Tucson Mineral and Gem World – Tucson, Arizona - Atlas Obscura

Tucson Mineral and Gem World

A natural history wunderkammer in the middle of the desert. 


Not far from Old Tucson, a studio town built in the 1950s for filming westerns, a large canvas teepee and a bright red tyrannosaurus rex flank an old wooden storefront that looks like it could be in a classic Western movie.

Tucson Mineral and Gem World has been around since 1968. The place is a cabinet of wonder in the middle of the desert. The Arizona rock shop/museum combo touts over 100,000 items, ranging from the skeletons of vampire bats and baby pigs to meteorites and the skull of a Roman gladiator.

Alongside a tall filing cabinet filled with alphabetized minerals like copper and quartz, the shop keeps meteorites, fossils, and a dried rattlesnake head. Visitors are encouraged to explore the old building, but preferably pay for anything you want to leave with.

In April 2016, someone got away with three skulls: a Roman gladiator, a Spanish conquistador (from 1541), and a Mexican soldier (from the battle of the Alamo). They were among the shop’s most prized possessions, and have been featured in plenty of selfies taken in the old desert store.