Fractional Greatness: Skating Into the Gretzky IPO
This Friday, February 12 at 12 PM EST, Rally will hold an IPO on a ‘1979 Topps Wayne Gretzky Rookie Card’ (PSA 10). The financials:
• Market Cap: $800,000
• Price per Share: $40.00
• Number of Shares: 20,000
When the professional hockey sports card market broke through the million-dollar ceiling in December 2020, it was this cards’ Canadian cousin, the 1979 O-Pee-Chee (PSA 10) that established the record. The two cards are nearly identical, with the Canadian card known for its bilingual verbiage and exceptional clarity. It does not take a keen eye though to notice that the American version is a cleaner cut. Canadian factories used dull wires to slice card sheets which often resulted in jagged edges and frail corners. American factories utilized blades that helped produce the immaculate dimensions presented by this piece. The rarity of Gem-Mint Gretzky rookie cards has propelled its value throughout the recent blue-chip card boom. For reference, there are 316 Michael Jordan rookies holding a PSA 10 rating but only four Gretzky rookies have received the same perfect rating. To further emphasize this particular Gretzky card's rarity, over 500 more Topps editions have received a grade compared to O-Pee-Chee but the two versions have produced the same number of Gem Mint 10 designations. There are currently only two PSA 10’s of each version and while the OPC model has outpaced Topps at the auction house, it's clear both brands are starting to have their value realized by investors.
The Great One
Born in Brantford, Ontario, Wayne Gretzky was just two years old when he received his first pair of skates. By age six he was playing against ten-year-olds, and at seventeen he was playing professionally for the Indianapolis Racers of the World Hockey Association. After the WHA collapsed in 1979, the Edmonton Oilers received the rights to Gretzky and the rest is history. Over the next twenty years, he would go on to break every NHL scoring record, amassing 894 goals and 1,963 assists for a total of 2,857 points in 1,487 games.
An ode to Gretzky’s greatness was his ability to contribute offensively outside of just scoring goals. While he was not known for a screaming slap shot like Bobby Hull or Al MacInnis, Gretzky excelled with pinpoint passing. Even if he had never scored a single goal he would still be the NHL’s all-time leading scorer based on his assist totals alone. He is still the only player to win 9 Hart Trophies (league MVP) and 10 Art Ross trophies (league’s top scorer). No player in league history has ever won the Art Ross trophy by more than 30 points. Gretzky won it by at least 70 points six times. No player in history has ever had a 200 point season except for Gretzky, who had four in a five-season stretch between 1981-1986. His worst statistical season of that span was 1982, where he only scored 196 points, which is still 41 points more than any other player not named Mario Lemieux has tallied. He also holds seven NHL playoff records including most career goals, assists, and points. Arguably his most impressive feat is scoring 50 goals in only 39 games for an average of 1.28 goals per game. For perspective, the most goals scored in a season since 2010 is 60 in 82 games by Steven Stamkos of the Tampa Bay Lightning, or 0.73 goals per game. The NHL even implemented a rule in 1985 that introduced off-setting penalties to eliminate four-on-four situations, which Gretzky thrived on. Although the change only lasted one season it was yet another example of just how dominant number 99 was on the ice. Gretzky not only influenced the way the game was played on the ice, he also reshaped the entire NHL landscape. His impact on revenue in Los Angeles led other warm-weather cities to establish NHL franchises. Six teams were founded after Gretzky helped cultivate hockey’s popularity in the United States: The Anaheim Ducks, Florida Panthers, Phoenix Coyotes, San Jose Sharks, and Tampa Bay Lightning.
Although the Topps card will likely always play second fiddle to the O-Pee-Chee version, the fact that the million-dollar threshold has been shattered for hockey cards bodes well for the future value of the American version. The extreme scarcity this card exhibits warrants steady appreciation that should continue due to the unbreakable legend of Gretzky. As a bonus, the proverbial wind is at the sails of the hockey card market based on recent auction activities. Through 2019, the average realized price for PSA 9 graded Topps Gretzky’s hovered around $9,000. In 2020, demand increased with numerous sales ranging from $23,000-$49,000, with the momentum continuing into 2021 when a mint version sold for $52,000. The Canadian mint and near-mint variety also experienced an exponential rise in recent years. On December 10, 2020 Collectable offered a PSA 9 OPC Gretzky at a $67,000 market cap, and recent auctions have tabbed the card between $75,000-$79,000. Sports cards as a sector are finding success on fractional marketplaces. Rally has offered 18 cards that have traded on their secondary market or received and accepted a buyout offer. All have traded positively through the first week of February, with an average post-IPO gain of 57.6%.
In an era where blue-chip cards are the focal point of a lucrative but volatile bull market, the aura around Gretzky has only intensified. The combination of impeccable design and inconceivable rarity makes this piece a great one, just like the player it displays.
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