In the ‘About‘ page on this site, I’ve stated that the arbitrary cut-off between what is and what isn’t a vintage hockey card is the minute ProSet came on the market. The card featured in this article started circulating sometime after the ProSet era began and was immediately labelled a fake. Interestingly, this card has been fetching decent money on eBay auctions lately.
The card in question features Wayne Gretzky in an Indianapolis Racers jersey. The card was produced by National Sports Cards and may be the only card ever printed by the ghost company. The Gretzky WHA card was number 1 in a series of, well… one. The card wasn’t a fake. A fake would be counterfeiting an existing card. This was simply an unauthorized card featuring a new angle of the ‘Great One’.
Wayne played in the World Hockey Association for one season, 1978-79, the last season of the WHA. He began with the Racers, but was traded to the Edmonton Oilers after just eight games. Since the last O-Pee-Chee WHA hockey card series was produced in 1977-78, Gretzky never officially had his picture on a card during his short-lived career in the rebel league. Of course, the Wayne Gretzky rookie card was featured in the 1979-80 O-Pee-Chee / Topps series as a member of the NHL Edmonton Oilers.
The National Sports Cards Wayne Gretzky card (commonly called the Red Rooster) features a photo of Gretzky in a Racers jersey on the front with his name, the team and 1978 printed on the bottom. The card is bordered in a beautiful blood red. The back features a head shot of Wayne with a rather informative (but plagiarized) blurb about his start in the WHA.
Recent auction activity on eBay for the card has a single card going for as high as $20 and not lower than $13. A lot of three went for $27. The number of bids was quite impressive with the $20 card having 39. This suggests the card has become quite an item among collectors. We don’t really know how many of these cards were originally put into circulation and certainly don’t know how many were tossed when people were told they were worthless.
A little Gretzky number trivia:
I read another article about the Gretzky WHA card and the author was speculating on what number Wayne was wearing in the picture on the front. With Indianapolis, Wayne wore 20 for pre-season promos and number 9 for his lengthy eight game career.
According to The Rebel League: The Short and Unruly Life of the World Hockey Association – a truly awesome book by Ed Willes (a book that I read poolside at a Cuban resort in about two days – people thought I was crazy for breaking out laughing on a constant basis), when Gretzky went to Edmonton, Glen Sather wanted him to wear number 14. Gretzky insisted on 99, the number he wore with the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds of the Ontario Hockey League.