Any sports fan knows Wayne Gretzky for his stellar twenty season hockey career. Dominating the court with four Stanley Cup victories under his belt, Gretzky’s name is practically synonymous with the sport.
Well, earlier this week, a coveted 1979 O-Pee-Chee Wayne Gretzky rookie trading card was sold to an anonymous buyer for a whopping $3.75 million! The purchase set a new record as the biggest hockey card sale in history.
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Though the card broke records when it sold at the Heritage Auction in Dallas, TX, this isn’t the first time the card has made major auction news. Just last December, a card of the same version broke previous records records by selling for $1.29 million at the same auction. O-Pee-Chee Wayne Gretzky cards were sold twice before: in 2016 for $465,000 and 2011 in $94,000.
“There are just a handful of cards out there to reach such stratospheric heights,” says Vice President of Private Sales and Consignment, Dan Imler, “It’s only fitting that the greatest hockey player of all time, and one of the most beloved and revered athletes of the 20th century, join their estimable ranks.”
Not only does the card’s hefty cost take into account its commemoration of Gretzky’s legendary hockey beginnings, but it also come from the card’s pristine quality. The card has a Gem Mint 1 grade, meaning that its maintained virtually no scratches or smudges to down the quality. This makes it extremely rare.
Because of its age and various factory production issues during the 70’s, its near impossible to find this card at your normal trading card store or run of the mill auction.
“Ninety per cent of the cards as they came out of the factory wouldn’t be considered ‘gem mint’ by today’s grading standards,” Heritage Auctions’ Director of Sports, Chris Ivy explains to the Canadian Press, “They were using recycled cardboard that chipped easily, they were off-centre, and there were a lot of print defects.”
Interestingly, the photographer of the legendary photo on the card wasn’t even initially intending to shot Gretzky.
The night that Gretzky and the Edmonton Oilers took on the New England Whalers, official Bruins team photographer Steve Babinea had his eyes set on getting the action of a completely different player.
“Mostly I was there to shoot Gordie Howe,” Babinea tells the Boston Globe, “But, yeah, Wayne was on my list, too, because someone — Hockey News or Topps — had called and said, ‘Hey, there’s this kid Gretzky, he looks pretty good,”
“There was no knowing then that Wayne Gretzky was going to be Wayne Gretzky, right?” he went on, “I mean, who knew? I sure as hell didn’t know it, I can tell you that.”
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Sources: ESPN, Canadian Press, Boston Globe,
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