MORRIS, Minn. (WCCO) — It’s safe to say that a Minnesota man’s love for history has forced him to have a few irons in the fire.
Arnie Stein is the proud owner of more than 3,000 irons — some dating back to the early 1700s.
“I don’t think most folks realize the depth of an iron collection like this,” said Arnie.
Or you could say that most folks didn’t even realize there were iron collectors. Instead of postage stamps or postcards, Arnie likes a little metal and a little steam.
“We just found out there were more and more and more,” said Arnie.
In the early 1990s, Arnie and his first wife, Corrine, began collecting antiques. And they noticed they had about a half dozen irons in their collection. That made Arnie think about how much history is contained in a single household item.
“Maybe there were some that were thrown at a husband and there is a hole in the wall somewhere,” said Arnie with a laugh.
There are now more than 3,000 stories in Arnie’s Iron museum near Morris. It began with a few live auctions.
“And then Ebay came along and Ebay was the Holy Grail of iron collecting,” said Arnie.
And that’s when the household artifacts started coming in from all over the world. Indonesia, India, France and the Netherlands — just to name a few of the dozens of countries.
From the oldest to the oddest. Some are centuries old, and one iron doubles as a suitcase handle.
“You don’t iron with the suitcase you iron with the handle,” said Arnie with a chuckle.
There are small ones.
“This is a miniature Mrs. Potts iron,” said Arnie while holding up an iron just inches long.
The largest in the collection is a 40-pound Egyptian foot iron.
“The person doing the ironing would put his barefoot on here and grab this handle here and swing his foot around. And he could do a sheet just like that,” said Arnie.
A lot of Arnie’s irons used to be in storage. But when Corrine passed away in 2009, Arnie built a museum in his backyard as a tribute to her. A few years later, he found love again and married Linda.
“You knew what you were getting into when you married Arnie? Oh, yes I did. Yes I did,” said Linda with a laugh.
For Linda, part of the fun is watching people walk into what the Iron Man has waiting.
“They are absolutely dumb struck! Oh, I wasn’t expecting this is what they say,” said Linda.
“You grew up with an iron that you used to iron your clothes. I had no idea of the extent of the irons and the collection that was available and it was this whole different world to see,” said visitor Mary Holm.
When he’s not entertaining visitors, Arnie spends his time looking for irons that run on coal, kerosene, whale oil natural gas or electricity. And he lets off steam by cataloging his artifacts. It’s work, but it’s also a passion. And now that he’s retired, it’s not like he’s “pressed” for time.
“Who it was sold to and how it was passed along. To people down the line. Whether they were immigrants or from this country. And what that iron had seen in a home. It would be just amazing to follow the history of just one iron. History in just that one piece,” said Arnie.
Arnie is actually part of a group of iron collectors from around the country called the Pressing Iron and Trivet Collectors of America. These days, he gets a lot of his irons from people who are selling their collections online.
Those interested in visiting Arnie’s Iron Museum can call for an appointment at 320-589-2249.