A1979-80 O-Pee-Chee Wayne Gretzky rookie card graded Gem Mint 10 by PSA has broken its own record as the most valuable hockey card ever sold. Heritage Auctions sold one of the two copies of the card for $1.29 million early Friday morning. The card last sold in 2016 for $465,000.
Part of an auction of over 3,700 lots of sports cards and memorabilia playing out over four days, the Gretzky OPC rookie is considered the most popular modern era card but it’s difficult to land in high grade, with blue borders that show off wear, inconsistent centering, print marks and other reasons.
The final bid came in at just under $1.1 million, with the 20% buyer’s premium accounting for the price the as yet unknown buyer will pay.
The Gretzky O-Pee-Chee that sold Friday belonged to entrepreneur Patrick Bet-David.
PSA has examined over 6,000 copies of the OPC Gretzky rookie card. In addition to the two rated ’10’, there are 89 Mint 9s, 742 NM/MT 8’s and the rest rank NM or less, attesting to the likelihood that the one you might have in your old shoebox has some value, but won’t put your kid through college.
One of the two PSA 10 Gretzky rookie cards made by O-Pee-Chee’s American big brother Topps, was also up for grabs courtesy of Bet-Davis It sold for a big price, too: $720,000, earning him a pretty strong return on his investment.
Sold 2 Gretzky cards last night for $2,010,000.
I’ve been collecting cards since 1990. The market has changed tremendously.
If you’re a serious investor, you may want to consider investing a small portion of your portfolio in cards.
I made 233% return in 17 months. https://t.co/tNBpBrmx9r
— Patrick Bet-David (@patrickbetdavid) December 11, 2020
The photo for the famous card was taken November 9, 1978 when the young Edmonton Oilers star crossed paths with 50-year-old Gordie Howe and the Hartford Whalers in an early season World Hockey Association game at the Springfield (MA) Civic Center. Photographer Steve Babineau was paid $17 to cover the game.
An unopened box of 48 1979-80 OPC packs–more than likely containing at least one Gretzky rookie– generated plenty of interest from bidders. It sold for $114,000 .
The catalog included one of Michael Jordan’s rarest cards, a 1997 Skybox Precious Metal Gems Emerald, numbered to 10. Graded Authentic by PSA, the card sold for a staggering $915,000, against a pre-sale estimate of $500,000.
In February of 2019, another copy of the card graded Authentic (Altered) sold for what was then a headline-generating $350,100.
“The simple fact is, when collectors see the opportunity to add an unparalleled piece to their collections, you can throw estimates out the window,” stated Heritage Auctions Sports Director Chris Ivy. “That’s clear from the pre-auction estimates that were shattered during this session.”
A fresh-to-the-hobby 1916 M101-4 Sporting News Babe Ruth graded SGC 4 was another big attraction, closing at $360,000.
The card was part of a collection stored inside a plastic bag by a Florida artist after she inherited them. Unsure of what they were, she reached out to the auction house which was more than happy to take them on consignment.
The market for sports cards has reached new heights over the past year, with popular modern and vintage era cards consistently selling at unprecedented levels. Results from Thursday night’s first session proved that with cards on both sides of the spectrum generating investment-type money. Fourteen items sold for $100,000 or more in the auction.
“These results are indicative of the extremely strong market combined with the amazing marketing we were able to create around the auction,” Ivy stated. “And that has brought hundreds of new and eager bidders into the marketplace.”
Other items sold included:
- 2013-14 Panini Prizm Giannis Antetokounmpo Autograph Prizms Black) #33 (1/1) BGS 9.5 ($384,000)
- 1933 Delong Lou Gehrig #7 PSA NM-MT+ 8.5 – Pop One, None Higher ($264,000)
- 2003-04 SP Authentic LeBron James (Rookie Autographs) #148 BGS 10 #336/500 ($204,000)
- 1973 Topps Mike Schmidt #615 Rookie Card PSA 10 ($174,000)
- 1958 Alifabolaget Pele #635 Rookie Card PSA NM-MT+ 8.5 ($132,000)
- 1975 Topps #228 George Brett Rookie Card PSA 10 $117,000)
The auction continues with additional lots set to be sold Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights.
Check the most watched auctions for sports cards and memorabilia on eBay anytime here.