Wayne Gretzky rookie card stolen 7 years ago finally returned to B.C. owner

A photo from the Kelowna RCMP shows Const. Mike Della-Paolera returning the hockey card to Ian Moore.

It took several years, but a stolen hockey card likely worth quite a bit of money has finally been returned to the victim of a burglary.

The card featuring Canadian hockey legend Wayne Gretzky when he was just starting his career was among several vintage cards stolen during a break-in in Kelowna, B.C., in 2015.

The 1979 Edmonton Oilers rookie card featuring The Great One disappeared along with other items stolen from a home on Byland Road, and although the case was under investigation by Kelowna RCMP for years, there were few leads for police to follow.

The RCMP detachment said in a news release outlining the series of events Tuesday that the investigation ultimately went cold.

"There were no further investigative avenues to be taken," the RCMP said.

That is, until 2019, when police received another call.

Officers were dispatched to Boyce Crescent, also in Kelowna, for reports of a suspicious vehicle. They found a man and a woman at the scene, seated inside what was believed to be a stolen pickup truck.

Also inside the truck, according to the RCMP, was an "abundance" of items allegedly stolen from a residence. The man and woman were arrested for being in possession of property obtained by crime, the RCMP said, and the items were stored as exhibits at the Kelowna detachment.

Wedged in with the rest of the items was the Gretzky card.

The card was stored away for some time, but this year, as the evidence was being disposed of, it drew the attention of RCMP personnel.

The RCMP said those staff members realized the value, did some research, then mentioned it to officers with the detachment.

That card was familiar to one officer in particular: Const. Rick Goodwin, who'd worked the original case.

Goodwin said in an RCMP news release that he'd thought of the 2015 break-in as soon as he heard about the vintage hockey card stored among other exhibits.

"I dug up the details of the old file and was able to track down (the original owner). I was surprised to learn he still had my old business card I had given him years earlier," Goodwin said.

The owner, Ian Moore, came in to the station and was able to describe the card he'd once had, "including unique details that only the owner would know," the RCMP said.

Moore even had records and documents he'd held on to despite the theft, showing that he did own the card.

Police returned the card to a thankful Moore, who said he was impressed by the constable who'd worked his case years ago and still remembered it.

The RCMP did not provide an estimated value for the card, but it could be worth hundreds of thousands, if not millions, depending on the condition.

The Canadian Press reported on a rookie card selling for C$1.29 million at auction in 2020, and on another that sold last year for a record-breaking US$3.75 million

A Gretzky card with some imperfections sold for US$465,000 in 2016, and several are listed on eBay for between C$7,705 and $59,000.