April 1, 1941-Sept. 22, 2009
The founder of DOLLS magazine, Robert Campbell Rowe, died on Sept. 22, 2009, at his home in Paradise Valley, Ariz., after a brief illness. Journalist, publisher, entrepreneur, man of ideas and connoisseur of the fine things of life, Rowe built a mini-empire of magazines and books that brought an unprecedented level of professionalism to the coverage of popular hobbies for collectors: plates and figurines; miniatures; dolls and teddy bears.
Born in Santa Monica, Calif., and educated in Arizona at The Orme School and the University of Arizona, Rowe came to the East Coast in the 1960s to make a career as a writer. In 1967 he wrote a book on a political scandal of that decade, The Bobby Baker Story, and worked as a reporter for Fairchild Publications. In 1972 he stumbled into the burgeoning world of collectibles via a colleague’s assignment from Esquire magazine to write about a flamboyant dealer selling porcelain birds in Atlantic City, N.J.
In June 1973 Rowe published the first issue of Acquire magazine, which focused on limited-edition contemporary collectibles. In 1977 as he wrote in the 20th-anniversary issue of the magazine: “never having been comfortable with the name Acquire (I thought it sounded too grasping) … I changed the name to Collector Editions.” A natural outgrowth of the magazine was a book publishing company: In 1975 he founded Portfolio Press, which published the first illustrated book on Hummel figurines: Hummel: The Illustrated Guide and Collectors’ Reference by Eric W. Ehrmann, soon followed by The No. I Price Guide to M.I.Hummel by Robert L. Miller (currently in its tenth edition from Reverie Publishing Co.).
In 1977 Rowe started a second magazine, Miniature Collector, devoted to collectors of dollhouses and miniatures. More lavish illustrated books followed—Wedgwood, Belleek, Waterford. In the spring of 1982, he had a vision: “As long as there are mothers and daughters,” he proclaimed one morning, “there will be dolls. We’re starting a new magazine.” The premiere issue of DOLLS—The Collector’s Magazine debuted in October 1982, coinciding perfectly with an exciting turn of artistic focus on, and collecting interest in, dolls.
The success of DOLLS spawned Dollmaking in 1985 and Teddy Bear Review in 1986. Rowe’s passion and zeal for new projects never faded. He regularly swept into the office bursting with a new idea: he organized tours to Europe for collectors, established the Golden Teddy Awards and the DOLLS Awards of Excellence in 1987 and held the first Doll & Teddy Bear EXPO in 1994.
Always looking to support and strengthen the industries his publications served, in 1994 Rowe began hosting a dinner at New York City’s illustrious Tavern on the Green restaurant during the annual American International Toy Fair. For years following, retailers, manufacturers and artists looked forward to kicking off the industry’s largest trade event with drinks, dinner, dancing and much camaraderie.
Among his many achievements were the one-shot magazines Silver Collector International and Jewel, as well as beautiful, comprehensive books for doll and teddy bear collectors, such as A Celebration of Steiff in 1997; Madame Alexander: An American Legend in 1999 and Marie Osmond’s Collector Dolls: The First Ten Years in 2001. In 2001 Rowe sold DOLLS and Teddy Bear Review to the current publishers, Jones Publishing.
Rowe was preceded in death by his first wife, Patricia O’Brien Rowe, and is survived by his wife, Vita Rowe, three children, three stepchildren and several grandchildren. His sharp intellect, quick wit, vibrant personality and visionary leadership will be missed by legions of friends and colleagues.