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, no one has seen Gretzky make those amazing moves since 1999. However, his impact on the game and the hobby is everlasting. Many years after his retirement, Wayne Gretzky cards are still some of the hottest in the hobby.
Over the years, thousands of Wayne Gretzky cards have been made and it is almost impossible to select a list of definitive "must-haves" without going to the extreme. Nevertheless, I am going to give it a shot.
Most of the cards below are out of the average collector's price range, but a few affordable cards are covered, as well.
See also: Real-Time Wayne Gretzky Card Hot List.
Great Ones: Top 10 Wayne Gretzky Cards
1979-80 O-Pee-Chee Wayne Gretzky RC #18
Most every hockey collector recognizes the iconic 1979-80 O-Pee-Chee Hockey card as the Wayne Gretzky 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 makes this set even more enjoyable.
However, make sure you watch out for Wayne Gretzky rookie card fakes.
1979-80 Topps Wayne Gretzky RC #18
An almost identical twin of the O-Pee-Chee card, the 1979-80 Topps Hockey 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 compared to the OPC. But a Wayne Gretzky rookie is a Wayne Gretzky rookie, so it's still extremely valued and desired.
1980-81 Topps Wayne Gretzky #250
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 was collecting the cards because I liked them and didn't worry about the value. Naturally, I immediately scratched them. But, now I search for this card in its unscratched form. 1980-81 O-Pee Chee Hockey cards do not have the same coating.
1994-95 Upper Deck Be a Player Autographs Wayne Gretzky #108
How can a collector go wrong with a Wayne Gretzky autograph card? Limited to 300 copies, the 1994-95 Upper Deck Be a Player Wayne Gretzky autograph is the Great One's first certified signature card. While any authentic Gretzky autograph is truly a great one, 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. The 1995-96 edition is a bit easier to track down.
1997-98 Upper Deck Game Jersey Wayne Gretzky #GJ8
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?
Looking for something even more impressive? The on-card autograph has only 99 copies.
1998-99 Upper Deck Gold Reserve Game Used Stick Wayne Gretzky #WG #/200
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? Maybe it is from 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. In addition, the signed version of the card is capped at 99 copies.
2002-03 SP Authentic Sign of The Times Wayne Gretzky, Gordie Howe Autograph #/99
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 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.
2008-09 SP Game Used Dual Inked Sweaters Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux #INK-LG #/25
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.
2008-09 Upper Deck Masterpieces Wayne Gretzky #38
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.
2010-11 SP Authentic Sign of The Times Triple Wayne Gretzky, Gordie Howe, Bobby Orr #/25
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.
Of course, there are many other multi-signed Wayne Gretzky autographs to chase.
While there are literally thousands of other Wayne Gretzky cards to chase, those are my favorites.
What do you think? What cards would you include on your list of The Great One's greatest?
Related Topics: Hockey Cards: Guides