Wayne Gretzky's rookie trading card became the highest selling hockey card of all time when a mint condition version of his 1979 card fetched US$1.29 million in an online auction on Friday.

The Canadian hockey icon, who retired more than two decades ago, is considered the greatest NHL player of all time and his O-Pee-Chee rookie card became the first hockey card to go for more than $1 million.

"Gretzky is the greatest of all time," Chris Ivy of Heritage Auctions said. "This is his rookie card, and then add onto all that it's O-Pee-Chee, which is the Canadian version, and is highly sought after."

The record-setting card is one of just two to receive a perfect "gem mint" score from appraisers who looked at over 5,000 versions of his rookie card.

The card features a picture of the "Great One" in the uniform of the Edmonton Oilers, who he played with for nine seasons, winning four Stanley Cups.

The card previously sold in 2016 for $465,000 and the auction house had predicted that this time it would garner at least $1 million.

"That this card survived 40-plus years in this perfect condition, the desirability of it for collectors is to have the best of the best, and that's what this is," Ivy said.

Hockey icon Wayne Gretzky, shown here addressing fans at the 2020 all-star game, established another record when his rookie card sold for more than $1 million at an online auction Hockey icon Wayne Gretzky, shown here addressing fans at the 2020 all-star game, established another record when his rookie card sold for more than $1 million at an online auction Photo: GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / BRUCE BENNETT

O-Pee-Chee is the Canadian version of the US-based Topps Company. Ivy said when it comes to collectible hockey cards O-Pee-Chee is more sought after because of its Canadian connection.

"O-Pee-Chee has always outperformed Topps in hockey simply because they're the Canadian brand," he said. "They're the same cards, essentially, but hockey is the national sport of Canada."

Gretzky retired from the NHL in 1999 with a record 894 goals, 1,963 assists and 2,857 points.

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