On The Johngy "OR ELSE" podcast, Tommy Else and I had the pleasure of interviewing Susan Lulgjuraj, who turned her passion for sports and sports cards into a career. What a career it has been!
Calling Sooz a sports card industry veteran doesn't nearly encompass all she has accomplished. Currently the Marketing Manager at Certified Sports Guaranty, Sooz previously worked for companies including Topps and Beckett, compiling a resume that reads like a dream job list.
Sooz has earned every bit of praise and recognition she gets. She started as a sports writer in Westchester, New York. In 2007, Sooz started A Cardboard Problem, a sports card blog where I first discovered her. One of the first great sports blogs, it featured all sorts of sports card info, including interviews with athletes and other relevant people. The blog definitely created a unique space in the industry and paved the way for Sooz's later roles.
I was such a fan and admirer of Sooz's work, she was my top interview request when I covered The National in 2017. For a kid who grew up with a similar passion for cards, this interview was a huge thrill for me. That interview is at On the Beat With Susan Lulgjuraj.
I continued following her career, especially enjoying her social media posts. I have wanted to do a longer form interview since then and the pandemic oddly produced both a forum and a few topics.
Wanting to get her takes on the pandemic's recent and future effects on the industry and having the Zoom platform to facilitate the interview, I sent Sooz a message and she graciously agreed to join us for a chat.
As always, we started by asking Sooz for a quick bio, before moving onto the real questions. As hoped, Sooz gave her thoughts on how the industry has changed during the pandemic. Not one to give wild predictions, she did give her insight on the state of the hobby in general going forward.
A noted fan of the New York Yankees, Sooz revealed her favorite former and current Yankees player, the latter hurting my bleeding Chicago Cubs heart, but an understandable pick. Naturally, her favorite cards belong to her favorite player. That led us into the topic of player collecting.
In my earlier collecting years, it was easy to collect a specific player. There might have been a challenge like a regional product, but usually every card of any given player could be gotten every year with a little effort. As the industry grew, with more companies and more sets, followed by parallels and specials, being a completist wasn't always possible.
(Spoiler alert...Derek Jeter was one of her previously mentioned favorite Yankees). As a Jeter collector with more than 2,000 Jeter cards, Sooz had a personal connection to this question. Her answer might be tough for completists, but it also might help them accept the situation.
One of the best in the industry for years, Sooz talked about breaking into a male-dominated field. Although it wasn't a major issue for her, anyone who dismissed or discounted her knowledge based on gender was making a huge mistake.
Working at Topps, picking images for some cards was a fantasy job of the younger me (and even the current me, to be honest). Of course, Sooz talked a bit about that, but also about another one of her enviable achievements. Sooz appears on a 2017 Topps Allen & Ginter card. How cool is that? If you are lucky enough to find one, be prepared to open your wallet. Believe me, I have been looking for years. I have seen some sell for $250+ on Ebay.
It's so much fun talking sports cards with someone who shares your passion. Having the other person be someone like Sooz makes it a bucket list interview for me. Topping it off, Sooz made my day by stating she follows my blog. I don't care if she looks every day or only looked once, knowing Sooz actually saw my blog is amazing.
You can watch the interview at The Johngy "OR ELSE" podcast Ep. 51: "Susan 'Sooz' Lulgjuraj." Thank you to Susan Lulgjuraj for all she has done and continues to do for the trading card industry. We also thank her for her time and consideration in the interview. Lastly, we encourage all to follow Sooz at Yanxchick.