10 Must-Have Wayne Gretzky Cards
He's called the Great One for a reason. If you were ever lucky enough to see Wayne Gretzky play in person, you witnessed the greatest player to ever lace up a pair of skates. His skills were so amazing that even the best defensive players looked ordinary as he blew past them on a breakaway. Once he got past the defense, goalies had two chances to stop him: slim and none. Except for the occasional exhibition, not since April, 1999 has anyone seen the Great One make those amazing moves. However, his impact on the game and the hobby is everlasting. More than a decade after his retirement, Wayne Gretzky cards are still some of the hottest in the hobby.
To date, over 6,000 Wayne Gretzky cards have been made and and it is almost impossible to select 10 definitive "must-haves." I am going to give it a shot. Most are out of the average collector's price range, but a few are very reasonable.
Great Ones: Top 10 Wayne Gretzky Cards
Most every hockey collector recognizes the iconic 1979-80 O-Pee-Chee card as Gretzky's rookie card. We all want one, graded or ungraded. The blue border makes the card stand out and very attractive. However, the borders are tough to find in mint condition. That will not stop me from looking. The blue skate design on the back, with all of the stats inside, also make this set even more enjoyable.
An almost identical twin of the O-Pee-Chee card, the 1979-80 Topps Wayne Gretzky rookie has a few subtle differences. All stats on the back of this card are in English. This is also a less expensive version. But a Wayne Gretzky rookie is a Wayne Gretzky rookie, so it's still extremely valued and desired.
In 1980-81 Topps Hockey, the entire set had a black coating covering the player's name. I knew most of the players, but being a teenager, I had no patience. I immediately scratched them. I was collecting the cards because I liked them and didn't worry about the value. But, now I search for this card in its unscratched form. 1980-81 O-Pee Chee Hockey cards do not have the same coating.
How can a collector go wrong with any Wayne Gretzky autograph card? The 1994-95 Upper Deck Be a Player Wayne Gretzky autograph is the Great One's first certified signature card. Any Gretzky autograph is great but, to have the first one is something special. I have Wayne Gretzky autographs in my collection but this is one I would still love to add.
Collectors today have grown somewhat weary of jersey swatches glued between two pieces of cardboard. But, back in 1997 it was something special. It was hard to pull a jersey card. The odds of getting one were slim. The 1997-98 Upper Deck Game Jersey was the first to feature a piece of the Great One's jersey. How special is that?
Early in Gretzky's career, who would have thought that his stick would one day be cut up and embedded into a hockey card? Well, it did happen. 1998-99 Upper Deck Gold Reserve was the first set to have a Wayne Gretzky game-used stick card. There have been many since, but this one holds a special place in my heart. Was the stick used in the playoffs? Was it used in the Stanley Cup finals? Was it used against the North Stars? We will never know. But, I choose to imagine it was used on an amazing breakaway where he beat the goalie high glove side.
Although this list is all about Wayne Gretzky cards, no list can be complete without a couple of inclusions featuring his greatest peers and rivals. This 2002-03 SP Authentic Sign of the Times card has both Wayne Gretzky and and Gordie Howe. Howe is the one player people could argue might have actually been better than the Great One. This is an argument that could go on forever but this card includes autographs from both of them. No matter which way you lean, you get signatures from the game's two best players. It also helps that the card design is beautiful and the autographs themselves are amazing.
Mario Lemieux could have challenged many of Gretzky's records. However, cancer and injuries shortened his playing career. This card is amazing. It has both jersey swatches and autographs of two players that will forever be remembered as some of the game's greatest. Numbered to 25, the card is rare. It's also pricey when it does show up.
Wayne Gretzky is known for two things: being the greatest hockey player ever and winning Stanley Cups. This is a very affordable card that captures them both. It's also one of the most beautiful Wayne Gretzky cards ever made. The artist nails his enthusiasm and joy as Gretzky hoists the Cup over his head.
The card has five parallels to chase, but, just having the regular one in my collection is fine with me. The five parallels are: Brown, Green #/99, Blue Border #/50, Red #/25, and Black 1/1. Gretzky also appears on three additional 2008-09 Upper Deck Masterpieces base cards, but none are quite as iconic as this one.
With autographs of the two greatest offensive players and the greatest defenseman of all-time, how can a collector go wrong? Only 25 exist but it's rare a collector can have on-card signatures from three of the best to ever play the game.
While there are literally thousands of other Wayne Gretzky cards to chase, those are my ten favorites. What do you think? What cards would you include on your list of the Great One's greatest?
Related Topics: Hockey Cards: Guides