Heritage Auctions Dallas (Texas) With the sale of a Wayne Gretzky rookie card, an American auction house claims to have broken its own record. An unknown bidder paid $3.75 million for a 1979 O-Pee-Chee Gretzky rookie card, according to Heritage Auctions. The previous record was held by an identical card sold for $2.5 million in December 2014.
Gretzky's first NHL season was 1979-80, when he played all 82 games for the New York Rangers and helped them win their second consecutive Stanley Cup title. He became only the third player in NHL history to score 50 goals during his debut season, joining Gordie Howe and Lionel Conacher.
The card is one of four autographed hockey cards owned by billionaire Larry Ellison. It is estimated to sell for between $500,000 and $1 million.
Ellison bought the card at an auction in January 2001. At that time it was thought to be one of three known copies, but since then another has come to light.
Gretzky's father, Walter, died in August 2000. In addition to his son, he killed himself along with their family friend, Jari Kuoppa, after an incident at a hotel room party in Brantford, Ontario. Walter Gretzky had been told he could not go home because of money problems.
Topline: An extremely rare 1979 O-Pee-Chee Wayne Gretzky rookie card sold for $3.75 million in a private transaction, breaking the all-time record for the highest price ever paid for a hockey card, but it's only the most recent item to sell for multi-millions in the still-thriving sports card and memorabilia market.
The card is one of approximately 100 issued to players during their first season in the NHL and has been certified by PSA/DNA as being from that issue. It came with an authenticating document from Heritage Auctions stating that the card was genuine and providing information about the card's history.
Gretzky debuted with the New York Rangers on October 9, 1979, and over his first five seasons he averaged more than a point per game. He then had two mediocre seasons before leaving the Rangers to join the Los Angeles Kings in 1983. With Gretzky leading the way, the Kings won the first of what would be three consecutive Stanley Cups that decade. After helping L.A. win another Cup in 1985, Gretzky was traded to the St. Louis Blues prior to the 1986-87 season. He spent three more seasons with St. Louis before returning home to Canada where he played for the Edmonton Oilers after they relocated from New York. The move was not approved by any official league committees and was therefore deemed "illegal". However, the case was never heard in court and no action was taken against the Oilers or Gretzky.
The card has changed hands a few times since then, but it is still known as the "Gretzky Wagner" to this day. Ken Kendrick, owner of the Arizona Diamondbacks, now owns the card, which he acquired privately in 2007 for $2.8 million. It's worth more than that now.
The card was given to Honus Wagner by his friends and family after his death in 1962. They wanted to keep his memory alive and show how much he was loved by everyone. Today, there are no other artifacts or mementoes belonging to him except for this card.
Wagner was born on January 4th, 1874 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. He was an all-star player for the Pittsburgh Pirates from 1895 to 1902. During that time, he set many records that still stand today including most hits (1,406), runs batted in (1,373), and total bases (4,875). He also led the league in hits twice. After his retirement, he went back to Green Bay where he died at the age of 63.
Here are some other things you should know about the Honus Wagner card:
It is estimated to be worth between $500,000 and $1 million dollars.
There are only 52 cards in the world.
The Canadian hockey card company's commemoration of hockey's greatest player is a true slice of real history. Mint condition OPC Gretzky rookies often retail for for $30,000. Higher grade cards carry higher prices.
Gretzky's rookie card was issued in 1983 by the Ontario Provincial Card Company. It is one of four cards in all of sports history to be graded AU-1 by the Beckett Grading Service. An original issue price (OIP) of $109.95 has been established for these rare cards. There were only 1,074 of these cards produced before they were discontinued in 1984. They now sell for hundreds of dollars apiece.
Gretzky's next card was released by Upper Deck in 1994. It is also an original issue price (OIP) of $109.95. This card is considered by many to be the best-looking card of its type ever created. It features a full-color portrait of Gretzky taken by photographer Ron Francis at Ice Palace Stadium in Vancouver. The card is certified PG-13 by the BBG (Beckett Baseball Cards - Global).
Gretzky's final card was released by Upper Deck in 2004. It is an OIP of $109.95 as well.