You don’t have to go back far to find a reminder of why investing in Gretzky rookie cards is a good idea. Scratch that—a Great idea. I’ll take you back to December 2020. As the year fizzled to an end, something significant happened that sports card investors worldwide collectively raised two eyebrows at.
A Wayne Gretzky rookie card, the O-Pee-Chee RC #18 (which we have featured previously on Gold Card Auctions), sold for $1.29 million.
Gretzky O-Pee-Chee rookie cards are among the rarest and most coveted assets on the trading card market. Two factors explain the strong demand for his RCs:
- He is the greatest hockey player that has ever entered the rink
- O-Pee-Chee Wayne Gretzky rookie cards with a PSA 10 grade are almost impossible to locate, and if you do, get ready to pay through the nose.
Let’s take a deeper look into the two Wayne Gretzky hockey cards and explain how you can get your hands on them.
1979 Wayne Gretzky O-Pee-Chee RC #18
The 1979 O-Pee-Chee Wayne Gretzky #18 contains the same image as the Topps Gretzky RC issued in the same year. Virtually everything about the cards appears to be the same. And yet, the 1979 O-Pee-Chee Gretzky RC goes for hundreds of thousands to a million bucks, while you can get your hands on a Topps equivalent for a few grand. So much of the determination of value comes down to rarity. This case is no different.
There is fewer mint O-Pee-Chee Wayne Gretzky RCs in circulation than Topps Gretzky RCs. And, to be clear, the cards do have actual differences. The Topps cards are generally thought to be printed on sturdier stock, which explains the more significant number of good-condition Topps.
Flip the card over, and you’ll find another distinction: the O-Pee-Chee card contains French language (in addition to English), while the Topps version is English-only.
The back of an O-Pee-Chee card also contains copyright confirming that it is an O-Pee-Chee rather than a Topps. These differences matter to hundreds of thousands (or millions) of dollars.
1979 Wayne Gretzky Topps RC #18
A young Wayne Gretzky made his debut in the World Hockey Association (WHA) in 1978. Because league rules prohibited the NHL from signing any player under the age of 20, 17-year-old Gretzky signed a seven-year contract with the WHA.
When the WHA’s financial woes caused the league to collapse, Gretzky’s team—the Edmonton Oilers—was absorbed by the NHL. And thus, 1979-80 became the first NHL season for a teenage Gretzky.
This brings us to the 1979 Topps Wayne Gretzky RC #18.
The image on this card is the same as on the 1979 O-Pee-Chee Wayne Gretzky #18 (more on that card in a bit). Young Gretzky balances at a near-45-degree angle, eyes peering upward towards what we presume to be the scoreboard.
Cloaked in the same blue-orange color scheme that the Edmonton Oilers use today, Gretzky’s visor-less blue helmet serves as a sign of NHL days past.
The card very much feels like 1979 as well. The light blue border serves as the backdrop for Gretzky’s youthful likeness. A white accent features “Edmonton” in black block text and “Oilers” in red. A subtle “Wayne Gretzky” and “C” let you know that you are staring at the G.O.A.T. during his first year in the league.
“Names like Gretzky don’t fade with time; they only become more appreciated. If you keep your Topps Gretzky RC in prime condition, your investment will surely appreciate as well”
An Oilers logo in the bottom right corner of the card is as exotic as this card’s stylings. It’s simple, but you have to keep in mind how many trading cards have evolved since the late 70s. Simple was the rule, not the exception, at that time.
Trading cards were also far more vulnerable to damage back in the day. The stock they were printed on is highly susceptible to bends and breaks. Therefore, securing a mint or near-mint condition 1979 Topps Wayne Gretzky RC #18 will cost you good money, generally a few thousand dollars (at least).
Is it a steep price point? Hardly, considering that a Gretzky RC (albeit not the Topps version) just sold for more than a mill.
1990 Wayne Gretzky Upper Deck Hockey Card #54
This card is one of our favorite Wayne Gretzky hockey cards. First, the stare-down is epic. Second, Upper Deck makes a super-quality card, and the odds of pulling a high grade are much better than any other card printed at the time. Third, a French version has low numbers at a PSA 10 grade.
Related: Best Hockey Card Packs To Buy Now
Our advice? Load up on a bunch of 1990 Upper Deck Wayne Gretzky French #54 hockey cards at a PSA 10, SGC 10, or BGS 9.5 grade, and thank us 20 years from now when the ROI on these is through your roof and to the moon.
2012 Wayne Gretzky Fleer Retro Metal Universe Precious Gems #9
You know what we want. The above and Michael Jordan Red Precious Gems card are both graded BGS Black Label. And have them both sides in a frame, signed by both of them. One can dream, right?
1991 Wayne Gretzky Upper Deck #447
Much like in 1990, the Gretzky UD card is also available in a French version, but the photo could not be more different. You are familiar with this card if you grew up in the late 80s or early 90s. We love this card and will buy hobby boxes in French over the next few months to see how many we can get on the cheap. Again UD cards grade well vs. the cards at the time.
- 1979 Topps Wayne Gretzky RC #18
- 1979 O-Pee-Chee Wayne Gretzky RC #18
- 1978 National Sports Cards WHA Pre-Rookie #1 Wayne Gretzky Indianapolis Racers (pre rookie card)
- Wayne Gretzky Seneca Nationals #NO# Pre Rookie RC (PRE RC)
Wayne Gretzky Rookie Card Values
The most expensive Wayne Gretzky rookie card is the 1979 O-Pee-Chee Hockey Wayne Gretzky RC #18 PSA 10, which sold for $1,290,000 via Heritage Auctions on 12/23/2020.
How to ID a Wayne Gretzky rookie card reprint?
The 1986-87 Fleer Michael Jordan Rookie Card is the King of fake cards, but the 1979-80 O-Pee-Chee Wayne Gretzky rookie card isn’t too far behind. One of the best ways to spot a fake Wayne Gretzky rookie card is by examining the name and team name on the card.
The actual Gretzky rookie card will be smooth ink without dots. The fake reprint usually contains small little dots that make up the name and team name (see an example below).
You can also check out the area of white ice on the card. This authentic Wayne Gretzky OPC RC area should have fine blueprint dots and white ink. The Wayne Gretzky RC reprint (or fake card) usually has red print dots in with the blue dots.
Think you have a fake Wayne Gretzky rookie card? Let us take a look. Email firstname.lastname@example.org and include close-up images of the player name/team name and images of the ice.
There are a few names in the trading card game that you can bank on. If you own a mint or near-mint rookie card of these guys, you can sit on it and count your returns later.
- Investment Rating: Strong Buy (4.8 out of 5)
- Ownership Disclosure: None
- Risk/Return Analysis: Low to Ultra Low Risk/High Returns
- Best Wayne Gretzky Rookie Card: The best Wayne Gretzky rookie card from an ROI perspective is the 1979 O-Pee-Chee RC #18
Names like Jordan, Jeter, Bonds, and Brady are bankable names from the modern age. But Gretzky deserves a class of his own. Winner of the Hart Memorial Trophy for the NHL’s Most Valuable Player as a rookie—the first of eight straight and nine overall. Eight-time NHL All-First Team. Seven-time NHL All-Second Team.
Four-time Stanley Cup winner. The list of Gretzky’s accolades is enormous. The title of an undisputed greatest hockey player is enough to drive the value of Gretzky’s RCs.
Throw in that there are only two bonafide Gretzky rookie cards in circulation, and you’ve got one heck of an investment opportunity staring you in the face. You might choose to invest in a Topps or O-Pee-Chee based on your budget. Either card is readily available for acquisition through eBay at varying price points.