Heritage Auctions has just sold one of only two known 1979 O-Pee-Chee Wayne Gretzky rookie cards graded Gem Mint 10 by Professional Sports Authenticator for $3.75 million, setting a new record for a hockey card. The previous record was set in December, when $1.29 million was paid for a similar Gretzky card at the same auction. December’s sale was the first time any hockey card surpassed the million-dollar mark.
Wayne Gretzky’s 1979 Rookie Card Skates to a New World Record With $3.75 Million Sale.
Private transaction through Heritage Auctions shatters the high score set only five months ago. https://t.co/oEy8ttiWxq#HeritageAuctions #WayneGretzky #WorldRecord #rookiecard pic.twitter.com/WJ8jsvTLGl
— Heritage Auctions (@HeritageAuction) May 27, 2021
This new record, the result of a private transaction, “is not surprising considering how rare and significant this card is,” says Chris Ivy, Heritage Auctions’ Director of Sports. “After all, there are only two examples. And, it’s Wayne Gretzky.”
“There are just a handful of cards out there to reach such stratospheric heights, and they bear such names as Mickey Mantle, LeBron James, Mike Trout, Honus Wagner and Michael Jordan,” says Dan Imler, Heritage Sports’ Vice President of Private Sales and Consignments. “It’s only fitting that greatest hockey player of all time, and one of the most beloved and revered athletes of the 20th century, joins their estimable ranks.”
The buyer and seller involved in this $3.75-million sale have asked to remain anonymous. But the new owner of this extraordinary rarity is thrilled to bring it home:
“Throughout many years of collecting, this card has always been our ‘white whale,'” says the buyer. “Our family is thrilled to become the new guardians of this world-class hobby treasure.”
A Gretzky rookie card is not particularly rare. Fakes and reprints have flooded the market.
“A lot of us will have a Gretzky rookie card in their house and think you’ve got a $1 million card. Odds are you don’t,” said Stephen Laroche, a Belleville-based card collectible author and historian. “There have been counterfeits since the early 1990s. The first thing to look for is a whitish-yellowish spot on his shoulder. Some dust in the (genuine) printing process caused that.”
But there are also plenty of originals. The same consigner who is selling the O-Pee-Chee Gretzky card is also selling the Topps Gretzky rookie card. About a dozen others are up for grabs. It’s the exact same photograph. But mint condition O-Pee-Chees are much harder to come by.
Gretzky, 60, played for Edmonton, Los Angeles, St. Louis and New York Rangers in the NHL and has four Stanley Cups (1984, 1985, 1987, 1988). The Canadian is the best scorer in NHL history with a total of 2,857 points (894 goals and 1,963 assists) in 1,487 games.
By Jon Sorensen