If non-hockey fans know one name of a hockey player, it’s Wayne Gretzky. Few players ever dominate a sport like he did, so much so that he’s known even beyond the sport as "The Great One." His outstanding career is immortalized through a vast array of hockey cards that have become highly sought-after collectibles and some of the most valuable hockey trading cards ever printed.
For this comprehensive guide, we delve into the storied history of Wayne Gretzky’s career through 13 of his most iconic and expensive hockey cards, providing some valuable insights and buying tips for novice and experienced collectors alike.
Wayne Gretzky's Early Years and Rookie Cards
Wayne Gretzky's amazing career on the ice began with the Edmonton Oilers, where he played from 1979 to 1988. During this run, he earned numerous records and milestones, powerfully pushing him into the annals of hockey history. If he had never played another game after 1988, Gretzky still would have still been known as one of the greatest players to ever play the game of hockey.
His hockey trading cards are also the most valuable cards in the sport. Any list of the most valuable cards for hockey is dominated by Wayne Gretzky because he’s an iconic player and he truly changed the sport from a focus on single players to a more team effort. Few other sports have a key player who changed it so much in so many positive ways.
1. 1979 O-Pee-Chee Edmonton Oilers Wayne Gretzky Rookie Card #18
If there’s a “Holy Grail” for your Wayne Gretzky hockey card collection, it is 1979 O-Pee-Chee Edmonton Oilers Wayne Gretzky Rookie Card #18. The classic O-Pee-Chee line was pretty basic, but it does manage a great shot of Gretzky on the ice, looking for where the puck is going.
Rookie cards are usually the ones that go for the most, especially with the highest of top-tier athletes. Gretsky is no exception as a copy of this card in PSA 10 Gem Mint condition, one of only two in their registry, went for $3.75 million dollars. So, while every fan would love to have one in their collection, this one might be a bit out of reach for most fans. That said, lower-grade copies can be found for much less if you must have one.
The other option is to look for the Topps version of the same card. It’s nearly identical on the front and from the same era. Despite this similarity, the Topps version of his rookie card can often be found for much less. Read on to hear a bit about that version of the card.
2. 1979 Topps Edmonton Oilers Wayne Gretzky Rookie Card #18
Almost identical to its O-Pee-Chee counterpart, this 1979 Topps Edmonton Oilers Wayne Gretzky Rookie Card #18 card features a slightly different design and is another highly sought-after piece. That said, the Topps version has not had the same spike in value that the O-Pee-Chee version has experienced. Even though a PSA 10 Gem Mint copy went for $1.2 million in August 2022, lower-grade copies can be found in the sub-$1,000 range. These prices are highly dependent on condition, especially since this is a card that is more than forty years old. Both versions also call out the abbreviation “WHA,” which is a reference to the World Hockey Association, a rival to the NHL that would fold teams and players into the older league in 1979.
As you can see below, the big differences are on the back of the card. Since Topps wasn’t obligated to include French language versions of the text, they had more room for the cartoon art and changes in the font. Many casual hockey fans might read the text now and wonder who Guy Lafleur was and why he got to be mentioned on Wayne Gretzky’s rookie card. Lafleur was an excellent player, but he wasn’t “The Great One.”
3. 1980 O-Pee-Chee Oilers Wayne Gretzky #250
Another valuable and excellent early Gretzky card and another action shot with the Great One shown in motion, ready to score is the 1980 O-Pee-Chee Oilers Wayne Gretzky #250. The back of the card notes that Gretzky was already leading the Oilers in scoring and that he broke a bunch of records too numerous to list. That issue would plague people trying to summarize his accomplishments for his entire career.
In March 2021, a staggering $60,400 was paid for a PSA 10 Gem Mint copy of this classic card. However, lower graded or ungraded copies can be found for under $100 if you just want some kind of record of these glorious early years of Wayne Gretzky’s time on the ice.
As with other O-Pee-Chee cards of the time, there was a 1980 Topps #250 Wayne Gretzky version as well. The easiest way to distinguish them is to look for the French language references, which is required by Canadian law. The Topps version, for example, only lists the English name of his position, Center. Price-wise, you might find the Topps version to be a bit cheaper, but historical pricing on Cardbase suggests that they’re comparable based on grade.
4. 1981 O-Pee-Chee Oilers Wayne Gretzky Super Action #125
The 1981 O-Pee-Chee #125 Wayne Gretzky card had a lot of accomplishments to celebrate. The card features a full-color action photograph of Gretzky wearing the uniform of the Edmonton Oilers without his name on the front of the card but everyone knew who #99 was. The back of the card has big blocks of text to reference all of the accomplishments of Gretzky in both English and French. For a player just starting in the league, it’s an eye-popping list, including Rookie of the Year, the Hart Memorial Trophy, and Gretzky leading the league in scoring with a then-record 164 points. All of these elements have driven up the value of this exceptional card.
While copies of this card can be found for lower prices, one that was in PSA 10 Gem Mint condition sold in October 2022 for just shy of $20,000. A card from this early in Gretzky’s career in minty-fresh shape will surely appreciate in value more over time.
5. 1981 O-Pee-Chee Oilers Wayne Gretzky #106 and Topps #16
Gretzky’s dominance didn’t slow down in his second season with the Oilers. In addition to setting records for points in a season and assists, he managed five of those assists in a single game. Nobody in the game was playing at his level, something people would say for years. This 1981 O-Pee-Chee Oilers Wayne Gretzky #106 card shows an always-ready #99 staring down the competition and ready to pounce.
In September 2020, a PSA 10 Gem Mint copy was sold for $5,655.55, showing that the Great One’s cards remain the top value builders in the hockey card hobby. That said, you can get the 1981 Topps #16 Wayne Gretzky version of the card for a bit less and, if you are willing to add a lower-grade copy of the card to your collection, you can find them for a price that won’t break the bank.
As you can see below, it is easy to distinguish the O-Pee-Chee card from the Topps version, with the company logos right up top. This is also a rare time when the card numbering differed on the US and Canadian versions.
6. 1981 Oilers Red Rooster “Long Hair” and “Short Hair” #99
In a list full of similar cards from two different publishers, we now have a card with two different haircuts. Red Rooster, a small chain of grocery stores mostly in rural areas, had started selling hockey cards. Gretzky was included in their shots, of course, but his card featured a definitely 80’s haircut. The Great One wasn’t happy about it, but when the clean-cut version came out, it just drove up the value of the less common ‘Bon Jovi’ hair edition.
Both cards are still obtainable, but the ‘Long Hair’ version will cost you up to $2,400, the short hair version can be found for much less. Neither are among the most valuable cards on the list, they are unique in character. While this would be a quirky addition to your Wayne Gretsky trading card collection, it humanizes the Great One in a way few other collectibles do.
7. 1982 O-Pee-Chee Oilers Wayne Gretzky #106
An all-time record-breaking spectacular is the way to describe this Oilers season for Gretzky. With a huge 92 goals in a single season, Gretzky broke records left, right, and center. He even broke Mike Bossy's record for the fewest games needed to reach the 50-goal threshold, reaching that number in just 39 games. The card itself has a beautiful new design for O-Pee-Chee, but it still features a Gretzky bent down with his game face firmly on.
While a PSA 10 Gem Mint copy of this exceptional 1982 O-Pee-Chee Oilers Wayne Gretzky #106 card sold for $6,214 in September 2022, lower-grade cards in fair condition can be found for less than $10.
8. 1983 O-Pee-Chee Oilers Wayne Gretzky #29
1983 was another great year for Wayne Gretzky and the Oilers. They made it to the finals and although they lost the Stanley Cup, it was still a successful year for the team and their captain, The Great One. As with so many of these early O-Pee-Chee cards, Gretzky is in motion, looking determined to break more records on 1983 O-Pee-Chee Oilers Wayne Gretzky #29.
In February 2021, a PSA 10 Gem Mint copy sold for almost $4,000, but ungraded copies are available for under $10 if you don’t mind a card with notable blemishes.
Wayne Gretzky Los Angeles Kings Cards
In 1988, Wayne Gretzky was traded to the Los Angeles Kings, a move that was so contentious in his home country of Canada that some government officials tried to block the trade. In the end, Gretzky and two of his best teammates were all traded to Los Angeles. While this move ended up making hockey more popular in the US West, he would never achieve the heights of his early career in Edmonton. Ever the gracious man, Gretzky paid huge tribute to his country and the Oilers fans for their support.
9. 1988 O-Pee-Chee L.A. Kings Wayne Gretzky #120
After the shocking trade to the Los Angeles Kings, O-Pee-Chee showed off a fresh-faced Gretzky in a pose rather than an action shot on 1988 O-Pee-Chee L.A. Kings Wayne Gretzky #120. While his time with the Kings helped elevate the franchise to new heights, including their first Stanley Cup finals, the Great One would never work quite the same magic as he did with the Oilers. Even so, this card is the peak of value for his Kings card, with a PSA 10 Gem Mint copy selling for $4,560 in June 2022.
10. 1998 Upper Deck U.D. Wayne Gretzky New York Rangers Game Jersey Autographed #99
While Upper Deck printed a number of Wayne Gretzky cards while he was still spending his days on the ice, the most valuable one is this limited-edition game-worn jersey and autographed card which the Great One himself seems to have amusingly numbered “99/99”. This special card came with a picture of Gretzky at the NHL Eastern Conference All-Stars game when he was finishing up his career with the New York Rangers. As a result of the special elements of this card and its limited population, the value rose up much higher than his cards from the late 90’s. In November 2022, an authenticated copy sold for $26,173.
There were more Wayne Gretzky cards produced during his years with the Kings and, of course, during his brief stints with the St. Louis Blues and New York Rangers. While some of those cards fetch a few hundred or maybe even a thousand dollars in premium condition, they don’t command the value or significance of the other cards on this list.
Post-Career Special Wayne Gretzky Cards
In recent years, many card manufacturers have continued to honor Wayne Gretzky's unparalleled legacy through additional card releases featuring autographs, memorabilia, and limited edition cards. When they print with planned scarcity, the cards become significantly more expensive. When released in mass produced sets, some new Wayne Gretzky cards haven’t appreciated much, so we’ll focus on a few that round out his card history on a high note.
11. 2004 Ultimate Collection Wayne Gretzky Autograph NHL Shield Patch
Technically, it would be very hard to add this to your collection as it’s a 1/1 card done in honor of the Great One back in 2004. As usual, Gretsky looks focused and ready to score a hat trick. The card is both autographed and includes a special NHL patch. Back in May 2022, this card sold for $145,000 in sealed, authenticated condition.
12. 2012 Fleer Retro Wayne Gretzky Precious Metal Gems
We’ll wind up the list with a few reliably valuable cards from Fleer’s Retro lines. In 2012, they released three versions of the Precious Metal Gems cards in Green (/10), Blue (/50), and Red (/100). They all feature the same dynamic shot of the Great One in his Kings outfit, with the colored background and the population of the cards the only real variant. The Green ones, with their smaller numbers, are always the most expensive.
As with the PMG sets in other sports, these highly-limited cards have increased in value significantly in the decade since their printing. While a PSA 7 Near Mint copy of a Green version sold in October 2022 for $62,400, the Blue and Red editions go for between $2,500 and $13,500.
Fleer would release another PMG set in 2013, with the Green series commanding significant prices before the series would fade away. In general the PMG line has proven to retain and appreciate in value regardless of the sport or athlete.
13. 2012 Fleer E-X2001 Essential Credentials Now Wayne Gretzky
A second line of super-limited edition cards from Fleer in 2012 was called E-X 2001 Essential Credentials. It’s a great looking and very expensive card, highlighting Gretzky’s famous Number 99 and it sticks with honoring him in his Kings uniform. With only 9 copies out there, few collectors will have a shot at a card this valuable. As a result of this planned scarcity, a copy in BGA 9 Mint condition sold in May 2022 for $52,322.22
Celebrating Wayne Gretzky’s Legacy Through Collecting Cards
Wayne Gretzky's legendary career has left an indelible mark on the world of hockey, and his cards serve as a physical reminder of his incredible achievements. By understanding the history and significance of various Wayne Gretzky cards, collectors can build a collection that celebrates the legacy of The Great One.
Whether you're a seasoned collector or just beginning your journey, we hope this guide provided highlights of his storied career and some tips to help you navigate the exciting world of Wayne Gretzky hockey cards.