YOUR TOWN: Hannibal business has artifacts, oddities from all over world

Gordon Harrison, owner of Lydia’s Cabinet of Curiosities, helps Hannibal resident Kelsey Tesch with her purchase in the downtown historic district of Hannibal, Mo.
Posted: Aug. 5, 2014 7:56 am Updated: Aug. 19, 2014 10:15 am

Herald-Whig Staff Writer

­HANNIBAL, Mo. -- Its sign says antiques, but a new Hannibal emporium is home to more than china sets and rocking chairs.

Lydia's Cabinet of Curiosities, at the corner of North and Bird, has artifacts and oddities from all corners of the globe, even if the shop's exterior doesn't show it. Those who make a trip inside will find, among other items, a rhinoceros skull uncovered in North Dakota, fan coral from Papua New Guinea and an Egyptian mummy's foot that's been in the U.S. for 160 years.

Owner Gordon Harrison, while turning a 6,000-year-old stone carving in hands, said he opened the store in May as way to showcase paintings he restored himself and the unique items he has collected over the years.

"I figured other people would like to see it as well," he said.

An art history graduate from Truman State University, Harrison has always had a taste for the unusual. He said a childhood trip to Japan and an East Asia studies minor helped to cultivate his interest in uncommon pieces.

"Those experiences opened my eyes to what's truly in this world," he said.

The art conservator and historian brought some of those worldly relics to Hannibal, and they're on display for all to see -- or buy. Harrison said he purchases the items from collectors he meets through his work, pointing to a marble camel with a human head and wings -- one of two in the world, he said.

Some of his rare wares do have local ties. Harrison recently acquired a first edition, first run copy of "The Prince and the Pauper" by Mark Twain. The leather-bound novel, copyrighted in 1881, was printed by Boston's Franklin Press and features hand-painted paper on the interior cover. Harrison noted he was told fewer copies were bound in leather, and they often fall apart easier than those with other bindings.

"That's why this one is a little treasure," he said.

Twain enthusiasts can add it to their collections for $9,000. However, Harrison noted he also has inventory for those with smaller budgets: costume jewelry, skeleton keys, matchbooks, shark teeth and geodes are available for burgeoning collectors.

Harrison, though, buys every day, and for him, collecting will remain a way of life.

"It's the only thing I've ever known," he said.

Lydia's Cabinet of Curiosities, 223 N. Main, is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Sunday.