Meet Your Merchant: Afghan war veteran returns to run trading card store
Chris Bazan spends his time at work with a few familiar faces: Koufax, Mantle, Aaron, Clemente.
Bazan, 41, a former Marine who is still serving in the Nevada Army National Guard, is the owner of Soks Sports Cards in north Carson City. He bought the business from former owner Scott Kirk in 2008 and returned to run the shop after serving a nine-month combat tour in Afghanistan.
“I got back in April from Afghanistan,” said Bazan, who conducted more than 250 combat missions. He still wears the boots he wore in Afghanistan to work.
Today, things are calmer for Bazan, who also works as a federal employee in Carson City.
Bazan, 41, started collecting trading cards in the ’70s – his favorite teams are the New York Yankees and Pittsburgh Steelers. Part of his collection was added to the tiny but jam-packed store filled with baseball, football, basketball and hockey trading cards as well as jerseys – including throwbacks like Dan Marino – and action figures depicting sports heroes like Greg Maddux.
“I’ve got some beauts,” Bazan said, walking over to a display case.
He points at a Mickey Mantle autographed baseball, a 1958 Mantle in mint condition and an Andy Pafko card No. 1 from 1952.
“It’s not in super condition but it books at $5,000,” he said.
Bazan said he tries to keep his prices low compared to the recommended price.
“Especially now with the economy the way it is, people don’t have the money to throw around,” Bazan said. “So you have to cut them deals.”
He points to a Mark Sanchez rookie card rated at a mint 9, or nearly flawless.
“It would probably book for $80 and I’m selling it for $30,” he said.
Interest, of course, has peaked in the last couple weeks for San Francisco Giants memorabilia like Tim Lincecum jerseys.
“For me in my situation, I like to see every team do good,” he said. “That’s what sells.”
Bazan and his wife moved to Nevada in 2000, returning to the region after he was stationed at the Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center at Pickel Meadow near Bridgeport, Calif.
“I was up there for four years and three months and I fell in love with this area,” said Bazan, who went back to his home state of New York where he attended college and got his bachelor’s degree. “It was kind of dead in New York so I said, ‘Let’s move out West.'”
So they moved to Carson City and eventually got the opportunity to take over the shop.
Bazan said most of his customers are usually men in their 20s or older, guys continuing to build their collections.
“I have kids who come in regularly, but obviously they don’t have the money,” he said. “So they just buy a pack or my grab bags or my mystery boxes. But the adults come in and I’ll get the collectors boxes and the hobby sets.”