in the bottom left, and the UD logo bottom right.
Like McDavid, Crosby’s career is still underway. He’s spent 18 years in the league, all with the Pittsburgh Penguins. He’s helped the team win three Stanley Cups, and this season marks the first time they’ve missed the playoffs since he joined. Individually, Crosby’s earned a Mark Messier Leadership Award, two each of the Art Ross, Hart Memorial, Maurice Richard, and Conn Smythe Trophies, and three Ted Lindsay Awards.
8. 2005 Upper Deck The Cup Alexander Ovechkin RPA #179 (BGS 9)
Sale Price: $105,780
This card comes from the same year and set as Crosby’s entry, so the appearance is the same in all but the player. Ovechkin wears the Capitals’ black jersey and helmet in his headshot.
Like Crosby, Ovechkin has spent his 18-year career with one team. Though he’s only led Washington to one Stanley Cup victory as opposed to three, he holds a more impressive array of individual awards. He earned the Calder in his rookie season, and has since received an Art Ross and Conn Smythe, two Hart Memorials, three Ted Lindsays, and a massive nine Maurice Richards.
It’s worth noting that while his top sale is less than Crosby’s, it’s also a full BGS grade below. A 10 of this card would likely bring a sale price to surpass Crosby on the list.
9. 1958 Topps Bobby Hull #66 (PSA 8)
Sale Price: $87,000
Another vintage card, another simple design. Most of Hull’s torso is visible here in his red, Black Hawks jersey. Perhaps it’s just the vibrant green and yellow behind him, but his image looks somewhat shoddily cut from its original picture.
The background colors are split diagonally from the bottom left to top right corners. Hull’s name resides in the green section above his head. The team and position sit in a small green box extending from the right of the card.
Hull spent 15 years with Chicago before joining the WHA where he spent seven in Winnipeg. In the NHL he earned three Art Ross Trophies, two Hart Memorials, and a Lady Byng Memorial for his performance and sportsmanship – in addition to a Stanley Cup. In the WHA he was named MVP twice and helped his Jets to two championships.
10. 2005 Upper Deck The Cup Mario Lemieux/Sidney Crosby Dual NHL Shields #DSLC (PSA Authentic)
Sale Price: $86,400
This card has understandably small space devoted to the players’ headshots as the eyes are drawn to the dual shields. The horizontal card has Lemieux on the left and Crosby on the right. Lemieux’s patch is orange and black, while Crosby’s is silver and black.
Both sides have “NHL SHIELDS” climbing in opposite directions. The positions are outside their images, with the coveted “1 of 1” designation between them. Beneath that is the logo for The Cup, with “AUTHENTIC” in vertical text under it. At the bottom is the Upper Deck logo, the players’ names on either side.
Though the card isn’t solely Crosby’s, he’s still a rookie on it; besides, it’s not just any random vet attached to him. The card symbolizes the passing of the torch from one Penguin to another, both serving as team leaders in their time. Lemieux may not be the rookie here, but his two championships and a dozen plus individual accolades boost the card’s value.
That’s Some Serious Cash
Though it’s often seen as the least valuable of the four major US sports – at least in regard to its card market – its clear value is present. Gretzky’s O-Pee-Chee PSA 10 sale ranks as the 11th highest among sports cards, as tracked by CardLadder.com, proving that the best will always fetch a high price. As long as the sport has fans, it will have collectors. As such, it’s worth looking at hockey cards to add to your portfolio. These ten rookie cards might be out of your budget, but there’s always a new player to keep your eyes on.