Wayne Gretzky waves to the crowd after lighting the Olympic cauldron during the opening ceremonies at the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver on Friday Feb. 12, 2010. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Wayne Gretzky rookie card first hockey card to break $1-million milestone

The $1.29 million price tag includes a 20 per cent buyer’s premium

Wayne Gretzky’s name appears at No. 1 an astounding 60 times in the NHL’s record book.

More than two decades after retiring, The Great One set another high-water mark early Friday morning.

A mint condition 1979 O-Pee-Chee Gretzky rookie card became hockey’s first to cost more than US$1 million when it fetched $1.29 million at auction.

Dallas-based Heritage Auctions says the trading card is just one of two featuring No. 99 from O-Pee-Chee’s 1979 run to get a perfect “gem mint” score from the Professional Sports Authenticator grading service.

That’s out of the 5,711 Gretzky cards the PSA evaluated. By comparison, there are more than 300 Fleer Michael Jordan rookie cards with the same “gem mint” rating.

In the description of the Gretzky collectible on its website, Heritage Auctions says it’s extremely rare to find one in perfect condition because of how cards were cut from the original sheets back in the 1970s.

According to the auction house, O-Pee-Chee, which was essentially the Canadian arm of U.S.-based Topps, “used wire rather than blades to segregate individual cards from their printed sheets, creating a problem that was progressively compounded as the wire dulled from use. Eventually, the cards would suffer cuts as jagged as those on Terry Sawchuk’s face.”

The $1.29 million price tag includes a 20 per cent buyer’s premium.

Gretzky retired from the NHL in 1999 with a record 894 goals, 1,963 assists and 2,857 points.

The Canadian Press

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