The Sports Bookie -- Breaking open a box of Topps Strata football

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When I got to work tonight I found a package waiting for me from Topps. Inside were hobby boxes of 2012 Topps Strata and 2012 Bowman Sterling.

I will review Sterling a little bit later. Let's start with Topps Strata.

This is an excellent product for NFL set builders on a budget. There are plenty of rookies — 50 in the base set of Topps Strata — and the checklist is bookended with Robert Griffin III at card No. 1 and Andrew Luck at No. 150.

There also are 100 base cards of veteran players.

Priced in the $85 to $95 range for its debut set, Topps Strata has 18 packs in a hobby box and six cards to a pack. Topps promises three rookie hits per box — a clear-cut autograph relic, an autograph card and a relic card.

And if you like to chase master sets, Topps has thrown in a wrinkle. Rookie cards have different action poses in retail boxes than those in the hobby boxes. Have fun chasing those; they won’t be impossible, since the rookies are not short-printed in either version. The retail cards will be printed on thinner card stock, too.
The hobby box I sampled yielded 99 base cards, which included 33 rookie cards. There was one parallel card, a bronze of Jets wide receiver Stephen Hill numbered to 150. You have to look carefully to find the parallels, they are easy to miss. The serial number is stamped on the card front, and the color of the parallel can be found along the left and right borders of the card front.

In hobby boxes, there are also gold parallels (numbered to 99), blue (50) and green (10). There is a red parallel that is a 1/1 and printing plate cards are also 1/1s.

On to the hits. The first one I pulled was an on-sticker signature of Vikings offensive tackle Matt Kalil, numbered to 296. A purple uniform swatch is framed by silver foil, which in turn is framed by a purple square.

The second big hit was a Clear Cut autograph relic rookie card of Titans wide receiver Kendall Wright. There is a very large swatch of light blue Titans material, and Wright’s signature is on the clear flap of the card, which is numbered to 55. It’s a thick card, too, on 180-point stock. When I opened this pack, there were only three cards, as opposed to the normal six. But it was well worth being short-changed on base cards.

There are 43 different Clear Cut cards in the set.

The final big hit was a Rookie Relic card of Ravens rookie running back Bernard Pierce, numbered to 296.

An interesting card was a die-cut shield card of Colts tight end Coby Fleener. I’ve heard where some of these cards have come out damaged or chipped because of the design, but the one I pulled seemed to be blemish-free.

The design for Strata is simple, with cutout action shots of the players dropped into a background that reminds me of two large air conditioning vents. Design is vertical for the base cards, which I really enjoy. Same goes for the Kalil autograph card; the Clear Cut and relic cards are designed in a horizontal format.

Overall, a nice debut. Strata is affordable and affords the set builder the chance to complete a set. It would probably take about two or perhaps three boxes to achieve that, but it is workable. The hot cards are nice enough to thrill the mid-range collector, too.
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