Wayne Gretzky Rookie Cards
The 1979-80 O-Pee-Chee and Topps Wayne Gretzky card #18 are easily the most recognized Wayne Gretzky rookie cards in the hobby. However, there are a few other cards that were issued in 1979 that collectors should be aware of. In this post, I’ll cover the mainstream OPC and Topps rookies, a couple of obscure rookies, and a few other early Gretzky cards.
1979-80 O-Pee-Chee Wayne Gretzky card #18
The 1979-80 O-Pee-Chee Wayne Gretzky #18 rookie is one of the most recognized and sought-after cards in the entire card collecting hobby. That is saying a lot for a hockey card because hockey usually takes a backseat to baseball, football, and basketball in terms of collector’s interest. It’s even more impressive when you consider that this card isn’t that old relatively speaking. You’d be hard-pressed to think of a card from any sport in the 1980s that is worth more in gem-mint condition. The rookie of any player who dominated their sport throughout their playing career as Gretzky did would be valuable, but this card is in a whole different stratosphere. Here are a few reasons why.
- The Great One: Wayne Gretzky is nicknamed “The Great One.” It might be tempting to focus on the word “Great”, but for Gretzky, it’s the words “The” and “One” that carry the most meaning. In most sports, there is a never-ending debate about who the best player ever is. For example, in basketball, it’s easy to find arguments for Michael Jordan, Lebron James, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and Wilt Chamberlain. But in hockey, there is no such debate. You might find a few folks who say it’s Bobby Orr or Gordie Howe, but the consensus is that Gretzky is the best. The closest reputation you might find is Babe Ruth, but even he isn’t as universally considered the best all-time player of his sport.
- O-Pee-Chee Version takes Center: In Baseball the Topps card is usually the most sought after even though an O-Pee-Chee version is usually more scarce and tougher to find in gem-mint condition. With hockey cards, however, that isn’t the case. Because the hockey universe centers around Canada, the Canadian versions of the cards are preferred by collectors and, in this era at least, tougher to find a perfect specimen of due to the cutting issues that plagued OPC cards for years.
- The Auction Prices speak for themselves: On May 27th, 2021 a 1979-80 O-Pee-Chee Wayne Gretzky rookie graded to be in gem-mint condition brought a whopping 3.7 million dollars at auction. This was a huge number for a card that was only about 40 years old and made during the period when cards were manufactured in large numbers and viewed as investments by collectors.
1979 O-Pee-Chee (and Topps) Hockey Set Details
The 1979-80 O-Pee-Chee hockey set has 396 cards. It is a lot different visually than the sets that preceded it because of its border-to-border color. The sets leading up to it all had a simple design with a white border.
The front of the card is identical between the O-Pee-Chee and Topps, but the backs are different in that the text on the O-Pee-Chee version is bilingual (English and French) in some parts. Player photos in this set are a mix of posed and in-action shots. The set is famous for containing Wayne Gretzky’s rookie card, but it also featured the final cards of the playing careers of Gordie Howe and Bobby Hull.
- Year: 1979-80
- Manufacturer: O-Pee-Chee
- Number of Cards: 396
- Card no: #18 of 396
- Name on Wayne Gretzky
- Position: C “Center”
- Team: Edmonton Oilers
- Height: 5′ 11″
- Weight: 165
- Shoots: Left
- 1st Pro Season: 1978-79
- Acquired: Purchased from Ind: 11-2-78
- Born: 1-26-61, Brantford, Ontario
Front of the card
Design: The front of the 1979-80 Wayne Gretzky O-Pee-Chee rookie card (#18) is a horizontal layout and is easily the most recognizable hockey card ever made. The card features a light blue background with a banner going across the top, down the right side, and making a circle around the Edmonton Oilers logo. The top horizontal section of the banner has the team name “Edmonton Oilers” in black and red text. On this card the banner is white, but the color varies from card to card. Above the banner at the top of the card is the “Wayne Gretzky • C”. The “C” is for his position of center.
The photo on the card is in the shape of a rectangle with rounded borders and a cut-out in the lower right corner for the logo. IT has a white border with a black line around it. The photo, itself, is of a young Wayne Gretzky skating and looking in an upward direction – probably at a scoreboard. Gretzky’s body is at an angle and he’s wearing a red, white, and blue Oilers jersey.
Shop for the 1979-80 Wayne Gretzky O-Pee-Chee rookie on eBay (affiliate link)
Back of the card
The back of the 1979-80 O-Pee-Chee Wayne Gretzky rookie card #16 has a unique design for a card of this age. Most of the content of the card fall inside an ice skate graphic that covers most of the card. The card number is in the upper left corner. The top of the skate has Gretzky’s height, weight, rookie year, shooting orientation, how he was acquired, born, and home. His statistics for his rookie year come next, followed by a very brief bio. The copyright information falls in between the bottom of the skate and the blade.
The only thing outside of the skate graphic is a cartoon in the upper right corner. It depicts a hockey player trying to control a puck and it reads, “Wayne debuted in WHA at age 17 * Wayne debuta dans l’association Mondiale à l’âge de 17 ans.”
The back of the 1979-80 Topps Wayne Gretzky rookie card (#18) has the same design, but there are minor differences. The font is different in spots and the Topps version of the card doesn’t have any French test. The copyright is different, of course.
Wayne is considered the best prospect to turn professional since Guy Lafleur * On considere que Wayne est le mellieur espoir professional depuls Guy Lafleur.1979 Wayne Gretzky O-Pee-Chee Rookie (#18)
Wayne Gretzky Rookie Card Value
The Wayne Gretzky rookie card is the most valuable hockey card of the ever made. The chart below is from the popular card grading site (10/05/2021), PSA. It shows prices for the Wayne Gretzky rookie card in various conditions.
Keep in mind that prices fluctuate. While PSA is a great way to find out the value of a card, we recommend going to eBay to see what cards are currently selling for on the world’s most popular auction site. Click here to view current auctions for the 1979-80 Wayne Gretzky rookie card.
Other Relevant Wayne Gretzky Cards
Wayne Gretzky has two cards that are widely accepted as rookie cards. Those are the 1979-80 O-Pee-Chee and Topps cards. However, there were other cards issued during 1979 that are scarce and sought after by collectors. Here are a few other cards that should be on the radar of collectors interested in Gretzky rookies and early cards:
1977-79 Wayne Gretzky Sportscaster Series 77 #10
The 1979 Wayne Gretzky Sportscaster series 77 card #10 was an oversized card from a multi-sport mail-order set. The cards measured 4 3/4″ x 6 1/4″ and there were more than 2,000 different cards in this huge set. Each month 24 cards were sent to subscribers for a fee of less than $2 per month. The cards featured athletes from many sports but also featured teams, locations, and other sports topics. Cards were distributed via mail for two years, but the Gretzky card was issued in 1979.
Shop for the 1977-70 Wayne Gretzky Sportscaster card on eBay (affiliate link)
1979-80 Edmonton Oilers Wayne Gretzky Postcard
In 1979 The Edmonton Oilers issued a team set of postcards. These are standard-sized postcards with a glossy photo of the player on the front. Many collectors consider this to be a Wayne Gretzky rookie. They are relatively rare, but not too hard to find. They are not as expensive as his O-Pee-Chee or Topps rookie card. Many of these were written on and discarded because it is an actual postcard. That makes them harder to find in high-grade conditions.
The back of the postcard has Gretzky’s biographical information on the left and the Oilers logo on the right. It is mostly black, leaving plenty of room to write a note on.
Shop for the 1970 Edmonton Oilers Wayne Gretzky Postcard on eBay (affiliate link)
1980-81 Wayne Gretzky Topps & O-Pee-Chee #250
The 1980-81 Topps Wayne Gretzky card #250 is almost identical between Topps and O-Pee-Chee, but Topps had to go and make it weird. Both cards have the same photo of Gretzky in action with the same name at the bottom of the card. Both cards have a hockey puck graphic in the bottom right with the player’s name and position on it. The Topps version of the card added an element to it where the collector has to scratch off the top of the hockey puck to see the player’s name. This idea, while not a great one, makes unscratched versions of the card more valuable.
The cards also have differences on the back. The O-Pee-Chee version uses lighter-colored card stock and repeats some of the text in the French language.
Shop for the 1980-81 Topps Wayne Gretzky #250 on eBay (affiliate link)
Shop for the 1980-81 O-Pee-Chee Wayne Gretzky #250 on eBay (affiliate link)
Wayne Gretzky’s Legacy
Wayne Gretzky is considered to be the greatest hockey player who ever lived by most historians and fans. In hockey total points are made up of a player’s goals plus During his career, he set the record for both the most goals and the most assists. He ended his career with so many assists that you could take away all of his goals and he would still have been the all-time total points leader. He scored 100 points in 16 seasons, 14 of which were consecutive.
Upon his retirement, the Hockey Hall of Fame waived the waiting period and inducted him immediately. The NHL retired number 99 in his honor – no player will wear it again in an NHL game. After his retirement, Wayne has spent time as a head coach for the Phoenix Coyotes and part-owner of two different NHL franchises (Phoenix Coyotes and Edmonton Oilers). Here are some of Wayne Gretzky’s career accomplishments:
- 16 time assists leader
- 11 time points leader
- 5 time goals leader
- 3 time hat tricks leader
- 12 time assists per game leader
- 11 time points per game leader
- 15 time All-Star
- 4 time Stanley Cup Winner
- 5 time Lady Byng Memorial Cup Winner
- 5 time Ted Lindsay Award Winner
- 9 time Hart Memorial Trophy Winner
- 10 time Art Ross Trophy Winner
- 2 time Con Smythe Trophy Winner
- Inducted into the NHL Hall of Fame in 1999
Get a Wayne Gretzky Rookie for Your Collection
Do you want to own a 1979-80 Topps or O-Pee-Chee Wayne Gretzky Rookie (#18)? If so, we recommend starting your search on eBay – the world’s #1 card trading place. Even if you’re not planning to buy one just yet, it’s fun to look at all the great cards currently for sale.
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All About Wayne Gretzky Rookies Infographic
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