Wayne Gretzky Rookie Card Guide: Values & Checklist

Posted on 12/21/2022

Wayne Gretzky is widely regarded as the greatest hockey player in NHL history, but he only has two rookie cards. Which is the better investment?

Few can hold a candle to the legendary Wayne Gretzky in the world of sporting greats. So, it's no surprise that this distinction carries over to his hockey trading cards. Gretzky is heralded as the greatest hockey player of all-time, and therefore his rookie cards are coveted by collectors. In fact, one Wayne Gretzky Rookie card made a record sale in 2021, but are these cards a good investment? And if so, why? 

Who Is Wayne Gretzky?

Nicknamed "The Great One," Wayne Gretzky is arguably the best hockey player to ever lace up a pair of skates, playing 20 seasons in the NHL. Gretsky started skating when he was just two years old. By the age of 10, he scored an astounding 378 goals in just one season for the Brantford Nadrofsky Steelers, which attracted media attention. His iconic hockey career had already started.

During his first season with the Edmonton Oilers, Gretzky was awarded the Hart Memorial Trophy as the most valuable player in the NHL. He proceeded to win the award nine consecutive seasons, which is an NHL record to this day.

Gretzky continued to rack up awards throughout his second season, winning seven consecutive Art Ross Trophies. During his third season in 1981-82, Gretzky beat a record that had been in place for 35 years, scoring 50 goals in 50 games. Wayne Gretzky achieved this awe-inspiring feat in only 39 games.

In 1984, he was honored with officer status of the Order of Canada for his contribution to the sport. Later, in 2009, he was promoted to Companion of the same order for his continuing contributions.

During his time in Edmonton, he led the Oilers to four Stanley Cup championships. However, Gretzky was traded to the Los Angeles Kings in 1988. In 1996, he was traded again to the St. Louis Blues. This was short-lived as Gretzky rejected a three-year contract extension, instead choosing to sign with the New York Rangers as a free agent. He'd play three seasons in New York before retiring in 1999.

Throughout his career, Wayne Gretzsky won many awards and earned numerous accolades. At the time of his retirement, "The Great One" held 61 NHL records, 15 playoff records, 6 All-Star records and 40 regular-season records.

Upon his retirement, the NHL retired Gretzsky's jersey number across the league, making him the only hockey player to receive the honor. Furthermore, later that same year in 1999, Wayne Gretzky was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame, skipping the usual three-year waiting period.

What Makes a Wayne Gretzky Rookie Card So Valuable?

There's no disputing that Wayne Gretzky's NHL legacy has cemented him in the history books as the greatest hockey player of all-time. Fans covet his rookie cards, whether they're collectors or investors.

So, it's no surprise that Wayne Gretzky continues to set records now in the trading card world as well. Rated at Gem Mint 10, a 1979 O-Pee-Chee Wayne Gretzky rookie card sold for $3.75 million in a private sale in 2021, as reported by ESPN.

Due to the better quality of materials, you're likely to find higher-graded Topps edition cards that are surprisingly lower in price than the average O-Pee-Chee equivalent. The Topps card is more durable, with better quality inks, so they have survived in better condition in far greater quantities. Because of their scarcity, however, the high-grade OPC cards command headline sums at auction. The two cards, while almost identical, can have hundreds of thousands of dollars between them in a like-for-like comparison.

SportsCardsPro reports that card prices have remained relatively consistent over the last year, with OPC cards selling for more than Topps versions at higher grades.

What Is the Investment Potential for a Wayne Gretzky Rookie Card?

The OPC Wayne Gretzky Rookie Card is a favorite for investors. You only need to look at sports collecting news headlines to see the eye-watering prices this card commands at high grades. Based on the low-quality of these cards, finding specimens without defects will only be more challenging as time passes.

Yet, the Topps equivalent, doesn't quite reach these values — although still a desirable card at high grades. At low grades, neither card will make headlines despite Wayne Gretzky's legendary status.

When considering investing in one of the Wayne Gretzky rookie cards, or any other card, you should do your research. It can be helpful to think about the following:

  • The player's talent and potential: Who the player is, how talented they are or were and what their career trajectory looks like will all be factored into determining a card’s value.
  • The player's marketability: The popularity of a player matters. If the player has a strong fanbase and is well-known, their cards likely will increase in value.
  •  The player's position: In every sport, certain positions are more popular, so these cards are likely to be a solid investment choice.
  • The scarcity of the cards: The rarity of a card will naturally determine its value. Wayne Gretzky, for example, only has two rookie cards, and the values are trending upward as time progresses.
  • The age of the player: This can sometimes impact value over time. For example, spotting the next rising star and getting their cards early could prove to be a great investment strategy. Similarly, players nearing retirement or considered legends in their sport might also be a good buy.
  •  The popularity of the sport: The more popular the sport, the more interest there is in collecting its cards. This can sometimes translate into a better investment value over time.
  • Your investment strategy: If you want to invest in the long-term, many investors believe a good option is new players proving themselves and their talent. Investors also look to retiring players or those established in the sport in the short-term.Players considered the greatest of all-time are also popular as good long and short-term options.

The Best Wayne Gretzky Rookie Card for Your Collection

As mentioned earlier, there are only two rookie cards for Wayne Gretzky. One is far more valuable than the other, despite both being very similar.

1979 O-Pee-Chee #18 Wayne Gretzky ($200,000)

The 1979 O-Pee-Chee #18 Wayne Gretzky is often one of the most sought-after rookie cards around. Due to its iconic status, it remains the holy grail of hockey card collectors. Finding an O-Pee-Chee card in good condition is also rare. This isn’t because they were limited but because of the low quality The cards are easily damaged and could have jagged edges from production or other chipping and printing errors.

Sports Card Investor indicates a 28.78% increase in value on the lowest grade for this card, placing it in the $740 region. For cards under a Gem Mint grade, you could be looking at upwards of $95,000.

1979 Topps #18 Wayne Gretzky ($75,710)

The Topps version of the card features the same image and was distributed in the U.S., whereas the OPC card was only available in Canada. The most significant difference in the cards is that the Topps version was printed on higher-quality cardstock. If you compare the back of the cards, you can tell the difference, as the Topps card is far more vibrant.

While most believe the Topps version is easier to come by, it doesn’t get graded much higher than the OPC version. Neither card is considered to be rare. The Trading Card Database lists this card as having a median price of $1,500.

Where Can I Purchase Wayne Gretzky Rookie Cards?

While only two types of Wayne Gretzky rookie cards are available, they can still be purchased by discerning collectors and fans alike. The number one rule when buying anything collectible is to only buy from reputable dealers. If you're looking to invest in one of the Wayne Gretzky rookie cards, be sure to research the seller as much as the card itself.

As well as sellers at conventions or specialist stores that may have one of these cards available, you can try some of the most trusted online sites:

  • eBay 
  • Pristine Auctions 

How Are Wayne Gretzky Rookie Cards Graded?

Suppose you’re fortunate enough to have one of these fantastic cards of a sporting legend. In that case, having it graded will help evaluate its value and ensure the card is protected from future damage.

At CSG, we provide an expert grading experience, utilizing our years of collectible grading knowledge from expert graders to ensure the highest of standards. With faster turnaround times, your prized card won’t be out of your hands for long.

  •  When CSG receives your card, it's opened under the strictest security conditions with proper handling techniques. Immediately, it's checked against the paperwork and logged against a unique number within our tracking system.
  •  Each card receives a more detailed review and is assigned a unique barcode to track it through the grading process.
  •  The paperwork is then stored separately to ensure complete impartiality.
  • The card is stored in the vaults and verified for authenticity before grading according to the CSG Grading Scale. Multiple professionals review each card to ensure accuracy and consistency.
  •  After grading, the card gets a label inserted into a cardholder that provides excellent clarity and protection for your card.
  • All cased cards then get imaged so the legitimacy of a graded card can be checked later.
  • Finally, the card goes through rigorous quality control before being expertly packed and shipped back to you.

For more information, join CSG.


Graded Wayne Gretzky rookie cards sell for a far higher price than those that aren’t. Collectors and investors will only trust the industry's most respected graders, which is why CCG is such a popular choice. If you’re on the market, be sure to conduct your research and check out the resources above to ensure you’re investing at the right price. With only two versions to choose from, you’ll want to be sure your investment is solid.

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