How to Spot a Fake 1979-80 O-Pee-Chee Wayne Gretzky Rookie Card and Avoid Getting Burned
At the 2019 National in Chicago, I was asked a question I’m asked time and time again: What is the most counterfeited card in the hobby?
The fake we see the most of would have to be the 1986-87 Fleer Michael Jordan Rookie Card. The Jordan RC has held this unfortunate title for many years with no less than a dozen different variations and versions of fakes. Some are quite sophisticated, while others can be spotted from across the room. Inside Beckett Grading, we see counterfeit cards every day. From the most basic and crude homemade fakes to harder to detect fakes coming from around the world.
But the type of cards we see are a wide variety of players and sports.
If the Jordan RC is the most seen fake card, then what is the second?
The clear winner of this not-so-prestigious title of second-most-seen fake card is the 1979-80 O-Pee-Chee Wayne Gretzky rookie.
Notice I specified the O-Pee-Chee version of the Gretzky RC as being the second-most seen counterfeit card. The Topps version doesn’t seem to warrant being counterfeited on the same scale as the OPC version. In fact, in 21 years of being a professional card grader, I have seen just one Topps fake.
The OPC Gretzky RC is the most valuable version by a mile but since I see fakes of cards that sell for less than $20, I’ve always been stumped as to why the Topps version isn’t counterfeited that often.
Fortunately for us collectors and dealers, most all of the different versions of the counterfeit 1979-80 O-Pee-Chee Wayne Gretzky Rookie Cards share similar traits and key detection spots.
Spotting a Fake 1979-80 O-Pee-Chee Wayne Gretzky Rookie Card with the Card Stock
The card stock is one of the first key places to look when looking at an OPC Gretzky RC.
O-Pee-Chee was a Canadian company that contracted with Topps to print their own versions of Topps cards to be sold in Canada.
OPC cards were not printed by Topps. Authentic OPC cards were printed on a whiter stock in comparison to Topps’ stock of the same time. OPC cards were also cut in a different manner than Topps cards. Where Topps cards were cut using a type of blade, OPC cards were cut using a wire. As more and more sheets are cut, the edges of the cards become more ragged. Some are ragged to the point to where they look like the cards were torn apart by hand.
Of all the types of fakes I have seen, I have yet to see a counterfeit that had stock or cuts resembling authentic OPC cards. There have been a small number that looked close, but replicating the actual look and feel and the rough cuts has proven to be nearly impossible, at least so far.
The gloss of the surface is an-other area to examine with many of the fakes have a matte surface.
Looking Closer at the Ink
The second area to examine is the printing of the image of the card. Surprisingly, some of the counterfeit cards have a decent printed image of Gretzky. Some of the cards have backs that are close in appearance to authentic cards. But where the fakes fail is in the printing of the devices of the card’s design.
With your loupe, let’s look at the team name and Gretzky’s name at the top of the front of the card. Like the black border, the names should be printed with solid ink and not comprised of small print dots. They should be sharp and smooth in appearance. Counterfeit cards are usually created by taking an image of an authentic card and not created “from scratch” using traditional graphic design and printing techniques. When you have an image of an image, there is a loss of quality in the printed image. Areas of the design that are supposed to be solid ink are now made of print dots.
These apply to the fake Topps cards as well.
The next area to examine is the area of ice on the front of the card. Under a loupe, the area of white ice on an authentic card should have fine blue print dots and white ink. Counterfeit cards can have red print dots in with the blue dots. Some fakes will have red and blue dots covering the entire ice surface.
The Yellow Dot
Some people talk about the yellow print flaw found on Gretzky’s left shoulder on an authentic OPC card. The thought was at one point that if the yellow dot is missing, it is a fake. This is still true for the most part. Most fakes are simply an image of an image and the yellow dot is lost in the replication. This is not a 100 percent guarantee, though. I have seen a counterfeit OPC version that did have a smaller yellow dot. While this is still a good place to look, it cannot be relied upon as a 100 percent indicator.
Aside from the Gretzky RC, the 1979-80 OPC set is still a relative affordable set. The cost of picking up a few common cards to use in comparison is peanuts compared to the financial loss of buying a fake 1979-80 O-Pee-Chee Wayne Gretzky Rookie Card.
Buying a raw card like a Gretzky RC, or any other highly counterfeited card online, is a big gamble. If you can’t see the card in person to make the comparisons, it may not be worth the headache of having to deal with a return, or worse, being stuck with a fake card.