Evidence of early-print cards comes not just from the traditional Blue Skate-Lines, but also from the front, and doesn’t even come from Gretzky, but his neighbor to the north on the print sheet; Pat Hughes, #65. It isn’t a stretch to suggest that the stain in these two cards and likely a hundred other Gretzky’s from the same print stack (4% of graded PSA 9’s have this damage) has possibly wiped hundreds of thousands of dollars out of the Gretzky collector market, given that the difference between a PSA 9 and a 10 is about $400,000 USD.
Pat Hughes was traded to Pittsburgh on August 30, 1979, and this meant that O-Pee-Chee had to update their print run to reflect this. They used the Canadiens profile photo they had on hand, and simply added the words “NOW WITH PENGUINS”. The cards are positioned here just as they are on the sheet; the Hughes #68 card directly above the Gretzky #18 card and the Ryan Walter #236 below. It was only after examining the cards on the uncut sheet did the lightbulb go off. The traded statement must have been picked up from by the rollers, presumably from the first Pat Hughes card printed with the statement and soon thereafter smeared across my Gretzky’s on this and subsequent sheets, and continued transferring it to the other cards down the line, including coming back-around on to my second Hughes card when the rotational circumference of the roller matched up with it – the evidence of this is in the image on the right. Even further evidenced by the fact that I pulled all of these cards from packs I had purchased at the same time from the box.
I’ve placed the trade statement from the #65 card atop the stains in all images to illustrate my point, and did it without having to resize or nuthin’, fits like a puzzle piece, unfortunately.
To continue with my theory of the source of this imperfection, I started looking for cards further down the chain. My example of Ryan Walter #236 could have something, tough to tell, the printing process was far from perfect .. is that something? When it appears on NR-MT cards, it makes me think so even more. The Ryan Walter in the case is from a PSA 9.
The trade statement is damaged with ink from the rollers. Given how close it is to the original placement, this could be a very early print card and came in one of 20 packs that also contained the Gretzky’s shown here.
The ink begins to smear across the Gretzky card 0.25″ north “at the blue line” and continues up through the letters. It also left a “skid mark” on the boards to the right of his left elbow. Other PSA 9s suffer the same smear and skid mark issue (below).
The remains of the print damage is diminishing as the print continues but is being transferred to the cards through the rollers.
Again, but moved to the left and up 1/16th”. This card escaped the skid mark, but does have the Floating Fleck, to the right of his face, errant material the Hughes card, and usually found on the same north-south trajectory in the image.
Another PSA 9 with the Smear of ’69, the Board Skid Mark, and the Floating Fleck.
Another PSA 9 with the same issue, no skate lines on the back.