North Vietnam, 70. Birthday of Ho Chi Minh, May 19th, 1960, Michel Nr. 131-133, Block 2 and Block 3; Ho Chi Minh was a much beloved leader, both in North and South Vietnam, and on occasion of his 70th birthday North Vietnam issued three stamps and two souvenir sheets. The souvenir sheets were not necessary postally but made Vietnamese stamps more attractive to collectors around the world. The nominals of the stamps were 4 xu and two times 12 xu  but the souvenir sheets had a rather odd nominal of 10 xu. Odd, because 10 xu did not quite cover the standard domestic letter rate which was 12 xu at the time.  The stamps were perforated 11:0 and the souvenir sheets were only issued im-perforated. Below is the official Xunhasaba bulletin that was released upon the issuance of the stamps and the souvenir sheet. Note the small 50,000 printing number of the Block Nr. 2 (Souvenir Sheet Nr. 2).

Very rare large local letter sent the Romanian Embassy in Hanoi to the Presidents Council of Ministers in Hanoi. Most local letters were destroyed in the multi-decadal war, by the aggressive tropical climate or recycling due to raw material shortages.

The letter below features the complete perforated Ho Chi Minh set with the 4 xu value being used twice. The letter was mailed registered to well known philatelist Theo Klewitz in June of 1960 and carried an overall postage of  72 xu. This postage would have been insufficient for a letter to West Germany (standard letter rate of 50 xu) but the clever sender wrote Cong Hoa Dan Chu Duc” which stands for “East Germany”. A letter to East Germany only cost 12 xu plus the 60xu international registration fee which made the franking look perfectly fine to the duped postal clerk.

Mixed currency franking using the old 100D dam stamp from 1956 plus the complete set issued for Ho Chi Minh’s 70. Birthday. The old stamp had been devalued by 1,000:1 on March 1st, 1959 which meant it was only worth 10xu in 1960. So, the overall franking of the bulletin amounted to 38xu. Red propaganda hand cachet on the reverse. England was still an unusual destination in the early 1960’s.

Mixed currency franking featuring a 10D Tran Dang Ninh that was devalued 1,000:1 on March 1st, 1959 and hence only worth 1xu in August of 1960. The overall franking amounted to 12xu (the standard letter rate to Eastern countries as of march 1st,1960). The letter was adressed to Czechoslovakia and featured the 4xu HCM stamp.

Mixed franking from December of 1960 featuring the 12xu Exhibition stamp plus the 4xu HCM stamp from the same year for an overall postage of 16xu. The standard letter rate (up to 20g) was only 12xu so this letter must have been heavier.

Mixed franking from March of 1961 featuring the 12xu Democratic Youth stamp plus the 4xu HCM stamp from the prior year for an overall postage of 16xu. The standard letter rate (up to 20g) was only 12xu so this letter must have been heavier.

Here is an interesting mixed currency franking mailed to Klewitz in 1965 carrying the 12 xu HCM stamp. The Bay of Ha Long stamps from 1959 were devalued 1,000:1 which meant the nominal of 500 Old Dong was now worth 0.50 New Dong or 50 xu. The overall franking hence came to 1.12 Dong. This was just a whisker above the required tariff for a registered letter to West Germany of 1.10 Dong.

First Day Cover (ex Klewitz) mailed locally in Hanoi. Overfranked at 28 xu as only 6 xu would have been required for an intra-city mailing within Hanoi.

Mixed currency franking featuring a 10D Tran Dang Ninh that was devalued 1,000:1 on March 1st, 1959 and hence only worth 1xu in August of 1960. The overall franking amounted to 12xu (the standard letter rate to Eastern countries as of march 1st,1960). The letter was adressed to Czechoslovakia.

Letter with one of the 12 xu stamps mailed on a registered letter to Klewitz in West Germany. Overall postage applied amounted to 1.14 Dong which was just a whisker above the required rate of 1.10 Dong for a standard registered letter to Western Europe.

Rare express mail letter with a strip of five of the 12 xu stamps sent to Klewitz in February of 1970. The letter is overall franked with 1.62 Dong which is a tad above the required standard letter postage for a registered express mail letter to West Germany (1.60 Dong).

Rare registered express mail letter sent to Klewitz in October of 1970. Apart from the entire stamp set it also features a playful single 5 Dong stamp from 1948. While the 5 Dong stamp was still valid for postage in 1970, it had already been devalued twice. By 10:1 in 1954 and by 1,000:1 in 1959. It hence was only worth   0.0005 New Dong in 1970 and therefore quasi worthless. May be this was the reason that the postal clerk did not grace it with a cancel. The overall postage of the letter amounted to 2.68 Dong which was likely in excess of the required postage for a standard 2 gram registered express mail letter to West Germany (Tariff of 1.60 Dong).

Very rare express mail letter sent to Klewitz in June of 1977 featuring the entire im-perforated set. There are also four of the 4 xu HCM stamps. Im-perforated stamps on postally used covers are very rare. The overall postage amounted to 3.82 Dong. Fulda arrival cancel on the reverse.

Block Nr. 2 (souvenir sheet Nr. 2) exists horizontally and vertically ribbed. The ribbing can only be seen on the back of the souvenir sheet by holding it into good light. Below are the horizontal and vertical  ribbed versions:

Michel values used samples of the souvenir sheet lower than mint ones which is rather ignorant of market realities. The editor has observed electronic platforms such as E-Bay of Delcampe and auction catalogues for decades and has observed that mint souvenir sheets outnumber used ones by at least 100:1. So, clearly the used version of the souvenir sheet should be worth a multiple of a mint sheet. Virtually all cancellations that can be found are of the First Day variety as seen below. The First Day hand stamp was struck in black and, more rarely, in red.

The paper of the souvenir sheet is always toned but the intensity of this tonality varies as can be seen by the two souvenir sheets below. The left one is clearly printed on darker pink paper, while the right one is printed on lighter pink paper. 

While the souvenir sheet was initially issued in 1960 a special commemorative card on thick paper stock was issued on occasion of Ho Chi Minh’s death in 1969. On it the souvenir sheet was cancelled with a boxed dedication and a circular cancel that read: Post Office, Time of death: 9:47 am, Day of death: September 3rd, 1969 and the country name “Vietnam”. HCM’s actually died on September 2nd, 1969 but since that day coincided with the Independence Day of Vietnam the Government simply decided to “delay” his death to September 3rd. This folly was only corrected in the 1980’s (Wikipedia).

According to Klewitz’ notes a partial printing of the souvenir sheet is subject to a plate error that can be seen at the top right sleeve of HCM’s arm. It looks a little like a large spider.

Postally used letters with the souvenir sheet are exceedingly rare. Here is the only letter the editor has ever seen featuring Block Nr. 2 with a standard date canceller of Sam-Son and postally used. The letter is ex Klewitz and is slightly over franked with 22 xu (standard postage to East Germany at the time was 12 xu). 

Block Nr. 3 (souvenir sheet Nr. 3) comes in two paper versions. The left sample below is printed on white, smooth and slightly thinner paper while the right sample is printed on tanned, rougher and thicker paper.

Again, cancelled specimen of this souvenir sheet are much rarer than mint ones and if they are offered, always feature the standard First Day cancel as seen below.

Postally used letters with the souvenir sheet are exceedingly rarer. This letter (ex Klewitz) is the only one the editor has ever seen that features a standard date canceller from Hanoi-Cua (a suburb of Hanoi) on a postally used cover.

Very rare registered express mail letter sent to Klewitz in October of 1980. It carries the souvenir sheet for HCM’s 70th Birthday and a 20 xu Year of the Child that shows a small perforation error (missing perforation holes). Souvenir sheets on postally used cover are very rare. The overall postage amounted to 4.82 Dong. Fulda arrival cancel on the reverse.

There is a major color error known on souvenir sheet Nr. 3 in which all of the pink color is missing. The sheet below is ex Klewitz and is the only specimen the editor has ever seen with the missing pink color. Very rare!

Registration Nr. 100400

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