Description1979 O-Pee-Chee Wayne Gretzky #18 Rookie PSA Gem Mint 10--Population Two! He owns more records than any player in the history of the sport, and just over two decades after finding the back of the net for the 894th and final time in his peerless career, The Great One appears poised to set one more. While Wayne Gretzky's athletic supremacy has been mirrored in trading card pricing since the offered rookie was a newborn hatchling, the rising trajectory of the "modern" market has seen an unprecedented burst of speed in recent years as global investors have taken a seat at a table long occupied by "hobby nerds" alone. Within the space of a year, we've seen the world record for the celebrated 1986-87 Fleer Michael Jordan rookie increase ten-fold, and a few 21st century productions climb into seven-figure territory to claim dominance over an industry focused for generations upon dusty old rarities.
Having recently passed its fortieth birthday, the Wayne Gretzky rookie finds itself balanced between the venerable old and spanking new, though we're still inclined to carve its likeness into the Mount Rushmore of the modern era. Its status as the most recognizable hockey card in the hobby is uncontested, though it could hardly be characterized as ubiquitous, particularly in the listed format produced in Gretzky's native Canada. Jordan rookies outnumber the Gretzky by a factor of three-to-one in the full population, and the divide explodes to cavernous dimensions at the top of the grading spectrum. At the time this text is written, the PSA website indicates a population of 316 Gem Mint 10 examples of the Fleer Jordan rookie, while the offered Gretzky card is one of only two to achieve that top-tier assessment.
While the knee-jerk reaction to a Jordan submission being fifty times more likely to receive a perfect rating than a Gretzky might be to blame those extra seven years of life, or the rougher hands of hockey collectors, the actual culprit was the original production itself. This is particularly apparent in those cards distributed by OPC, eternally notorious for "rough cut" edges that left perfection maddeningly out of reach. The Canadians 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.
You can spot the slightest hint of that characteristic if you magnify our online images to multiples of their original scale, but there's no question that this elite beauty earns every point of its double-digit rating honestly. We should also remember that the cut is just one of many possible stumbling blocks the offered representation hurdles en route to supremacy, as issues with image registration and centering were likewise commonplace during this era of trading card production. And this only gets you out of the wax pack before the merciless onslaught of time takes its turn on offense.
Thus the journey from the O-Pee-Chee cutting table to a PSA Gem Mint 10 slab could be considered as perilous and unlikely as the journey from an Alcatraz cell to the San Francisco mainland. There is no other card from the past half century that has seen a lower success rate in achieving the seemingly impossible goal realized here, with the sole exception of its Topps sibling whose Gem Mint 10 population is likewise just two, though its full submission count slightly higher. We note that one of those elite Americans can also be found within this Signature auction, the very first time both "Great One of Two" representations have shared a hobby stage.
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