Special news story from Sept. 10 issue of Linn's Stamp News.

Varro E. Tyler, 1926-2001
By Rachel Supinger

Varro E. Tyler, author of Linn's books Philatelic Forgers: Their Lives and Works and Focus on Forgeries: A Guide to Forgeries of Common Stamps, died in the early morning of Aug. 22 at St. Elizabeth Medical Center, West Lafayette, Ind. He was 74 years old. The cause of his death was a blood clot in his lung, according his obituary in The New York Times of Aug. 26.


Varro Tyler


Mr. Tyler, known to his friends as Tip, was born Dec. 19, 1926, in Auburn, Neb. He was the foremost expert in the field of philatelic forgeries, especially forgeries of common stamps. He authored books and articles on the subject, and he taught the "Detecting Fakes, Forgeries and Altered Stamps" class at the American Philatelic Society's annual Summer Seminar on Philately (known as Stamp Camp).

Mr. Tyler authored the fortnightly Focus on Forgeries feature in Linn's, which began in November 1987. The feature appears in this issue on page 6 (in print) and will continue for three more installments.

In the second edition of his book Focus on Forgeries, Mr. Tyler wrote, "If you, too, enjoy the thrill of the hunt and wish to avoid the disappointment felt when the forgery you purchased turns out to be genuine, I believe this volume will be helpful to you."

Mr. Tyler was a member of the APS, the American Philatelic Research Library, the Cinderella Stamp Club, the Germany Philatelic Society and the Collectors Club of New York. He was a fellow of the Royal Philatelic Society London and vice-president of the International Society for Japanese Philately. He served as chairman of the ISJP expertizing committee for eight years. He also was a member of the International Association of Philatelic Experts.

In 1989, the APS recognized him as an elder statesman of philately. He received the John N. Luff award in 1998 for distinguished philatelic research. Mr. Tyler was elected to the Washington State Philatelic Hall of Fame, received the Korea Stamp Society award for meritorious service and signed the Maurice Williams roll of notable cinderella philatelists.

His stamp-collecting interests were Japan and forgeries and related cinderella items of all countries, and philatelic literature pertaining to both. He claimed to have no other collecting interests as these "are more than adequate to keep me busy in my spare moments for several lifetimes."

And, indeed, he did keep busy. He conducted numerous seminars across the United States and abroad on his professional specialty, pharmacognosy. This is a division of pharmacy dealing with drugs from natural sources, especially plants. Mr. Tyler was dean of the school of pharmacy and pharmacal sciences at Purdue University for 20 years. He also served there as executive vice president for academic affairs and provost for five years before retiring several years ago. He held the Lilly distinguished chair in pharmacognosy and remained active at Purdue as dean and distinguished professor of pharmacognosy emeritus.

He received his bachelor's degree from the University of Nebraska. He went on to earn the first master's degree and the first doctorate granted by the University of Connecticut's school of pharmacy. Mr. Tyler wrote more than 350 books and publications on herbal medicine and pharmacognosy. In that field as well, he was considered to be the preeminent cognoscente. His books were recommended reading for anyone researching herbal medicines, either as a professional or a dabbler.

In addition to, and often as a part of, his vocational and avocational activities, Mr. Tyler traveled widely, especially in Europe but also in the Middle East and Asia. On most of these trips he was accompanied by his wife Virginia, whom he met on a blind date in college. He had just returned from a trip to Austria with her, celebrating their 54th wedding anniversary, when he died the following morning.

Mark Blumenthal, founder and executive director of the American Botanical Council, wrote, "As busy as he was, he seemed to always find time to help his friends, edit an article, mentor someone on their book, and so on. He was always the consummate gentleman and diplomat, and his generosity of spirit was boundless."

Mr. Tyler is survived by his wife, daughter Jeanne Griffith, son David Tyler and sister Jessie Lou Allen.


This is an edited version of a Linn's article that appeared in the Sept. 10, 2001, issue of Linn's Stamp News. For the complete story, subscribe to Linn's Stamp News.

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