Most collectors of Vietnam stamps are familiar with the idea that many of the stamps issued by North Vietnam and Unified Vietnam (1975) are available perforated and imperforated. However, very little is known about the imperforated stamps. Michel lists and prices most of the older imperforated stamps up to about 1981 for mint and used, but relies on a standard pricing formula[1] thereafter, and simply puts this symbol “ ” next to the stamp description. Scott only lists mint prices but has a more comprehensive listing until about 1991. However, both catalogues are incomplete. The Vietnam Postage Stamp Catalogue 1945-2005 provides a table in the back of the book (Page 512) that shows which stamp or stamp sets were issued imperforated on purpose, but does not provide any pricing for them. Given that the Vietnamese catalogue was published by a Government monopoly (Vietnam Posts and Telecommunications Group), one would assume that it has access to the best information about these stamps. The other catalogue makers rely on stamp dealers or individual collectors for a lot of their information and, hence, do not often have firsthand information. Author and SICP member Ta Phi Long has raised the possibility that the Vietnamese catalogue may also contain a few errors. Nevertheless, it is the best information that is available at this time. For the membership’s convenience the author has produced a table that shows all intentionally produced imperforated stamps as per the Vietnam Postage Stamp Catalogue with cross-references of the Michel and Scott number (Exhibit 1 at the end of the article). This way, collectors can easily determine if a stamp was issued imperforated or if it is an actual error. The sequence of listing is determined by the Vietnamese catalogue and therefore does not quite line up with the listing sequence of Michel and Scott.

Initially, imperforated stamps were mostly born out of necessity. In the first few months after World War II the Viet Minh and other Nationalist Groups assumed a number of important administrative positions in the country after the Japanese had surrendered. This enabled the National Groups to control a good deal of the country’s remaining infrastructure, including printing. The first Viet Minh designed stamps were Michel Viet Minh Nr. 56-60 which featured a portrait of Ho Chi Minh. These stamps were produced  at the Vietnam Printing Works in Hanoi. These stamps were fairly sophisticated in graphics and perforation. However, with the return of the French in late 1945 and early 1946, that situation slowly changed. Month by month the French reoccupied more of the country and took over the administration of it once again. This build-up ultimately provoked the “Clash of Hanoi” In December of 1949 when Viet Minh forces initiated open hostilities against the French. The resulting military operations put an end to the side by side arrangement that persisted since the end of the war between the two parties and drove the Viet Minh out of all the main cities and key infrastructure points, forcing them to set up shop mostly in the countryside where access to materials and machines was much more difficult. This had a direct impact on stamp production. The first stamps produced after the Viet Minh retreat (NVN Michel Nr. 2 and 3) were very simple productions that were made in the Viet Bac Printing Works in Phu Tho Province.[2] They also produced primitive bank notes there. These stamps were made with handmade plates on fibrous waste paper printed in the letterpress method. One high ranking official in the Viet Minh postal administration, Mr. Le Quang Huy, personally told Ta Phi Long how the stamps were perforated. A number of small rusty nails was inserted close to each other into bamboo slats to keep them in place. This “stick” was then applied manually, by pressing down, by two people on about 10 sheets of stamps at a time.[3] Take a look at the perforation of NVN Michel Nr. 2 and 3 and you will see how irregular the distance between one nail and the other was. This also explains the large number of perforation errors on this issue. The same is true for the other stamps that were produced by Viet Bac; such as the Ho Chi Minh and country map of 1951, the Production and Thrift Issue of 1953 and the Month of Friendship issue of 1954. So, selling stamps imperforated, was probably not so much choice but was dictated by changing local circumstances.

Apart from the early years until the middle of 1954, there appears to be agreement in the collector community that the imperforated stamps that were issued later on served little official purpose other than being a foreign revenue-raising tool for the Government. Of course, the Vietnamese postal authority is not the only country in the world that employs this policy. Imperforated varieties were and are not sold at all post offices in Vietnam but are only available at special booths for collectors or the two Cotevina stores in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. Prior to 1975, one could also buy the stamps at some Xunhasaba book stores[4].  In the past, the stamp issuing bulletin provided by the Vietnamese import/export monopoly Xunhasaba only sometimes made mention of the imperforated variety. The editor has seen two Xunhasaba bulletins (Folk Dances March, 1962, Flowers, April, 1962) that indicate production numbers for perforated and imperforated stamps. In the two bulletins mentioned, it is indicated that 300,000 perforated sets and 30,000 imperforated sets were produced.  So clearly, these imperforated stamps are at least ten times scarcer than perforated stamps. Of course, the ratio of 10:1 may differ on other issues but it provides with an important clue. Availability of imperforated stamps is also not necessarily homogenous within a given set. Take NVN Michel Nr. 4-6 (Scott Nr. 1-3) as an example. While imperforated stamps of the 100 Dong values in green and brown are easily available on all commercial stamp websites, the 200 Dong value is much harder to find. Michel lists the 100 Dong values at €30 each for both perforated and imperforated while the 200 Dong value garners €30 for perforated and €70 for the imperforated version.

Until 1960, the production of imperforated stamps was rather erratic. Only two sets (President Ho Chi Minh 1954 and Victory at Dien Bien Phu 1954) were intentionally released imperforated. Thereafter, many more but not all issues were produced imperforated. The general rule for which stamps or stamps sets were produced imperforated appears to be that definitive stamps or stamps with “political” motives were only produced perforated while commemorative sets were also produced imperforated. However, there are some exceptions.

Also, sometimes one may find imperforated stamps of North Vietnam/Unified Vietnam that, according to postal authorities, were not released imperforated at all. These stamps were probably accidentally delivered unfinished to post offices, represent essays or trial prints owned by the stamp designer, were smuggled out by staff from the printing operations or taken from the National Postal Archives and then sold to the philatelic market. Needless to say, these unofficially imperforated stamps are much rarer and hence tend to be very expensive. Exhibit 2 shows Michel Nr. 399/400 which were not officially issued imperforated.

Klewitz annotated his NVN collection with the information that “Imperforated stamps were/are fully valid as postage and could/can be used on all domestic or international mail”. However,  Ta Phi Long pointed out that this was not the official position of the Vietnamese postal authorities. According to him, one could only use an imperforated stamp if one bribed a postal clerk to do so. However, the author has yet to see a NVN letter bearing imperforated stamps that were in any way objected to by marking up such stamps or crossing them out as they passed through postal traffic. Also, the postal authorities sold imperforated stamps mint and used which would then contravene their own position that such stamps should not be cancelled.

What is clear in the end is, that most imperforated stamps simply vanished in mint condition into albums of collectors. Some imperforated stamps were cancelled to order by postal authorities for delivery to collectors; and until about 1975 these cancelled versions are almost always rarer than the mint version. After that, mint and used stamps are available about equally. Michel does not appear to understand this, as it generally prices both mint and used stamps the same throughout all the years. They would be better off using a -.- sign (cannot be priced due to lack of market activity) for the cancelled versions.

Very few imperforated stamps were postally used on commercial mail and covers bearing them come rarely to market. When they do, they always garner a significant surcharge to stamps off cover. Exhibit 3 shows a commercial cover bearing a pair of Michel Nr. 210 imperforated along with regular perforated stamps. Such covers will easily sell for twenty times or more than what a CTOed loose imperforated stamp/set would cost. Many of them will come from the Klewitz collection. The late Klewitz, a former SICP member, had a very good sense for rarities and ensured that his Vietnamese counterparts would occasionally use imperforated stamps on correspondence mailed to him.

The same is still true today. While new issues of imperforated Vietnamese stamps are readily available, hardly anyone ever uses them postally. If you want to leave a lasting legacy to Vietnamese philately, tell your Vietnamese correspondent to use them on mail to you. You just might create a modern rarity in doing so for future generations.

[1] Michel Suedostasien 2015: Starting with Michel Nr. 1179 all regularily issued imperforated stamps will be indicated with also „ ” in the headline. They are valued the same for mint and used- double of the mint prices for mint never hinged prices.

[2]  Vietnamese Postage Stamp Catalogue 1945-2005; information provided by the philatelic author Ta Pi Long

[3] Information provided by the philatelic author Ta Phi Long

[4] Information provided by the philatelic author Ta Phi Long

Official Listing of Imperforated Stamps according to the Vietnamese Postage Stamp Catalogue (1945-2005) by Michel and Scott Numbers:

Michel Nr. Scott Nr.
4-6 1-3
12-14 17-19
70-71 68-68
Block 1 121a
Block 2 129
Block 3 130
Block 4 141a
154-157 148-151
166-167 160-161
176-179 170-173
181-182 174-175
185-188 179-182
Block 5 (partially imperforated) 182a (partially imperforated)
194-195 188-189
201-204 195-198
206-210 203-207
217-219 211-213
220-222 214-216
240-242 235-237
258-261 251-254
265-267 258-260
270-274 263-267
275-280 268-273
283-286 276-279
296-297 289-290
298-300 291-293
301-306 294-299
310-313 303-306
Block 9 307
319-324 309-314
334-338 324-328
359-360 340-341
361-362 342-343
369-374 350-355
379-384 360-365
387-392 368-373
401-404 385-388
405-410 398-403
425-430 406-411
432-437 413-418
448-449 429-430
456-461 436-441
462-465 442-445
469-474 449-454
475-480 455-460
485-490 463-468
497-498 476-477
505-512 484-491
526-531 495-500
538-543 509-514
544-549 515-520
550-555 521-526
568-574 539-545
575-580 546-551
588-593 560-565
600-607 571-578
610-613 581-584
Block A9 588
Block B9 588D
618-622 590-594
634-637 607-610
641-644 613-616
Block 10 624a
660-667 630-637
669-671 639-640
672-674 641-643
Block 11 650
683-688 653-656
701-706 669-674
709-716 677-684
717-718 685-686
719-722 687-690
731-734 698-701
735-740 702-707
751-755 724-728
763-770 731-738
771-773 739-741
780-785 745-750
795-802 755-762
803-810 768-775
Block 12 789
825-832 790-797
833-840 798-805
843-850 808-815
857-864 822-829
866-873 831-838
890-897 856-863
898-905 864-871
910-917 876-883
919-926 884-891
931-938 901-908
948-955 913-920
961-968 926-933
974-983 939-948
990-995 955-960
999-1006 964-971
1007-1014 972-979
1020-1027 985-992
1044-1051 1009-1016
1055-1062 1017-1024
1063-1070 1025-1032
1077-1084 1038-1045
1093-1100 1052-1059
1101-1102 1060-1061
1104-1109 1063-1068
Block 13 1069
1111-1118 1070-1077
1119-1122 1078-1081
1128-1131 1086-1089
1137-1144 1098-1105
1145-1152 1106-1113
1155-1162 1116-1123
1163-1170 1124-1131
1171-1178 1132-1139
1179-1186 1141-1148
1189-1196 1154-1161
1204-1211 1172-1179
1214-1221 1180-1187
1232-1239 1192-1199
1240-1247 1202-1209
1248-1253 1210-1215
1258-1265 1221-1228
1272-1279 1235-1242
1285-1290 1248-1253
1291-1297 1254-1260
1298-1304 1261-1267
Block 15 1268
1309-1316 1282-1289
1317-1325 1272-1280
Block 16 1281
1327-1333 1289A-1289G
Block 17 1289H
1335-1341 1290-1296
Block 18 1297
Block 19 1298
Block 21 1307
1353-1360 1308-1315
Block 22 1316
1371-1378 1323-1330
1379-1380 1321-1322
1390-1397 1339-1346
1402-1408 1351-1357
Block 24 1358
1410-1416 1363-1369
1417-1423 1370-1376
Block 25 1377
1425-1431 1378-1384
Block 26 1387
Block 27 1395
Block 28 1396
1467-1476 1418-1427
1432-1439 1397-1404
1453-1459 1405-1411
Block 29 1417
1467-1476 1418-1427
1479-1486 1428-1435
Block 30 1438
1494-1500 1445-1451
1501-1504 1452-1455
1513-1518 1456-1461
Block 32 1501
1554-1557 1482-1485
Block 33 1486
1546-1552 1487-1493
1521-1527 1494-1500
Block 34 1509
1562-1565 1502-1505
1362-1365 1331-1334
Block 35 1506
Block 36 1535
1572-1578 1515-1521
Block 37 1558
1580-1586 1523-1529
1588-1591 1510-1513
Block 38 1530
1567-1570 1531-1534
Block 39 1514
1593-1599 1536-1542
1600-1603 1543-1546
Block 40 1547
1608-1614 1551-1557
Block 41 1558
1618-1624 1561-1567
Block 42 1568
1626-1632 1569-1575
1633-1639 1576-1582
Block 43 1583
1643-1649 1585-1591
1657-1660 1599-1602
1664-1670 1606-1612
Block 44 1613
1720-1726 1625-1631
Block 45 1621
1684-1690 1641-1647
1691-1697 1648-1654
Block 46 1655
1699-1702 1656-1659
1703-1709 1660-1666
Block 47 1667
1711-1718 1668-1675
1727-1733 1677-1683
Block 48 1684
Block 49 1640
1787-1793 1686-1692
1802-1808 1693-1699
1794-1800 1705-1711
Block 50 1704
1741-1742 1713-1714
1743-1749 1633-1639
1751-1757 1715-1721
Block 51 1722
1760-1766 1724-1730
Block 52 1731
1777-1782 1732-1737
1769-1776 1738
1672-1678 1614-1620
Block 53 1712
1809-1812 1744-1750
Block 54 1751
1818-1823 1765-1770
1824 1771
1825-1826 1772-1773
1827-1830 1761-1764
1832-1835 1789-1792
Block 55 1793
1837-1843 1781-1787
1844-1845 1802-1803
1846-1847 1804-1805
1848 1813
1849-1850 1802-1803
1851-1852 1816-1817
Block 56 1780
1868-1874 1752-1758
1853-1858 1774-1779
1860-1866 1794-1800
Block 57 1801
Block 58 1759
1876-1882 1806-1812
1886-1887 1821-1822
1888-1894 1823-1829
Block 59 1830
1896-1902 1831-1837
1903 1838
1904-1905 1839-1840
1906-1912 1841-1847
Block 60 1848
1914-1920 1849-1855
1921 1856
1922-1928 1857-1863
1947-1948 1865-1866
1932 1867
1933 1868
1934 1869
1935-1936 1879-1871
1937-1943 1872-1878
1945-1946 1880-1881
1947 1882
1948-1949 1883-1884
1981-1987 1885-1891
1966-1972 1893-1899
1974-1980 1901-1907
1950-1956 1908-1914
1958-1964 1916-1922
1989-1990 1932-1933
1991-1997 1924-1930
1999-2002 1934-1937
2003-2004 1938-1939
2005-2006 1940-1941
2007-2013 1942-1948
2014-2020 1949-1955
2022-2028 1957-1963
2036-2042 1964-1970
2029-2035 1972-1978
2044-2050 1979-1985
2052 1987
2053-2057 1988-1992
2058-2062 1993-1997
2063-2064 1998-1999
2065-2071 2000-2006
2080-2086 2008-2014
2073-2079 2016-2022
2094-2100 2023-2029
2088-2093 2030-2035
2101 2036
2102-2104 2037-2039
2105-2109 2040-2044
2110-2116 2045-2051
2118-2119 2053-2054
2120-2125 2055
2131-2137 2056-2062
2126-2129 2063-2066
2138-2143 2068-2073
2144-2150 2074-2080
2152-2158 2082-2088
2160-2166 2090-2096
2176-2181 2106-2111
2168-2174 2098-2104
2183-2189 2118-2124
2191-2195 2113-2117
2196-2202 2126-2132
2204-2210 2134-2140
2228-2233 2158-2163
2234-2235 2164-2165
2236-2239 2166-2169
2241-2247 2171-2177
2249-2254 2179
2263 2180
2271-2272 2197-2198
1505-1511 2199-2205
2273-2274 2207-2208
2275-2280 2209-2214
2281-2287 2215-2221
2289 2223
2290-2296 2224-2230
2298-2301 2232-2235
2302-2308 2243-2249
2309-2315 2236-2242
2316-2322 2250-2256
2323-2329 2267-2273
2331-2332 2257-2258
2333-2335 2282-2284
2336-2342 2259-2265
2344-2350 2275-2281
2352-2358 2285-2291
2360-2365 2293
2366-2371 2296-2301
2373-2379 2303-2309
2381 2311
2383-2384 2294-2295
Missing Missing
Missing Missing
2393-2394 2322-2323
2395-2399 2324-2328
2400-2404 2329
2406-2412 2331-2337
2413-2414 2338-2339
2415-2421 2340-2346
2423-2429 2348-2354
2431-2436 2356-2361
2437 2362
2439-2443 2364-2368
2445-2451 2370-2376
2453-2454 2378-2379
2455-2458 2380-2383
2459-2463 2384-2388
2464-2468 2389-2393
2469-2474 2394-2399
2475 2400
2476 2401
2477-2482 2402-2407
2483-2484 2408-2409
2485-2486 2410-2411
2487-2488 2412-2413
2489 2414
2490-2495 2415-2420
2496-2501 2421-2426
2502-2503 2427-2428
2504-2508 2429-2433
2509-2510 2434-2435
2511-2516 2436-2441
2518-2520 2443-2445
2521-2525 2446-2451
2527-2528 2452-2453
2529-2533 2454-2458
2539-2545 2464-2470
2547-2548 2471A-2471B
2549-2554 2472-2477
2555-2556 2478-2479
2557-2560 2480
2561-2566 2483-2488
2568-2569 2490-2491
2571-2575 2496-2500
2577-2580 2502-2505
2581-2586 2506-2511
2587-2590 2512-2515
2591-2597 2516-2522
2598-2603 2539-2544
2606-2607 2527-2528
2608 2529
2606-2614 2532-2537
2617-2618 2580-2581
2619-2622 2523-2526
2624-2625 2551-2552
2627-2632 2554-2559
2634-2638 2561-2565
2639-2640 2572-2573
2641-2643 2566-2568
2646-2648 2584-2586
2656-2657 2589-2590
2663-2665 2597-2599
2666 2600
2667-2671 2601-2605
2673-2678 2607-2612
2679-2682 2615-2618
2685-2692 2627-2628
2694-2700 2620-2626
2701-2704 2629
2705-2710 2630-2635
2717 2639
2726-2731 2648-2653
2733-2737 2655-2659
2739-2742 2662-2665
2744-2745 2666-2667
2754-2761 2691-2698
2762-2766 2669-2673
2767-2771 2674-2678
2777-2780 2703
2799-2801 2710-2712
2803-2808 2725-2730
2813-2816 2731
2824-2825 2739-2740
2827-2831 2742-2746
2833-2837 2748-2752
2841-2844 2764-2767
2848-2851 2759-2762
2852-2854 2768-2770
2858-2862 2773-2777
2663-2666 2778-2781
2869-2872 2785
2875-2880 2787-2792
2894-2895 2806-2807
2897-2899 2808-2810
2901-2906 2812-2817
2917-2922 2821-2826
2923-2924 2829-2830
2930-2934 2836-2840
2939-2942 2845-2848
2943-2948 2849-2854
2959-2962 2865-2868
2963-2964 2869-2870
2969-2972 2875-2878
2979-2984 2884-2889
2989-2991 2894-2896
2993-2996 2898-2901
2999-3001 2904-2906
3004-3008 2910-2914
3010-3013 2916-2919
3020-3022 2924-2926
3034-3035 2940-2941
3045-3048 2951-2954
3049-3051 2955-2957
3063-3066 2966-2969
3068-3073 2971-2976
3076-3081 2979-2984
3093-3098 2996-3001
3119-3120 3022-3023
3121-3126 3024-3029
3144-3147 3046-3049
3150-3156 3050-3056
3163-3168 3063-3068
3176-3181 3076-3081
3196-3197 3095-3096
3199-3204 3098-3103
3208-3212 3107-3111
3215-3220 3114-3119
3224-3231 3123-3130
3237-3243 3133-3139
3247-3250 3143-3146
3252-3255 3148-3151
3269-3270 3165-3166
3279-3281 3175-3177
3288-3291 3179-3182
3304-3307 3195-3198
3308-3310 3199-3201
3312-3313 3203-3204
3333-3336 3224-3227
3348-3349 3239-3240
3351 3242
3352-3353 3243-3244
3360-3361 3251-3252
3425-3426 3263-3264

All souvenir sheets 1988 and thereafter were issued imperforated. So, they are not listed expressively above.

Registration No. 100101
Registration No. 100100

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