North Vietnam; Production and Thrift, 1953/1956 (Michel Nr. 7-8); Inflation was rampant in North Vietnam in the early to mid 1950’s. As a result the standard letter rate that had stood at 100 Dong until the end of 1951 moved up to 200 Dong in March of 1952,  400 Dong in September 1952 and then all the way up to 1,000 Dong in the middle of 1953. So initially it is a bit puzzling why the Government would decide to issue a stamp with a nominal of only 100 Dong in June of 1953 as it would have required a minimum of 10 individual stamps to complete the standard letter rate. However, the matter resolves itself when one understands that these two stamps were the first ones that were already issued in a new currency (Dong Ngan Hang- Dong of the National Bank) that devalued the old Dong 10:1. This means the new 100 Dong stamp was equivalent to 1,000 Dong of the old currency. Catalogue makers do not make that clear at all. The 500D stamp was issued a bit later in February 1955. The stamps are again fairly primitive and they were produced at Viet Bac National Bank Printing Works. Sheet size was 100 for the 100D value and 180 for the 500D value.

Min set

Mint set in blocks of four.

In July, 1953 postal authorities issued a set with a similar image that was only intended for official mail between Government offices. Prior to the issuance of these stamps official mail was free of charge. Since inflation was rampant in the early 1950’s in Vietnam the Government decided that these stamps should be issue in “kilo of husked rice” which gave these stamps an automatic built in inflation protection. Four values were issued: 0.6 kg rice, 1 kg rice, 2 kg rice and 5 kg rice. The standard letter rate amounted to 0.6 kilo rice. The sheet confection was a bit unusual as the 0.6 kg rice stamp was issued in sheets of 100 while all the other values were issued with 180 stamps to the sheet. The Perforation was 11.5 and it was very poor. Given the very thin, cigarette like paper, hence all stamps show perforation imperfections.

Here is the mint set that curiously enough shows “1952” at the bottom of the image. May be this was the year the stamps initially were intended for issuance but according to the Vietnamese Postage Stamp Catalogue issuance did not occur until July, 1953.

This is the mint set of official stamps in blocks of four.Rare postally used pair of the standard stamps.

Two 100 Dong values on piece postally used

A scarce postally used block of six stamps probably from a large letter or package wrapper

Piece cut from a letter featuring one of the 500D stamps postally used.

Since it was against office regulations to take official stamps or envelopes from the office, postally used stamps virtually do not exist. Here is the most likely version you will see in a cancelled set. It carries the standard Hanoi date canceler and was cancelled to order.

The most likely way for postally used stamps to survive was on mail sent abroad. But even that was very rare in the early 1950’s. Here is a complete set postally used (extremely scarce).

A number of perforation error have become known on the 2,000D value. Here is a mint block of eight stamps that is imperforate on the horizontal plane.

Here is a similar error but on this strip of four mint stamps the two top horizontal perforation lines are missing and the stamps are imperforate there.

These stamps were not officially released imperforate but a small number of imperforate trial proofs have come to market. Here is a mint imperforate pair.

Here is a mint block of six stamps that were invalidated by a hand stamp “HUY BO” (=Destroyed). It was applied by postal authorities to ensure that the stamps would in fact be destroyed and not reused. So this block clearly should no longer exist but a crafty postal employee sold it anyway.

Very rare local letter made up of waste paper (adversity cover) paying the new rate of 100 Dong that was effective until then end of 1953 (in New Dong= 1,000 Old Dong). The letter was sent on September 1st, 1953 as indicated by the manuscript entered into the cancel on front. Due to the tropical climate, severe material shortages and decades of warfare not many local letters of early North Vietnam survive. Backstamp “Buu Dien” (Post Office) without date entered.

Postcard mailed to Hungary featuring a pair of the 100 Dong value for a total of 200mDong in postage that was in force as of January, 1955. The local rate and rate to fellow communist countries was identical at that time.

Mixed franking most likely from a member of the East German Consulate (which had access to official stamps) featuring a mix of regular stamps (including the 100D Production and Thrift issue) and two official Union Congress stamps (40D and 100D) for an overall postage of 1,740D. The letter was registered. The basic surface letter rate abroad amounted to 300D, the air mail surcharge to 350D (for every 5g) and the registration fee to 600D. So this letter must have weighed between 10-15g.

Postcard to Czechoslovakia from June, 1956. The scourge of inflation was still hurting Vietnam as indicated by the new 500 Dong tariff only a year later

Letter from the Red Cross in Vietnam to the president of the Red Cross in Geneva, Switzerland from April, 1959. The 500 Dong rate indicates that postcards and letters had to carry the same postage.

Here is another postcard from January of 1958 which only shows a postage of 550D, made up of a 50D Illiteracy stamp plus one 500D Production and Thrift stamp. This clearly shows that there was some variance on how postcards were actually franked, probably caused by ignorance on part of the consumer.

Mixed franking of both stamps on a letter to China from 1957. It is unlikely that the rate to China was higher than the rate to communist Eastern European countries. So the 600 Dong rate probably just reflects a heavier content. Typical commemorative envelope as was typical for the mid- to late 1950’s.

Military letter from Hom Thu 31.107 in Hanoi to Paris from November, 1957. Military free franks were only valid inside the country so “civilian” stamps had to be used for this international letter. The 1,100 Dong rate to France is obviously much higher than the one to fellow communist countries but the editor has yet to locate a postal tariff to Western countries that  reflects the  standard letter rate in 1957. North Vietnam letters to Western countries are much rarer in the 1950’s than letters to communist countries as there simply were less business, government and family connections with the West then.

Mixed franking of normal and official stamps (Handicraft stamp from 1958) sent by a member of the Czechoslovakian Embassy (that had access to service stamps) with an overall postage of 950D

The well know philatelist Theo Klewitz had direct contact to a high level official in the North Vietnamese Government. This contact obviously felt secure enough to send him local official letter envelopes despite the prohibition in force. Very few of these local letters survived and hence they are exceedingly scarce. Here are three letters all ex Klewitz. They are all so called adversity covers that were hand-made out of waste paper. Note that the standard letter rate for official mail went from 0.6 kg rice to 1.0 kg rice in February of 1953.

Very rare official letter featuring one of the 0.6kg rice mailed from Lien Khu 3 (3rd administrative District) on September 11th, 1953 to the Control Department 12 (ex Gregor Schwirtz)

Here is an extremely rare international letter carrying one 1.0kg and five of the 5kg stamp mailed in March, of 1957 by the Vietnam Peace Committee to the Austrian Peace Committee in Vienna, Austria. Vienna arrival cancel on the reverse.

Very rare official letter sent in May of 1957 to the Red Cross in Geneva featuring two of the 1kg rice Production and Thrift service stamps plus one of the 80D Agrarian Reform service stamp (thick paper) in a mixed currency franking (kg rice and Dong) and mixed standard/official stamp franking.

Registration Nr. 100026

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