1981 Sports Illustrated #V55-16 Wayne Gretzky First Cover CGC Mint+ 9.4

Wayne Gretzky’s first Sports Illustrated cover story opens with the iconic magazine asking, “How good will he become?” And with 40 years of hindsight, it can be unequivocally answered: Better than anyone has ever seen. Graded Sports Illustrateds are a new phenomena within the hobby, with player’s first appearances on the cover likened to their rookie cards.

Key Deal Points

Graded a Near Mint 9.4, on a scale of 0.5-10, by Certified Guaranty Company (CGC) – the comics and printed collectible’s leading grading company.

53 examples of the magazine have been graded by CGC, with just three graded Near Mint 9.4 and one higher.

Crucially for its value, this represents a “Newsstand” copy of the magazine – much more desirable and rare than its “subscription” copy counterpart. Said GoCollect, “Newsstand issues have all the collectibility and Subscription issues have virtually none. There are two reasons why this is the case…rarity & aesthetics.” It’s been estimated that only 2.5% of Sports Illustrated issues were “Newsstand” versions; the other 97.5% were subscription issues.

This magazine was previously sold in February of 2022 for $30,000 and holds the record for any graded Sports Illustrated

Valuation Analysis

“The [Sports Illustrated] covers became iconic because they were a part of our daily lives; the emotional connection to those covers is just as strong today.”

– James Kehoe, GoCollect

Wayne Gretzky

Wayne Gretzky, nicknamed “The Great One”, is considered the greatest hockey player of all time. At the time of his retirement in 1999, he held 61 NHL records: 40 regular season records, 15 playoff records, and 6 All-Star records.

He won 4 Stanley Cup Championships with the Edmonton Oilers. Some of the remarkable accomplishments from Gretzky’s career include: finishing with 894 goals and 1,963 assist (2,857 points), 15 NHL All-Star selections (8 First Team and 7 Second Team squads), nine Hart Trophies as the league’s best player, 10 Art Ross Trophies, two Conn Smythe Trophies and five Byng Trophies. Gretzky played for 4 teams (Edmonton Oilers, Los Angeles Kings, New York Rangers, St. Louis Blues) over the course of 20 seasons.