Topps vs OPC: A Gretzky Rookie Card Value Comparison

Hockey card collectors already know that O-Pee-Chee cards distributed in Canada were printed in smaller quantities than those produced for collectors in the U.S.   During the 1979-80 season, Canadians were crazy about the teenage sensation they’d been hearing about since he was a kid.  Wayne Gretzky was a household name.  Yet the number of people north of the border is what dictated the quantity of cases of trading cards produced for sale.  Simply put, Canada isn’t as big as the United States in terms of population overall and percentage of potential buyers, even though the sport was of much greater interest.

Wayne Gretzky OPC Rookie CardTherefore, it’s no shock that there are fewer OPC Gretzky rookie cards than there are Topps.

Back 1979-80 OPC Gretzky rookie card

While we’ll never know the exact production numbers, it’s interesting to compare the selling prices and known quantities of graded Gretzky rookie cards for OPC and Topps.  Thanks to online tools, we can do that pretty well.

We’ll use PSA grading for our analysis since they’re the largest grading and authentication firm in the hobby.

The average selling price over the last seven years or so on Gretzky’s OPC rookie card in mint (PSA 9) condition was $4,773.  The average price for a PSA 9 Topps Gretzky rookie was $1,520.  That’s quite a difference.  Is it justified?  PSA has graded  53 OPC Gretzky rookies as 9s and 121 Topps versions.

You’d think the difference in price would better match the number of cards graded.   One would think the Topps Gretzky would sell for closer to $2,000 on average.  Of course, fewer examples available mean more people chasing the card and hence, a higher price.

1979-80 Topps Gretzky back

The PSA 8 examples are even easier to examine.  There have been 987 Topps graded NM/MT compared to 479 OPC;  pretty close to twice as many.  With the average selling price of a PSA 8 Topps Gretzky at $470, you’d think the price for an OPC would be around $1,000.  Instead, it’s actually $1,470.   Again, collectors pay a premium for the rare chance to land the OPC version.

The list below shows the breakdown for OPC and Topps Gretzky rookie cards in terms of average selling prices and quantity graded for grades 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9 as of late April 2013.

It would seem to indicate that the Topps Gretzky rookie card is the better buy overall, especially in PSA 6 where the numbers of each that have been graded at that level are very similar but the average selling price of the Topps card is less than half of its OPC counterpart.

Click here to see Gretzky rookie cards from OPC and Topps on eBay.

    Average Sales Price/Quantity               OPC                     Topps

PSA 9                                                          $4,773 (50)         $1,520 (121)

PSA 8                                                          $1,470 (479)         $470 (987)

PSA 7                                                          $639 (673)             $299 (1249)

PSA 6                                                          $449 (535)             $212 (641)

PSA 5                                                           $337 (342)            $193 (287)

Earliest Gretzky Game-Worn Oilers Jersey

His rookie cards remain popular and valuable but a game-worn Wayne Gretzky jersey from early in his career is the holy grail for many collectors.  California-based  SCP Auctions is handling what it believes is the finest known Gretzky jersey in existence in an auction that was scheduled for April 2013.

1980-81 Wayne Gretzky Oilers game jerseyDating from the 1980-81 season, Gretzky’s second with the Edmonton Oilers, it is expected to fetch more than $100,000 according to company President David Kohler.

In February 2013, a 1991-92 Gretzky game-used jersey from his time with the Los Angeles Kings bring $77,675 and in May 2012, a 1989-90 Kings Gretzky sweater brought $65,048 at a sale conducted by Grey Flannel Auctions.

Gretzky jersey backThankfully, the jersey was never purchased by a trading card company and cut up into swatches for inclusion on modern era 'relic' cards as often happens with vintage game worn jerseys in major sports.

Kohler says the blue and orange Oilers jersey’s authenticity has been verified by numerous knowledgeable dealers in hockey memorabilia including   MeiGray, Classic Auctions, Milt Byron and Brad Foote.  Their comments regarding verification are included.

The jersey has been in a private collection for the last several years.

Gretzky’s legend, of course, was well known throughout Canadian sports even before he signed a pro contract. By the time he was 12 years-old and playing in the prestigious International Pee Wee Hockey Tournament in Quebec City’s Le Colisee, Gretzky was already so famous that he was besieged routinely by autograph seekers.

At age 15, he tried to get his team, the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, to assign him jersey number 9 in honor of his favorite player, Gordie Howe. But 9 belonged to a veteran player, so Gretzky was given number 19 and, a few weeks later, number 99.

At 17 he turned pro with the World Hockey Association’s Indianapolis Racers who quickly traded him to the Edmonton Oilers, where he was allowed to keep uniform number 99. In 1979, Gretzky made his NHL debut. Many thought he would fade when he started getting banged around in the more physical league. They thought wrong.

Despite standing barely six feet tall and weighing only 155 pounds, Gretzky’s quickness to the puck, his instincts, elusiveness and shot making ability had never been seen on the ice. Over the next two decades,  Gretzky lifted the sport of hockey to new  heights while establishing himself as the game’s all-time greatest player.  He scored 100 points 15 times, and had more than 200 four times.  The record book shows he is the most statistically dominant player in the history of North American team sports.

The 1980-81 season, when this jersey was worn, was a good one for The Great One.  He won the first of seven straight Art Ross Trophies, breaking Bobby Orr’s single season assist record and the season points total set in the 1970s by Phil Esposito.  Fans might remember his performance in the first round of the playoffs when he tallied  five assists to set a single-game post-season record.

Bidding for the jersey was scheduled to begin April 10, 2013 and end on April 27 via SCP Auctions.  

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1997 Wayne Gretzky Eastern Conference NHL All Star Jersey CCM SZ SM NY Rangers
$85.00
Time Remaining: 13h 29m
Buy It Now for only: $140.00
WAYNE GRETZKY St Louis Blues 1996 CCM Vintage Throwback NHL Hockey Jersey
WAYNE GRETZKY St Louis Blues 1996 CCM Vintage Throwback NHL Hockey Jersey
$219.95
Time Remaining: 9d 11h 13m
Buy It Now for only: $219.95
WAYNE GRETZKY Indianapolis Racers K1 1978 WHA Vintage Throwback Hockey Jersey
WAYNE GRETZKY Indianapolis Racers K1 1978 WHA Vintage Throwback Hockey Jersey
$179.95
Time Remaining: 28d 7h 35m
Buy It Now for only: $179.95
NWT Wayne Gretzky Heroes of Hockey CCM Youth Jersey L XL Sewn
NWT Wayne Gretzky Heroes of Hockey CCM Youth Jersey L XL Sewn
$54.99
Time Remaining: 13h 59m
Buy It Now for only: $74.99
WAYNE GRETZKY NEW YORK RANGERS REEBOK PREMIER THIRD 85th ANNIVERSARY JERSEY
WAYNE GRETZKY NEW YORK RANGERS REEBOK PREMIER THIRD 85th ANNIVERSARY JERSEY
$224.99
Time Remaining: 11d 4h 15m
Buy It Now for only: $224.99
WAYNE GRETZKY New York Rangers 1998 CCM Throwback Alternate NHL Hockey Jersey
WAYNE GRETZKY New York Rangers 1998 CCM Throwback Alternate NHL Hockey Jersey
$219.95
Time Remaining: 1d 8h 4m
Buy It Now for only: $219.95
WAYNE GRETZKY AUTOGRAPHED NHL STARTER XL JERSEY PLUS FIGURE STATUE RARE
WAYNE GRETZKY AUTOGRAPHED NHL STARTER XL JERSEY PLUS FIGURE STATUE RARE
$249.99
Time Remaining: 1d 1h 27m
Buy It Now for only: $324.99
WAYNE GRETZKY New York Rangers 1998 CCM Throwback Alternate NHL Hockey Jersey
WAYNE GRETZKY New York Rangers 1998 CCM Throwback Alternate NHL Hockey Jersey
$219.95
Time Remaining: 1d 8h 4m
Buy It Now for only: $219.95
WAYNE GRETZKY New York Rangers 1998 CCM Throwback Alternate NHL Hockey Jersey
WAYNE GRETZKY New York Rangers 1998 CCM Throwback Alternate NHL Hockey Jersey
$219.95
Time Remaining: 1d 8h 4m
Buy It Now for only: $219.95
BNWT 1984 Vintage Wayne Gretzky Edmonton Oilers hockey jersey Away Adult L XL XX
BNWT 1984 Vintage Wayne Gretzky Edmonton Oilers hockey jersey Away Adult L XL XX
$110.68
Time Remaining: 1d 4h 40m
Buy It Now for only: $146.76

Most Watched Wayne Gretzky Cards on eBay

The market for Wayne Gretzky cards is always active.  Whether you're talking rookie cards from Topps or OPC, rare regionals or modern era autographed 1/1 inserts, the Great One still drives the hockey card market in many ways.

Below is a live feed of the 'most watched' Gretzky cards currently for sale on eBay.  You can see how many eBay users are 'watching' a certain auction, view the current high bid and more.  Just click on the link to see the item.  The list is great for collectors who are interested in finding the hottest Gretzky cards as well as for dealers who need to know which cards are the most popular among collectors.

Check back often as the list is constantly changing as new items are added and watched.

Wayne Gretzky RC 1979-80 OPC #18 - KSA 8.5 NMM+! (First Print Run!)
18 bids - Price: $492.50 - Watchers: 32
Item # 321722532347
1979-80 O-PEE-CHEE WAYNE GRETZKY RC BVG/BGS 9 MINT PACK PULL - LAST SOLD $11,300
5 bids - Price: $355.00 - Watchers: 32
Item # 361275098558
WAYNE GRETZKY 1998/99 UD GOLD RESERVE GAME STICK AUTO SP /99 (BV=$500) FC8013
10 bids - Price: $161.00 - Watchers: 30
Item # 131486235678
WAYNE GRETZKY ROOKIE 1979/80 OPC NM/MT 1979/80
19 bids - Price: $303.03 - Watchers: 27
Item # 321724587298
1979/80 OPC O-Pee-Chee Wayne Gretzky Rookie #18 BGS BVG 3.5
12 bids - Price: $109.50 - Watchers: 27
Item # 381229142709
Wayne Gretzky / Joe Sakic, Dual Signature Patches 01/35. 2011-12 The Cup
29 bids - Price: $200.00 - Watchers: 27
Item # 281665735716
1979-80 O PEE CHEE #18 WAYNE GRETZKY RC ROOKIE NM-MT KSA 8
23 bids - Price: $535.00 - Watchers: 26
Item # 281664912973
80/81 OPC #250 Wayne Gretzky old Vintage Hockey Cards NRMT+
12 bids - Price: $18.25 - Watchers: 24
Item # 151650053249
12-13 The Cup Wayne Gretzky Enshrinements Auto /50 oilers
4 bids - Price: $102.50 - Watchers: 24
Item # 291436951479
1991 O-Pee-Chee OPC Hockey #3 Wayne Gretzky Signed AUTO Kings PSA/DNA Certified
5 bids - Price: $30.00 - Watchers: 21
Item # 381227930615
1979-80 O-Pee-Chee #13 WAYNE GRETZKY Rookie Card Oilers OPC Hockey RC
4 bids - Price: $5.70 - Watchers: 20
Item # 391119883686
1979-80 O-PEE-CHEE #18 Wayne Gretzky - ROOKIE - Edmonton Oilers
5 bids - Price: $152.50 - Watchers: 19
Item # 161678406212
Wayne Gretzky 2014 14 UD Goodwin Champions Goudey Hockey Auto Autograph SP HOF
10 bids - Price: $106.50 - Watchers: 18
Item # 191561696179