Los Angeles doesn’t see a lot of snow. Since the biggest storm on record, in 1949, it’s rarely fallen here. That’s what makes Corbin Bern-sen’s office so magical. There the actor, best known for his rakish portrayal of a divorce attorney on L.A. Law, shows off 8,000 globes of the stuff.
Bernsen began collecting snow globes while traveling to promote the hit television series in the late ’80s. “I picked up a few in various towns as souvenirs, like one that said Welcome to St. Louis,” he says. “I had about 25 in a display case, and they looked like pop art. I was in the zone.”
Soon he had amassed several hundred and was buying up other people’s collections. “There’s something that happens to a collector, this internal voice that says, ‘I want to have one of each that is in existence,’” Bernsen says. “That’s easier to do with ’50s vintage cars than with snow globes, but snow globes are a lot cheaper to collect than cars.”
Bernsen’s passion—his collection is among the largest in the world—has led him to create his own company, Corbin’s Classic Domes. His first offering is a limited-edition Christmas globe that depicts a small child slipping a coin into a Salvation Army kettle that’s priced at $25 (all proceeds go to scholarships for underprivileged children to attend the Salvation Army Vision Network’s Conservatory of the Arts). Bern-sen organizes his finds according to subject and shape. “I got some old pharmacy cases, and my brother built some of the shelves,” he says. “We painted them all the same color, and I spent about a month shuffling things around.”
The assemblage includes domes featuring advertising from Heinz, RCA, and a handful of moving and truck companies as well as a figure of a warrior in full Indian headdress (opposite, top) that has sentimental value for the actor because of his Native American heritage (he’s part Cherokee). A bootleg Batman (top row, second from right) marketed in En-gland in the late ’60s is a prize acquisition. “Another one came up on eBay a while ago,” says Bernsen. “I stopped bidding when it hit $800. I had to tell myself, ‘I have one. I don’t need another.’”
Space concerns have lately forced Bernsen to become more selective: “If possible, the globe should be one of a kind or in limited supply. Also, I’m not a fan of unicorns or windup carousel boxes. And no music boxes.”
Meanwhile you’re unlikely to see the novelties in the Valley Village home he shares with his wife, actress Amanda Pays. “When we go to flea markets, she’ll point out some and get excited for me,” Bernsen says. “But they’re not on our mantel, and that’s fine. It’s my thing.”