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Behind the Suit: History in their hands – Bob and Julia Stein get bit by the antique bug

When Bob and Julia Stein got married five and a half years ago, they faced the same dilemma most couples do - how to cram all of their singleton possessions into one house. But in this case, Bob's 8,000-title trove of sheet music and Julia's several hundred antique clothes irons must have presented a unique spatial challenge.
September 1, 2005

When Bob and Julia Stein got married five and a half years ago, they faced the same dilemma most couples do – how to cram all of their singleton possessions into one house. But in this case, Bob’s 8,000-title trove of sheet music and Julia’s several hundred antique clothes irons must have presented a unique spatial challenge.

The licensing industry veterans – and founders of The Grove Licensing & Design Group, which currently serves as a consultant to Disney, Mattel and Jem Sportswear, as well as licensing agent for Latina fashion brand Chica – have come to appreciate each other’s collecting penchants.

Both Bob and Julia have been foraging for unique finds for several decades, and while Bob says he originally thought Julia’s adoration of pre-electric flat irons was a bit ‘weird,’ he now finds himself regularly trotting home new specimens to add to her hoard. Also, he notes, it wasn’t until he was married that he began to archive and place his music in antique cabinets designed specifically for their storage (of which he now has five, by the way).

Julia says her collection started innocently enough during a trip to Paris as a fashion buyer. While poking around at a garage sale, she found ‘these two sweet little sadirons that [she] was going to use as doorstops,’ and carted them back to the U.S. A few years later, a friend gave Julia five of her grandmother’s sadirons (sad is an old English term for heavy, hence the name sadiron), and that was it. Julia now has irons from more than 25 countries, the oldest one dating back to 1805. She found her most unusual iron – which holds a heated bar of steel to keep it hot and has an ornate wooden handle – in Bologna, Italy, and her heaviest one (used by professional tailors) tips the scales at 30 pounds. Harkening back to her retail roots, Julia has the irons on display throughout her Encino, California home, grouped according to style and period for maximum impact.

Like his wife, Bob didn’t exactly intend to amass such a large stash of sheet music. Though he does love music and has penned a song or two of his own, Bob says it was his desire to preserve a piece of history that prompted his first purchase. During his university days, a box stuffed with Vaudeville-era sheet music caught his interest at a yard sale. He plunked down US$2 and sent it to his mom’s for storage.

Today, Bob’s collection stands as a visual record of social and artistic changes that have taken place over the past 160 years in the U.S. Large pieces from around 1910, with elaborate cover art, evidence the fact that the piano was the biggest source of home entertainment at the time, while small playbill-sized titles published during WWII are physical reminders of the product rationing that occurred. Despite his passion, Bob tries to keep the impulse in check. ‘I don’t search on eBay,’ he says. ‘If I did, it would consume me 24/7. I’d go out of my mind.’

About The Author
Lana Castleman is the Editor & Content Director of Kidscreen and oversees all content for Kidscreen magazine, kidscreen.com and related kidscreen events. lcastleman@brunico.com

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