North Vietnam; Months of friendship between Vietnam, the Soviet Union and China; (NVN Michel Nr. 9-11); the Vietnamese Postage Stamp Catalogue reports that the single colored 100 Dong value was issued on January 8th, 1954, while the multi-colored 50 Dong value was issued in October, 1954 and the multi-color 100 Dong value in February, 1955. All the stamps were again produced at the Viet Bac Central Printing Works. The confection was a bit unorthodox with the 50D and uncolored 100D value having 72 stamps per sheet and the multicolored 100D value 81 stamps.
Michel reports two different colors for the unicolored value of 100 Dong (rose-pink and brown-rose) however the editor cannot confirm that. While there are clear differences in the stamp’s appearance caused by more or less color application during the printing process and wear of the printing plate, the base color of all the stamps in the extensive holdings of the editor look the same. Take a look at this postal used stamp that must come from one of the earlier printings:
The image appears deeper in color and clearer than later printings where the plate was more worn. Below is a cancelled to order specimen that appears a little lighter in color and the image is slightly blurry but is showing the same base color:
One can actually observe different print outcomes even in the same sheet. Take a look at the right most stamp in this strip of four. Clearly the cliche of the corner stamp is a lot more worn (witness the white faces) than that of the other cliches in the row. Crafty sellers are often depicting this as an “error” but that is simply a made up tale in order to charge a higher price for the stamp.
The same phenomenon can be seen with the other two values of the set. The left values are from early printings while the stamps on the right are from later printings where the entire plate was already worn.
The confection of the sheet size was somewhat unusual as it featured nine columns and rows for a total of 81 stamps. Here is a partial scan of a complete sheet in the author’s posession (with all margins intact) that shows an interesting aspect of Vietnamese stamp production. Take a look at positions E 1-3. These three stamps were affected by paper folds caused by the very thin paper getting wrinkled in the printing process. Rather than discarding the entire sheet as waste (paper was too scarce a commodity) the printing operations decided to apply a hand stamp “In Hong” which translates to “Damaged” to the affected stamps but deliver the whole sheet to post offices anyway. The postal clerk was then supposed to withhold the damaged stamps from sale but clearly this did not always happen.
Here is a complete sheet (for technical reasons only parts are shown) of the multi-colored 50 Dong value. The confection was equally unusual with nine rows and eight columns for a total of 72 stamps per sheet.
There are a few errors known for this issue. Here is a perforation error on the 50D value. The pair is imperforated in-between
Below is a strip of four of the 100D multi-colored value that lacks any perforation on the horizontal plane.
The same error show here in a pair of used stamps
A re-occuring plate error does occur on the 50 Dong value in the field G4 (fourth stamp from the left in the seventh row). Below is a block of four. The bottom right stamps shows the sickle connected to the star on the Russian flag error. It occurs once per sheet so is seventy one times rarer than a normal stamp.
As is the case for most early North Vietnamese stamps, postally used stamps are a lot scarcer than mint ones. The travesty is that catalogue makers simply do not seem to understand that. Michel values mint and used stamps the same while Scott provides a small surcharge for two of the stamps but not nearly enough. Below is a group of postally used stamps easily identifiable by the irregular striking pattern of the cancels:
Complete letters are of course even more rare. Below is a very rare local letter made up of waste paper documenting the standard letter rate of 100 New Dong in force since June, 1953. It is interesting to note that the sender had doubts that the postman would find the proper house. So, on the back of the cover, he drew a small picture that shows the exact location of the recipients house in-between two streets. We see similar drawings in later Ho Chi Minh Trail mail.
International mail was still infrequent and most often went to fellow communist countries. Here are two examples dated November and December 1955 to China. Circular and square Chinese censor marks were applied to both covers. Both covers carry a postage of 300 Dong which consists of the 200 Dong base rate plus 50 Dong for air mail surcharge for every 5 grams of weight for letters to China at that time. Both letters hence must have weighed 5+-10 grams.
Here is a single franking of the 50 Dong value. This represents a discounted tariff that was valid within city limits and was a carry-over from the postal tariff from Indochina. The letter was mailed October 16th, 1954, shortly after the return of the Viet Minh troups to the city of Hanoi. The French troops withdrew from the city on that day and later on from all of North Vietnam. The event is commemorated by a cachet applied on the top left.
Below are two spectacular multiple frankings of letters sent 1957 to China. The basic surface letter rate as of March 13th, 1957 to China amounted to 300 Dong. Circular and square Chinese censorship markings.
The multi-colored 100 Dong value is definitely harder to find on cover. It is not clear as to why that should be the case. All the editor was able to collect so far is a mixed franking on a postcard mailed in August of 1955 to Czechoslovakia. The card is franked with NVN Michel Nr. 11, 19aI, 21aII and 24 for a total of 180 Dong.
Registration Nr. 100027