Rookie Cards of “The Great One” Wayne Gretzky

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It seems in every sport there is “that one” player that transcends the sport they represent. They exceed to such a degree they become cultural icons. If you can visualize with me for a moment a Mount Rushmore of elite players that were larger than life.

In baseball, I see Babe Ruth as a larger than life cultural icon. In the NFL I would select “Broadway” Joe Namath as another cultural icon. In the NBA Michael Jordan took the game to new heights. And in the NHL Wayne Gretzky is that cultural icon that changed the game of hockey. People who knew nothing about hockey knew about him.

What You Should Know About His Childhood

What you may not know about Gretzky is he was forced to grow up quickly. He was viewed as a child prodigy for having extraordinary talent and ability in the hockey rink. He was sought after at a very young age. Everybody loved him, talked about him and wanted him to play for them.

But what did they see? By no means was Wayne a physical specimen. When he entered the NHL he was as thin as a hockey stick and was listed at 5’11” 165lbs. What they saw was his puck handling skills, it was a whole new tier of puck handling. What they saw was his anticipation skill, as he seemed to be three steps ahead of everyone else.

Tha Nay-Sayers of Course

However, before entering the NHL he was criticized. “He’s too small, too slow, overrated, etc.” but that just seemed to be fuel for the young Gretzky and as he began his career he didn’t ascend to the mountain top but rather ascended into a whole new realm of greatness that had never been seen before.

His twenty-year career was primarily with the Edmonton Oilers, LA Kings, and the New York Rangers and he is a 15x All-Star, and 4x Stanley Cup Champion.

For Us Nerds

He is a 2x Conn Smythe Trophy winner which is given to the MVP of the Stanly Cup playoffs.

A 5x Lady Byng Memorial Trophy winner, given to the player who conducted himself with the best sportsmanship.

5x Ted Lindsay Award winner, awarded annually to the NHL’s most outstanding player in the regular season as judged by NHL Players Association. (Gretzky has the most wins).

But wait there’s more, Wayne Gretzky is also a 9x Hart Memorial Trophy winner, given to the player most valuable to his team (Gretzky has the most wins).

And a 10x Art Ross Trophy winner, given to the player who leads the league in points at the end of the regular season (Gretzky has the most wins).

What Others Say About The Great One

Awards aside, his list of personal accomplishments on the ice are too many to list here but know this, when he retired in 1999 he was the career leader in 60 NHL categories!

But perhaps the greatest legacy one can leave behind is how they impacted other people. So the question was asked, why was Wayne Gretzky nicknamed “The Great One?” Former Oilers Equipment Manager, Sparky Kulchisky explained it best, “Because when you really got to know him, he was a better person than he was a hockey player.”


Rookie Cards of Hall of Famer

Wayne Gretzky

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1979 Topps, #18 shop ebay

The 1979-80 Topps Hockey was a single series 264 card set. Card stock quality is standard 1970s Topps gray cardboard and with those blue borders chipping along the edges and dinged corners are inevitable. However, the blue borders give it a distinct feature along with a white team banner that takes the shape of a… I don’t know what that is, but it really accents the front of the card nicely.

The card back has another distinct feature in the shape of an ice skate. Player bio, stats, and commentary are given within the skate and to the upper right portion, one can appreciate the cartoon that has become such a staple of the Topps vintage brand.

Take caution when purchasing raw copies of this one, counterfeits run rampant along with any rookie cards of cultural icons. I recommend relying on third-party authenticated cards for peace of mind. As of the date of this post, mid-grade copies cost between $310.00-$480.00; Near Mint copies (8s) have an average price of $1,337.00; Mint copies (9s) are averaging $10,344.00; and on August 20, 2016, a PSA Gem Mint copy (10) sold for $200,976.00 respectively.


1979 O-Pee-Chee, #18 shop ebay

The 1979-80 O-Pee-Chee Hockey was a single series 396 card set. The O-Pee-Chee brand was manufactured and distributed in Canada. It was owned by Topps in 1979 (owned by Upper Deck today) and so this one mimics the Topps version almost entirely except for a few differences: better card stock, the copyrighted branding and the french translations on the card back.

What you really need to know about this rookie card is at one point it was illegally reprinted. The activity was quickly discovered and most cards were confiscated and destroyed, but some of these have made it to the secondary market. Buyer beware!

As of the date of this post, mid-grade copies are selling between $616.00-$1,863.00; Near Mint copies (8s) have an average price of $3,971.00; Mint copies (9s) are averaging $31,084.00; and on August 14, 2016, a PSA Gem Mint copy (10) sold for $465,000.00 respectively.

Happy Collecting, Collectors

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Sources:
Wayne Gretzky Stats | Hockey-Reference.com https://www.hockey-reference.com/players/g/gretzwa01.html (accessed February 12, 2020).
Vintage Card Prices | Vintagecardprices.com https://vintagecardprices.com/ (accessed February 17, 2020).
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