Counterfeit Card Alert: 1979-80 O-Pee-Chee #18 Wayne Gretzky Rookie Card

Posted on 6/8/2023

CSG Vice President Andy Broome looks at one of the most counterfeited cards in the hobby and points out the red flags.

Much like the 1986-87 Fleer Michael Jordan rookie card, the 1979-80 O-Pee-Chee #18 Wayne Gretzky is hands-down one of the most counterfeited cards in the hobby. And much like the Jordan rookie card, there are more than several different types of known counterfeit versions of Gretzky's rookie card. And that's not even counting the homemade and one-off fakes that seem to flood the marketplace.

An authentic 1979-80 O-Pee-Chee #18 Wayne Gretzky rookie card
Click images to enlarge.

While there are different types of fake Gretzky rookie cards, many share similar "red flags." To begin, it is important to know that many counterfeits share the same origin story. In fact, when you know this story, you can spot 95% of fake cards right away.

Counterfeit cards are often simply a copy of a copy (and sometimes a copy of a copy of a copy…), just like running a photo through a copy machine. If you take the copy hot off the machine, turn around and copy that copy, each time the photo quality will degrade. Eventually, you will get a distorted image that is pixelated and obviously nowhere near the original printing of the image.

That is how many fake cards are made. Someone takes a real card, or an image of a real card, and creates a print of that image, printing it on some type of card stock. No matter how high the quality or resolution of the image, there will be tale-tell evidence that the print is not an original printing.

The image below shows the upper-right edge of two versions of the card. The card on the left is fake, while the card on the right is authentic. Notice how the thin black border on the example on the left is pixelated compared to the authentic card. This is an example of a "copy of a copy."

Close-up views of the front right edge of the counterfeit card (left) and an authentic example (right).

The next image shows the top portion of the Gretzky rookie card. The top image is an authentic card, and the bottom image is the counterfeit. Again, look at solid design devices such as the text itself, including "Wayne Gretzky" and "Edmonton Oilers." The counterfeit exhibits pixelation, where it should be solid ink.

Close-up views of the top of the counterfeit card (bottom) and an authentic example (top).

Knowing how to spot copies (or copies of copies) will help collectors identify most fakes, but not all. There are counterfeit cards of a higher quality, but the majority that collectors are likely to encounter will be of a lesser quality, such as the example shown here.

Education is the most important tool when collecting cards. The more collectors know about the printing and manufacturing process of cards, the fewer mistakes will be made when buying cards.

CSG uses world-class expertise, advanced technology, innovation and operational excellence to provide sports card collectors and dealers with accurate and consistent certification services. CSG backs these determinations with the CSG Guarantee, which adds significant confidence, liquidity and value to the hobby. To learn more about CSG's industry-leading services, visit

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