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Corbin Bernsen on love of snow globes: 'We as human beings yearn for simplicity'

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TORONTO - In Hollywood, Corbin Bernsen is a man who has worn many hats. As an actor, he's been a soap opera priest, a grizzled retired cop, and a prima donna third baseman. And over the course of three decades in the industry, he's also been a director, a producer, a writer and — a snow globe collector?

Yes, the 58-year-old, perhaps best known for his role as Arnie Becker in the 1980s TV show "L.A. Law," has amassed one of the world's largest collections of snow globes. And though he lives in Los Angeles, he's not just a dabbler in the wintry domes.

"Some of the best snow globes are Hawaiian," says Bernsen in an interview. "The best ones are where you get snow in a palm tree. I love that sort of image of a warm place or flamingos or something. … I don't like glitter for the most part, and I don't mind ones that have a sort of oil in them, the old advertising domes. I don't really like many of the new ones, the art is gone. The old ones were hand-painted, the base was ceramic or Bakelite."

The unusual collection began while he was shooting "L.A. Law," visiting cities and being gifted the tchotkes as he went. By the end of the show's eight-year run, he says he had collected about 25 or 30 before finding an antique snow globe priced at $240.

"I went ‘Whoa, I think these are the same things I collect,'" he said.

From there, he went to work researching the old-fashioned way — by asking around, and reading physical newsletters like Snow Biz — and slowly fell in love. The collection now sits at around 8,000 pieces.

"There's something gentle about it, there's something serene about it, and I think that's part of the appeal to me. Something pristine in a world that's kind of gone mad ... just the worlds within it, protected by the glass," he said.

"One off they’re kind of goofy, but all together, they start looking like pop art."

Bernsen's lot is one of the myriad collections that were appraised and admired on "Extreme Collectors," set to premiere next week on Slice. The show looks at unusual and curated collections of prized objects, ranging from antique toys to Wonder Woman paraphernalia. Host Andrew Zegers examines them and gives them a price, with the numbers going as high as $15 million.

Bernsen says that collections like the ones showcased on the series are particularly remarkable — and necessary — in this digital, fast-paced age.

"We are losing touch with the very thing that is the essence of us, which is that basically we are a moral decent people that need and love human contact. I think when you have collections like this ... just for a moment, you get your breath back. You go, ‘Ahh.’ And you touch back to simplicity. And I tell you, as human beings, we yearn for simplicity right now."

While he didn't want to reveal the appraisal price Zegers gave his snow globes before the show premiered, he admits that he did "for a moment" consider selling it, if only because he knows his children have no interest in the collection.

Nevertheless, Bernsen still has big plans for the set. The show inspired him to catalogue and photograph each bauble, and think about them long-term.

"There's a part of me that wants to move it into a business, but also wants to share my collection with people. I have a couple of visions, and one of them — and I'll put this out there because if someone hears this maybe they'll go, 'well, we'll do that — I’d love to put it in a big semi truck, secure it down obviously, and then just have it travel North America.

"I don't think my end is near by any means, but I’d certainly like to know the direction (my collection) is going in."

"Extreme Collectors" debuts on Sept. 2 with back-to-back episodes on Slice TV.

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