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Penchant for collectibles


ALMOST everyone I know calls me Zorro. I got this nickname because I am known to be a loner.

I was born in Malacca but have travelled and served in many states nationwide. After settling down and having children, Johor Baru is where I call home now.

I remember receiving a Parker pen from my English teacher, whom I called master, when I was 8 years old.

I was studying in a Chinese vernacular school, and being the only Malay boy in the school, I was easily recognisable.

My English master gave me the Parker pen worth RM45 then, because I had good results in class. I still have the pen with me.

Since then, I have always had a liking for Parker pens, and that was what started my hobby of collecting when I was growing up.

I have a special liking for branded items and along the way have collected belts, watches and also emblems, which I happen to chance upon at flee markets.

I joined the Royal Malaysian Police force at its training centre in Pulapol, Kuala Lumpur, in the 1980s, and upon graduating in 1988, I was posted to Malacca.

As a detective, I had many cases in rural areas and also had to travel to other states, as the criminals we were tracking down often moved their operations around to elude the police. Sometimes, we came across gruesome finds which had an impact on me.

To unwind, I would take a long ride on my motorcycle to visit villages during my days off.

At times, when there were operations or raids, I would be on duty for few days, before I got a two-day break.

I would use my break to ride to villages, to enjoy the serenity.

I made friends with the villagers and started collecting items like old bicycles, motorcycles, signboards, lamps, kitchen tools, knives, and many others.

Most of the items were kept in my hometown and my mother often gave me an earful, saying that I was wasting time and money.

What started as a hobby grew into a passion and a business, when I made my first sale.

While I was at the jetty in Mersing, wearing a reconditioned Rolex watch, model 6694, manufactured in 1972, a Japanese tourist approached me and offered to buy the watch for RM3,000.

I paid RM350 for the Rolex which was purchased at watch shop that shared space with a kopitiam.

We started talking and the tourist, whose name is Makikiyo, told me about the collectable shop he operated in Japan.

Of course, I sold him the watch, and today we are still in contact and constantly buy things off one another. We have become good friends.

About two years ago, as my collection became too big to store in Malacca, and my home here, I rented a store.

When work seems overwhelming or if I have had a bad day, I spent some time at the store, fiddling with the items. I find it relaxing and rejuvenating.

Being around old stuff which has a story to tell has a calming effect on me. I took an early retirement, and on Dec 1, last year, I opened my collectibles store, which I named after my good friend, Makikiyo.

Today, I am happy that one of my dreams, which was to be able to earn a living from my hobby, has been fulfilled. I guess it is true that our dreams do come true if we have the courage to pursue them.

Nazri Baba, 46, was a detective with the Johor police's Criminal Investigation Department before opting for early retirement and turning his hobby into a lucrative business.

Interview by Jassmine Shadiqe

(Left) His shop is named after his good friend who gave him the idea to turn his passion into a business. Pix by Nur Aisyah Mazalan

(Top) Nazri Baba has been collecting Parker pens since his teacher gave him one at school for doing well in his studies.

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