2014-05-07 02:00:00 (GMT)
Card No. 18 in the 1979 Topps hockey set: Wayne Gretzky, center, Edmonton Oilers.
His rookie card.
To Gretzky or not to Gretzky
I attended a card show in metro Detroit in the early '90s and saw the blue card on a dealer's table.
Gretzky was an L.A. King by this point, years away from the Oilers.
He was anointed hockey's West Coast ambassador. His all-world play and celebrity were to lead the expansion and mainstreaming of the NHL.
But my hockey collection was non-existent at the time and making Gretzky my first hockey rookie card seemed wrong.
I grew up outside of Detroit. Steve Yzerman — or Stevie Y. — was the Red Wing's star captain and center. I thought I should turn around and move on to another table, if not a Yzerman rookie.
Instead, I walked around and thought about making the buy.
Looking back, I know a magazine cover played a role in my final decision.
Gretzky is on the cover of the inaugural issue of Beckett's hockey card price guide. A helmetless Gretzky is skating in a black-and-silver Kings jersey. It's an iconic image among collectors.
Gretzky was the modern symbol of the hockey card industry.
Why would I walk away from an attainable Gretzky rookie?
I handed some cash to the dealer.
In grading parlance, the card is in "very good-excellent" condition.
The back of the card prophetically says, "Wayne is considered the best prospect to turn professional since Guy Lafleur."
During his 1978-1979 rookie season, Gretzky started playing his way into history. He scored 46 goals and made 64 assists to collect 110 points over 60 games.
A young Great One is listed as standing 5'11" and weighing in at 165 pounds.
Over the years, I've acquired the rookie cards of other hockey superstars.
But to this day, I don't own a Steve Yzerman rookie.
Headline: Card tales: The Great One