Ten Terrific Cards: Wayne Gretzky
Posted on 5/9/2023
In 1979, a teenaged Wayne Gretzky took the ice for the first time, as he made his National Hockey League (NHL) debut with the Edmonton Oilers. Twenty seasons and four teams later, "The Great One" would end his pro career as the greatest hockey player of all time.
Gretzky looked destined to be an elite player from an early age. He started skating at only two years old and laid the foundation for his craft in his family's backyard ice rink. By the time he was six, he was playing on a hockey team with 10-year-olds. That trend of playing with older and larger teammates and opponents would continue as his skillset far outreached his own age level throughout his early playing days.
In 1978, Gretzky joined the World Hockey Association (WHA) at only 17 years old. One year later, he was in the NHL, suiting up for the Oilers as his illustrious pro career quickly took off. In just his first season, Gretzky earned the Hart Memorial Trophy, which is awarded to the NHL's Most Valuable Player. It would be the first of eight MVPs in a row to start his astounding career.
Needless to say, the league had never seen anything like Gretzky. To this day, No. 99 is still the top goal scorer, assist leader and point scorer (goals plus assists equals total points) in NHL history. In fact, he has more career assists than any other player has ever had total points. Gretzky is the only player in NHL history to total over 200 points in a single season. He accomplished that record-setting feat four times in his iconic career.
Additionally, Gretzky also crossed the 100-point mark in 15 of his 20 NHL seasons, including 13 consecutively. The Great One won four Stanley Cups before hanging up his skates in 1999. At the time of his retirement, he held 61 NHL records, and was immediately entered into the NHL Hall of Fame that same year. As the 2023 NHL playoffs continue, we're revisiting 10 of Gretzky's best hockey cards that were graded by Certified Sports Guaranty® (CSG®).
The Great One's Greatest Cards
1979-80 O-Pee-Chee #18 Wayne Gretzky
The earliest card (and appropriately the most valuable) on the list is the 1979-80 O-Pee-Chee #18 Wayne Gretzky rookie card. Arguably the most sought-after hockey card ever produced, a Gem Mint 10 example of this Canadian card shattered the previous record price for a hockey card when it sold for $3.75 million in 2021. This is the holy grail for hockey collectors, as it features an attractive light blue and white design that catches the eye and helps make it one of the most recognizable cards in the hobby.
1979-80 Topps #18 Wayne Gretzky
This 1979-80 Topps #18 is Gretzky's second and only other rookie card from his debut season. The card features the same design and image as the 1979-80 O-Pee-Chee version of the card. The Topps examples near the top of the grading scale can be worth tens of thousands of dollars or more, but the Canadian version is still the more desirable among collectors.
1980-81 O-Pee-Chee #250 Wayne Gretzky
The 1980-81 O-Pee-Chee #250 is another early card from the Canadian card company. Featuring Gretzky in his second season with the Edmonton Oilers, this is another popular card with a great retro design. The card shows Gretzky skating in his dark blue and orange Oilers jersey, with a puck in the bottom right corner that contains his name and position.
1981-82 O-Pee-Chee #106 Wayne Gretzky
Here's another O-Pee-Chee card from the early 1980s that has a retro design with Gretzky's image encircled by a border featuring the Oilers' team colors. The 1981-82 O-Pee-Chee #106 is on a simple white card stock and shows the team logo in the bottom right corner. The back of the card contains statistics from Gretzky's short-lived WHA career and the first two seasons of his NHL career on a blue background.
1983-84 O-Pee-Chee #29 Wayne Gretzky
This is the final early O-Pee-Chee card of Gretzky on our list. The Canadian card makers created the majority of his most sought-after cards from his days with the Edmonton Oilers. This 1983-84 O-Pee-Chee #29 features a great design with an image of Gretzky in a face-off. A unique border helps it stand out compared to the rest of the 1980s retro designs.
1990-91 Topps #120 Wayne Gretzky
The 1990-91 Topps #120 is the first card on our list that features Gretzky on the Los Angeles Kings. Edmonton sent the star center to L.A. in a blockbuster trade in August 1988. The move changed the landscape of the league, as Gretzky helped the Kings reach the Stanley Cup for the first time in franchise history, while also helping popularize hockey — not only in California but across America. The card features Gretzky in his famous black and silver Kings jersey.
1999-00 Upper Deck UD Authentics #WG1 Wayne Gretzky
|1999-00 Upper Deck UD Authentics #WG1 Wayne Gretzky graded CSG Gem Mint 10, with the autograph graded CSG 10
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Boasting the Great One's handwritten signature, the 1999-00 Upper Deck UD Authentics #WG1 was released right after his last season in the NHL. Gretzky finished his career with the New York Rangers, but this particular card throws it back to his Stanley Cup-winning days in Edmonton. The card has an image of Gretzky lifting the championship trophy high over his head as the Oilers celebrated one of their four titles in the 1980s. Below the image is a large autograph that Gretzky signed in blue ink.
2008-09 O-Pee-Chee Retro Cards #18 Wayne Gretzky - Edmonton Oilers
|2008-09 O-Pee-Chee Retro Cards #18 Wayne Gretzky - Edmonton Oilers graded CSG Gem Mint 10
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This is another throwback card, except in an even more literal sense than the last example on our list. The 2008-09 O-Pee-Chee Retro Cards #18 is a replica of Gretzky's rookie O-Pee-Chee card from 1979. It features the same famous blue background, with the same ice skate design on the back of the card. However, the image of a young Gretzky on the Oilers is different than on the original rookie card. While it's not worth nearly as much as its predecessor, it's a fun and great option for collectors who may never get their hands on his true rookie card.
2015-16 Upper Deck Fall Expo Hockey #SP3-1 Wayne Gretzky/Connor McDavid
|2015-16 Upper Deck Fall Expo Hockey #SP3-1 Wayne Gretzky/Connor McDavid graded CSG Gem Mint 10
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While Gretzky stands alone in a category all to himself when it comes to NHL greats, many players have come and gone that have been touted as the next "Great One." While no one has come close to the bar he set, current Edmonton superstar Connor McDavid receives the comparison honestly, especially considering the team he plays for. That's why this 2015-16 Upper Deck Fall Expo Hockey #SP3-1 is an appropriate dual card that features both of the Oilers stars. A throwback image of Gretzky sits on the left, and an image of the Oilers' 2015 No. 1 overall draft pick sits on the right, each in their Edmonton jerseys.
2020-21 Upper Deck Black Diamond Gemography Autographs #G-WG Wayne Gretzky - Emerald #'d/5
|2020-21 Upper Deck Black Diamond Gemography Autographs #G-WG Wayne Gretzky - Emerald #'d/5 graded CSG 8.5, with the autograph graded CSG 9
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The final card on our list is a more recent one: the 2020-21 Upper Deck Black Diamond Gemography Autographs #G-WG. This one has all the bells and whistles of a modern sports card that features a sporting icon. The rare Emerald parallel is one of only five produced and contains a lab-created black diamond in the middle of the card. The card features an image of Gretzky from his days with the New York Rangers. Plus, he signed the card in blue ink over an emerald-colored background, making it all the more valuable.
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