Wayne Gretzky 1979 O-Pee-Chee Rookie Card, PSA 9

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The greatest hockey card from the greatest hockey player, this rarity stands alongside the most sought-after Wayne Gretzky memorabilia.



“A good hockey player plays where the puck is. A great hockey player plays where the puck is going to be.”

-Wayne Gretzky

Wayne Gretzky was known by one and all as The Great One, so it’s little wonder that his rookie card is known by collectors as “The Holy Grail.” According to PSA, “The 1979 O-Pee-Chee Wayne Gretzky rookie card is one of the toughest and most valuable modern-era trading cards on the market, highly sought after by hockey fanatics and casual fans alike.


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This card is graded 9 by PSA, sports collectibles’ go-to grading company.

There are only 89 PSA 9 1979 Gretzky cards in circulation. (For context, there are only two Gem Mint 10s.)

The 1979 O-Pee-Chee set has to contend with major condition obstacles, among them chipping along the blue border, print defects, and severe rough cuts, making PSA Mint 9’s and 10’s notably rare.

The centering on the card is often found in the 60/40 range (or worse), making this particular card — which boasts beautiful centering with fantastic borders, sharp corners, and vibrant color — that much more magical.


The last two recorded sales of this card were in October and November 2020, for $79,000 and $75,000, respectively.

In 2016, Goldin Auctions sold a PSA 10 version of this card for $465,000.

In 2016, a PSA 10 version of the Topps Gretzky rookie card—which is not nearly as rare as the Pee-O-Chee—sold for $200,000.

In December of 2020, Heritage Auction will auction a PSA 10, headlining their Fall Sports Collectibles Catalog event.


January 26, 1961

Born in Brantford, Ontario

May, 1978

The 17-year-old signs a $1.75 million deal with the Indianapolis Racers of the World Hockey Association.

November, 1978

After playing only eight games for the revenue-strapped Racers, Gretzky is traded to the Edmonton Oilers for cash and future considerations.

October 10, 1979

In his NHL debut against the Chicago Blackhawks, Gretzky scores the first point of his NHL career, an assist.


Becomes the youngest player in league history to score 50 goals in a season. He also captures his first Hart Trophy and Lady Byng Trophy, and is selected as NHL's Second Team All-Star Center.


Wins his first Art Ross Trophy as NHL scoring leader, setting NHL records for assists (109) and points (164) in single season.


Becomes the first Canadian to be named AP’s Athlete of the Year.

February 8, 1983

During the NHL All-Star Game, Gretzky scores four goals in a single period, an All-Star Game record.

May 19, 1984

Gretzky’s Oilers win their first Stanley Cup. They would go on two win two out of the next three titles.

August 9, 1988

Along with Marty McSorley and Mike Krushelnyski, Gretzky is traded to the Los Angeles Kings for $15 million and Los Angeles’ 1989, 1991, and 1993 first round draft picks.

February 27, 1996

Traded to the St. Louis Blues for Craig Johnson, Patrice Tardif, Roman Vopat, and multiple draft picks.

July 21, 1996

Signs a three-year, $15 million deal with the New York Rangers

April 19, 1999

Plays his final NHL game. He leaves the ice after a 13-minute ovation.

November 22, 1999

Inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame.

February 6, 2000

Gretzky’s uniform number 99 is retired from the NHL.

May, 2000

Buys a 10% share of the Phoenix Coyotes.

August 8, 2005

Takes the job as the Coyotes’ head coach.

September 24, 2009

After the Coyotes declare bankruptcy on May 5, 2009, Gretzky steps down as coach.

By Alan Goldsher


When it comes to half of America’s four major sports, I’m an unabashed fair-weather fan. I own it. I’ve reconciled. And don’t go casting aspersions on me—whether we’ll admit it or not, every one of us sports fans has rocked it fair-weather style at some point in our viewing lives.

All that said, I’ve never strayed from the NFL or the NBA, not once. When it comes to The Shield or The Association, try and block my view of the tube, go ahead, I dare you, it won’t end well. When it comes to MLB and NHL, however, block away, whatevs, all good. Unless it’s a Game Seven, or one of my Chicago teams is on a hot streak, there’s a 50/50 shot I’ll be in the kitchen anyhow.

Now I have no intrinsic issues with sports I tend to marginalize these days. I’ve watched about 6.4 bajillion baseball games—hell, I even spent a season interning with the Chicago White Sox radio broadcast crew, a looooong summer—and this is coming from the guy who recognizes the beauty, the grandeur, and the Americana-ness of a day at the ballpark. (Seven hours is a bit too much beauty, grandeur, and Americana for somebody who’s not getting paid to fetch coffee and wrap cables.) But like the hundreds of thousands of fans who have migrated from the sport over the last several years, I’ve been driven away by unnecessarily long games, icky scandals, lousy leadership, an inconsistent on-field product, and inflated ticket prices, 

All that said, I never can and never will entirely quit the game; after all, you can’t watch 6.4 bajillion contests without being at least somewhat baseball-ized for all of eternity.

I mean, I still get tingles when I see the springtime Wrigley Field grass live and in person, which is as green and well-manicured as it was the day I watched Ryne Sandberg do horrible, horrible things to the St. Louis Cardinals from the front row of the left field bleachers. Also, I own plenty of examples of the timeless MLB gear of my youth…and if I don’t own it, I lust over it. (I’m talking to you, light blue Montreal Expos t-shirt that, as of this writing, isn’t available in my size.) And it was a baseball book, of all things, that nudged me down the path to professional authorship.

As far as hockey goes, it’s always been all about the Chicago Blackhawks.

Wayyyy back in the day—and pardon me while I age myself—I embraced such Hawks ice studs as Stan Mikita (loves me some Stosh), Tony Esposito (really loves me some Tony-O), Denis Savard (ahh, those spin-o-ramas), and some dude named Darcy Rota, who you don’t remember, but I do, because he was the random player that I, and only I adopted, and if you’ve been a sports fan since childhood, you know exactly what I’m talking about. (For the record, among my other Chicago sports adoptees were Bill Caudill, Brian Baschnagel, Britt Burns, and Mark Landsberger. Hat tip if you can tell me each player’s team, position, and notable athletic characteristic without clicking the hyperlinks.)

When the Hawks got good in the early 2000s, I was all-in, as those teams were a joy to watch. (Welcome to Fair Weather City, population: me.) The Patrick Kane/Jonathan Toews Stanley Cup squads exemplified everything that was beautiful about the sport. Kane and Toews were the alphas, but their badass betas—Duncan Keith, Brett Seabrook, and Marion Hossa, among many others—and Phil Jackson-esque coach Joel Quennville all helped create culture of hard work, teamwork, positivity, and ebullience that was enticing to even fair-weatherers like me.

There was, however, another era of Blackhawks hockey that’s been stuck in my craw for the last few decades. And at first, it wasn’t about the Hawks themselves.

At first, it was about free tickets.

In the mid-1980s, before he became a husband, a father, and an overworked, high-powered lawyer, my cousin Larry was a rabid, season-ticket-holding Blackhawks nut, making him the lone relative of mine who ever had season tickets to anything other than a local playhouse. 

His seats at the old Chicago Stadium—a.k.a., the original Madhouse on Madison, a.k.a., one of the dumpieset stadiums in sports history—were stellar: Ice level, 20-ish rows back, right above the tunnel, on the goal line of the side of the rink at which the Hawks shot in the first and third periods, unobstructed view. Noice.

During the 1985 season, despite my ambivalence towards what was a solid Hawks team, Larry asked me to join him at many, many regular games, and I accepted each invite. Considering my hockey agnosticism, why did he ask me, the basketball/football nerd, to be his date? Maybe it was my charismatic presence that compelled him to bestow upon me the tickets, or maybe it was because I was underage and he didn’t have to spring for beer, or maybe it was that I laughed at his jokes. Whatever the reason, I reaped the rewards of a nice night out.

In retrospect, those nights out were beyond nice.

With a loaded roster anchored by the aforementioned Denny Savard, bruising winger Ed Olczyk (known to one and all as Eddie Ohhhhhhhh) and affable-but-just-slightly-above-average netminder Murray Bannerman (known to hyper-caffeinated Hawks play-by-play man Pat Foley as “Baaaaaaaaa-Nerrrrrrrr-Mannnnnnn!”), the ’85 Blackhawks won the Norris Division with a meh record of 39-33-8…which doesn’t say much about the Norris Division.

I’d guesstimate that I attended 15-ish regular season games, none of which stand out, because they were, y’know, regular season hockey games. Now there’s nothing intrinsically wrong with regular season hockey—it can be scintillating; TBH, it usually isn’t—but it ain’t the playoffs, not even close. Even fair-weather fellas like me are cognizant that where regular hockey season is all fine and good, postseason hockey is insane.

Especially when Wayne Gretzky was involved.

Before we take a dive down the Chicago Blackhawks/Edmonton Oilers 1985 playoff rabbit hole, let’s drop some Wayne Gretzky factoids.

  • Birth name: Wayne Douglas Gretzky
  • Birth date: January 26, 1961
  • Hometown: Brantford, Ontario
  • Nicknames: The Great One, The Great Gretzky, The White Tornado
  • Position: Center
  • Teams: Edmonton Oilers (1977-1988), Los Angeles Kings (1988-1996), St. Louis Blues (1996), New York Rangers (1996-1999)
  • Selected regular season records: Most goals: career, Most goals: single season, Most assists: career, Most assists: season, Most assists: single game, Most points: career, Most points: single season, Most 40-plus goal seasons, Most 100-plus point seasons. I could go on…
  • Selected playoff records: …but I won’t, because what with all the record the little guy holds, we’d be here for weeks.

In terms of describing The Great One’s otherworldly, ethereal, stick-spinning, goal-blasting, dime-dropping, quick-with-the-quickness greatness, I’m going to turn it over to some folks who are way more qualified to wax poetically than I:

“There’s only one way to stop Wayne Gretzky, and that’s to lock him in the dressing room.”
NHL Hall of Famer Gordie Howe

“There were all kinds of people in the NHL who were doubters. They doubted his ability to be able to survive because of his size. I think most people underestimated his intelligence. It took one practice and one game. I watched him in the morning at the practice and I watched him play that night, and I was convinced that this guy was going to be an incredible player.”

Edmonton Oilers coach/GM Glen Sather

“What he demonstrated to us is—to everybody—you can play in the National Hockey League at the very, very highest level and what you can do is win on excessive skill and skating ability and grace. I think he helped move the game away from being so excessively physically oriented—or at least having such a fighting reputation—to a game today that is much, much better to watch.”

US Hockey Executive Director Dave Ogream

“What amazes me is that he never stops amazing me.”

-Teammate Mark Messier

So yeah, Gretzky was good at hockey.

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By the time the 1984-85 NHL playoffs rolled around, I’d been in the presence of sports greatness on multiple occasions, albeit from a distance.

From the first balcony of the Chicago Stadium, I watched a young Michael Jordan help the Chicago Bulls hang tough against Larry Bird’s Boston Celtics. From the corner of Soldier Field, I watched the 1985 Chicago Bears go all 1985 Chicago Bears on the poor Indianapolis Colts. And from the grandstands at Wrigley Field, I winced and covered my eyes as Philadelphia Phillies Hall of Fame slugger Mike Schmidt knocked multiple dingers into Wisconsin and beyond.

But I’d never experienced anything quite like Wayne Gretzky’s performance during the 1985 Campbell Conference Finals.

Led by Gretzky, Messier, scoring machine Jari Kurri, and the brick wall goaltender known as Grant Fuhr, the Oilers strode into the series on a crazy roll, having swept past their first two playoff opponents, the L.A. Kings and the Winnipeg Jets. For their part, the Hawks had eliminated their round one opponent, the Detroit Red Wings, three-zip before taking down the Minnesota North Stars 4-2, a series in which they averaged 5.5 goals per game.

There was cautious optimism amongst the Hawks cognoscenti; the team defense had been solid, and Bannerman was riding a hot stick, so maybe they could go toe-to-toe with the might Oilers. Maybe they’d be able to do something about Fuhr’s scary 2.5-goals-against average. Maybe they could—gasp—bottle up Gretzky.

Maybe, maybe, maybe.

Or maybe not.

For Chicago, the first two games of the series were a dumpster fire, as the Oilers outscored the Hawks by a total of 18-5. (That’s not a misprint, people.) Gretzky was quiet—for him—scoring or assisting on a mere 6 of those 18 goals. Now any other hockey player of the era would be thrilled with those numbers, but for Gretzky, it was likely a pair of unspectacular strolls in the park.

I was Larry’s plus-one for Game Three, which turned out to be one of the Blackhawks greatest triumphs of the decade. Savard spun his way to 2 goals and an assist, while Bannerman stopped 33 of Edmonton’s 35 shots, and the Hawks pulled it out, 5-2. 

And Gretzky was held scoreless.

To reiterate: Gretzky. Was. Held. Scoreless. Rarely was that a thing.

On a certain level, I was bummed out, let down, disappointed…although less disappointed than had I paid for the tickets myself. Sure, the Hawks victory was one for the ages, but going to an Oilers game without The Great One doing Great One stuff was like going to Lou Malnati’s and eating only dessert. Yes, the hot chocolate chip cookie prepared in a deep-dish pan and topped with vanilla ice cream is memorably delicious, but it feels empty without a pizza.

When Edmonton took the ice for Game Four, they were noticeably pissed off. During warmups, it seemed like they were taking their anger out on poor Grant Fuhr, shooting bullet puck after bullet puck into his chest. The anger further manifested itself a minute into the game, when a gnarly fight broke out, an ugly beatdown that resulted in 3 roughing penalties, 4 fighting penalties, a slashing penalty, and 2 game misconducts. 

A gentleman through and through, Gretzky avoided the whole mess altogether, which allowed him the energy and focus to, just about one minute later, score a crazy-cool goal that left Bannerman eating ice shards. The Hawks, we were certain, were dead meat. 

The next 40 minutes were a barrage of goals, assists, and fights. All in all, 34 penalties were dished out, and the puck found the back of the net 14 times, 8 of which came from the sticks of the Blackhawks. Final score: Chicago 8, Edmonton 6, series tied at 2.

Despite the fact that the Game Four was a sloppy gang fight that offered players little opportunity to be graceful, Gretzky was nonetheless gorgeous. Whenever he touched the puck, there was a palpable sense of “Oh crap, we’re toast” from both the Hawks and their fans. It was one thing to see Gretzky on the tube, but you didn’t get a true sense of his ability to dominate a game—regardless of whether or not he was scoring—unless you saw it with your own eyeballs, live and in person.

First of all, there was the effortlessness, something that didn’t necessarily translate to the small screen. For Wayne, everything looked easy, and as even a fair-weather hockey fan is aware, making things look easy on the ice ain’t easy. 

Second of all, he—like my Chicago guys Michael Jordan and Walter Payton—had to be accounted for literally every second of the game. You take your eye off of Gretzky (or M.J., or Sweetness), and there’s like a 72% chance you’ll find yourself on the wrong end of a highlight reel. Again, this is something you couldn’t discern on TV.

Third of all, The Great One had an aura that filled the stadium, an inner glow that made it nearly impossible to avert your gaze. He skated the way an eagle soared, the way a gazelle ran, and the way a shark swam. His passing accuracy combined with his ability to see what’s happening on the rink both in the present and in the near future made him nearly unstoppable.

And that kind of play went on for Gretzky’s entire career. Even when he was past his prime—say, during his tenure with the New York Rangers—he was still a force. You weren’t always going to get a multi-point game out of him, but like LeBron James—whose ability to own any given game on any given night makes him kind of the perfect NBA comp for Gretzky—The Great One could win most any contest by pushing his teammates to perform at the top of their game. (Hunh, I guess I can wax poetic about Gretzky.)

At any rate, it was back to Edmonton for Game Five. That’s when things got real.

By the time Game Five rolled around, I was more than a little emotionally invested in the series. Having even an incremental chance to vanquish an all-timer like The Great One will do that to you.

But the vanquishment was not to be, because Gretzky decided, “Eff this, the Hawks aren’t worthy of my time.” (He likely used gentler language than “eff this,” as he’s far classier than I am.) In Game Four, he went Full Wayne from the get-go, racking up a pair of goals and a pair of assists in a 10-5 drubbing. (Notable stat: There were 37 penalties handed out, three more than the Game Four bloodbath. Those dudes legit didn’t like each other.)

Larry offered me a ticket to Game Six. Even though I was confident the Hawks would get spanked—watching Gretzky go Full Wayne will pop any opposing fan’s balloon, be they fair-weather or rabid—I’d come this far, so I accepted.

Somehow, he made the leap from Full Wayne to Fuller Wayne. Edmonton led 6-0 after two periods, at which point it was all over but the shouting. Each team dumped in a couple of garbage time goals, leading to a final of 8-2. Gretzky assisted on half of the Oilers’ scores, dominating throughout, which surprised exactly nobody.

I’ve seen dozens of games in dozens of arenas, but I’ve never heard a crowd louder than that Game Six throng. I’ve also never heard a crowd go so quiet, so quickly, but I will give us credit: After the final buzzer sounded, when the teams met up for a center ice handshake line that was probably super-awkward—after all, the six-game series produced (wait for it, wait for it) 113 penalties—the crowd again pinged the red of the decibel meter.

Maybe the volume was a tribute to the Blackhawks gallant playoff performance against a clearly superior Oilers team. Maybe it was a salute to the team’s entire postseason run. Maybe it was our way of sending Olczyk, Savard, Bannerman, et al into the summer with a sense of optimism about next season.

But in retrospect, wherever that celebratory noise came from—our heads, our hearts, our guts—much of it was undoubtedly paying homage to the on-ice artistry of Wayne Douglas Gretzky.

Oh, P.S. – Oilers star Jari Kurri racked up 3 hat tricks in the series, an NHL playoff record that stands to this day. And I totally forgot about that until I fact checked this article, but I’m sure you’ll forgive me, because as we all know, reminiscing about Wayne Gretzky can blot out the sun.


Alan Goldsher is Collectable’s Head of Content. He’s the author of 15 books. For more information, visit http://www.AlanGoldsher.com.

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