Roderick Gilbert "Rod" Tyson, longtime Canadian field collector and mineral dealer, was born in Cardston, Alberta, on August 10, 1952, the son of Vivian Horn and John Robert Tyson, a barber. As a child Rod collected lots of things, including coins, stamps and butterflies; but his aunt Joicey Horn had some minerals and they attracted Rod's interest. It helped living in Ontario, surrounded by mineral collecting localities. W.D. Christianson, a well-known Canadian mineral dealer, was Rod's shop teacher in high school, and he inspired Rod's interest in minerals even more, getting him to join the Barrie Mineralogical Association. For his 16th birthday Rod's parents gave him a trip to the Bancroft (Ontario) Gemboree.
In 1970 Rod met his future wife, Helen Ohrt, while they were taking Geology courses at the University of Toronto; they began collecting minerals and fossils together on the weekends. On class field trips, other students would see Rod's crystals and ask: "Can I buy some?" "Sure," would be the answer. Neither Rod nor Helen knew they were getting an inkling of their future as mineral dealers.
Rod earned his B.Sc. Degree in 1973, and he and Helen married and moved to Edmonton in 1974, for Helen's graduate work. During the following years Rod collected and sold minerals part-time while working as a geologist for various mining companies including Halferdahl and Associates (1974-1980) and Trigg-Woollett Olson (1977-1980).
Rod really wanted to run his own business, collecting and selling Canadian mineral specimens, so in 1975 he formed a partnership with John Gorham, another friend from the University of Toronto, and they mounted field trips to British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Yukon and the Northwest Territories. Their first appearance in Tucson as a dealer was as tailgaters in 1978.
In 1980 John gave up mineral dealing to begin farming in Winfield, Alberta. Rod retired from his day job to become a full-time mineral dealer, with Helen stepping in as his official business partner. They had a room at the Desert Inn in 1981, and in 1982 at the Tucson Travelodge. Rod and Helen finally incorporated in 1988 as Tysons' Fine Minerals Inc. They did a three-year trial of the Munich show in the early 1980s, and were the first non-US dealers at the Denver Show ca. 1983. They began selling at the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show in 1995, and also attended the Denver Show every year for many years.
By 2006, the tar sands boom in Fort McMurray was changing Edmonton. The rent on the Tysons' warehouse increased each year; and skilled help for small jobs became increasingly difficult to find. Collecting zeolites in Parrsboro, Nova Scotia, had always seemed like an exciting idea, so in January of 2007 Rod began looking at housing along the north shore of the Bay of Fundy. He found a ship captain's home, built in the 1890s on an acre of land overlooking the tidal Parrsboro River. The house has a turret, and room for a store. As an extra benefit, the winters were less severe than in Edmonton. By May, Rod and Helen were camped in the yard, watching renovations progress on their new home.
Helen opened Tysons' retail store in July, while Rod spent that summer working as a geologist in British Columbia in order to pay for the renovations to the house. It was the first time in 32 years that he hadn't mounted his own summer field-collecting projects. The new warehouse was finished in May 2008, just in time for a trailer with the contents of the Edmonton warehouse to arrive. The entire move took a full year and two semi-trailers but Tysons' Fine Minerals Inc. was finally resettled in Nova Scotia.
Rod has written or co-written two articles for the Mineralogical Record: on the Port Radium District in the Northwest Territories (1989) and on the best grossular garnets from the Jeffrey mine (2015).
The Yukon Territory has been one of Rod's specialties. Since 1975 he has made 20 collecting trips to the northern Yukon, most recently in July of 2016 when he and two friends spent two weeks in an isolated camp west of the Mackenzie River Delta. The Nanisivik mine on Baffin Island was another prolific locality pioneered by Rod—a place so permanently cold that pyrite specimens had to be melted out of enclosing ice.
If you can get Rod to talk about his proudest achievements, he'll mention his work recovering specimens at the Nanisivik mine, at Rapid Creek in the Yukon, at the El Bonanza mine, at the Society Girl mine, and at Emerald Lake, Yukon. He has also collected at Nanton (Alberta), the Rock Candy mine, McBride, and Mt. Brussilhof mine (all in British Columbia), the Red River Floodway (in Manitoba), Wassons Bluff, Tennycape, East River, and the Colonial Copper mine (all in Nova Scotia), Pine Point (North West Territories), Thunder Bay, the Liscombe deposit, Rossport, and the Rogers mine (all in Ontario), Rocanville and Lanigan (both in Saskatchewan), and the Grey Cloud claim, Bonnett Plume River area and the Rock River area (all in the Yukon).
Rod and Helen purchased half of David K. Joyce's collection in 1999, Rod Shilletto's collection of polybasite and stephanite from Husky mine; Roland Bouhelier collection (for the serandite twin), and Bob Carr's collection (for the Jeffrey mine specimens). They kept some pieces for their personal collection and sold the rest through their business. Today, Rod and Helen still operate their shop in Parrsboro; Rod is semi-retired, and no longer sets up as a floor dealer at the big shows in Tucson and Denver. They can be contacted via their website, tysonsfineminerals.com.
Rod and Helen's mineral collection currently includes around 2,000 specimens, from Canadian localities only. But they don't specialize in any particular localities, and their quality criteria are high enough that their specimens would hold up on the international market. They still have most of their collection, though they sold their first Mont Saint-Hilaire suite to the Royal Ontario Museum, their best antimony specimen to the Mim Mineralogical Museum, and their "poster" vesuvianite from the Jeffrey quarry to Marco Amabili.
In February 2018 Rod was presented with the American Mineral Heritage Award, sponsored by the Mineralogical Record, in recognition of his field-collecting achievements contributing to the Heritage of American (that is, North, Central and South American) mineral specimens.
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[Citation format for this entry:
WILSON, Wendell E. (2019)
Biographical Archive, at www.mineralogicalrecord.com.]
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