North Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh, Second Series issued in 1951 with overprint of new values, 1954-December, 1956 (Michel Nr. 53 a&b and D8-9); It appears a large quantities of the 2nd Ho Chi Minh issue from 1951 were still in postal archives but were un-useful due to their very low nominal values. Let’s recall that the Vietnamese currency was devalued 1:10 in summer of 1954. This means the original 2D and 5D were only worth 0.2 and 0.5 New Dong. However the standard domestic letter rate already stood at 100 New Dong in 1955. In order to make these old stamps useful again and make use of precious raw material that was still scarce in North Vietnam, postal authorities decided to overprint the old stamps with new values. The 5 old Dong value in red and orange-red was uprated one hundred times to 50 New Dong. Why the authorities used 50 Dong is not known but clearly there must have been a purpose behind it. The 50 Dong represented a discounted intra-city rate (that was also common in Indochina) and it was probably also intended for lower cost “printed matter” mailings. Very few complete post pieces from the era survive as most local letters were destroyed  due to high humidity or recycling so it is impossible to determine the actual purpose of the overprinted value. Of course, two stamps would have covered the standard letter rate so it is likely that the stamps served at least a dual purpose. The overprint was a fairly primitive affair and appears that the cliches were hand-made so each one is slightly different from one another. Michel identifies two different overprints that are basically characterized by the vertical line in the “5” of “50”. Type I shows a leveled horizontal line at the top of the “5” and Type II shows a horizontal line that is slightly angled upwards. Both overprints are intermingled on one and the same sheet. The Vietnamese Postage Stamp Catalogue reports that the overprints were produced in 1954, while both, Michel and Scott, report they were done in December of 1956. The Vietnamese catalogue appears to be more credible as the editor has used specimen that were cancelled on May, 21, 1955, which is well before the date proclaimed by Michel/Scott.

Here is a mint pair of the the red stamp with Type I on  both stamps.

The difference between the two types becomes clearer under magnification.

Type I

Type II

This is a a mint Type I stamp in orange-red with a top margin.

Looking at the magnification you can see the level line of the “5”

The is the Type II of the orange-red color stamp.

Looking at the magnification you can see the upward angle of the straight line in the “5”

Determining the base color can be a bit tricky as there are also tonality issues on both colors. Sometimes the color is weaker and sometimes more intense. Make sure you make all comparisons under day-light as artifical light may alter the outcome. Here is he pair in red (Type I) side by side with a vertical strip of five stamps of the orange-red variety (Type II).

Michel values a mint stamp of both types at €100 for the red and €50 for the orange red base color. Scott values both colors at $90. All of these amounts are much too high. The mint stamps may have been rarer at one time but Cotevina (the Vietnamese philatelic company) sold entire sheets, especially of the orange-red variety, well into the 1990’s. The editor thinks that $25 for the red and $5 for the orange red stamp are much closer to market reality than current catalogue values.

This is not true for cancelled specimen. Given that most local mail did not survive climate, recycling and wars, very few cancelled stamps exist. They are most likely contained in older Eastern European collections as these countries had direct contact with North Vietnam at the time. In 25 years of collecting Vietnamese stamps the editor has only been able to collect a total of 9 used stamps. The editor would not sell one under $250 as they so hard to replace.

Here is a very rare block of four of the red base color with a Hanoi date cancel.

Here is a single specimen of the orange-red variety also cancelled in Hanoi.

Beware of far out of date cancellations that were produced by the Vietnamese Post in the 1990’s and that show the five digit zip-code or stamps with indefinite cancels like the one below. Such stamps would not be worth more than mint ones. While this cancel may be genuine (the home made old hinge on the back suggests it is) this simply cannot be proven as there are too few details visible.

Overprint errors do exist. Here is a pair with the left stamp showing a triple over-print

Complete letters are extremely rare and the editor has hence be unable to collect one so far.

Postal authorities also prepared overprints that were to be used for official mail only. Instead of using New Dong though, they decided to denominate these stamps by the weight of husked rice (100g of rice). This made the stamps basically impervious to the rapid inflation occurring at the time. Michel reports that the overprints were prepared at the main post office in Hanoi but were mostly used in the 3rd Interzone (provinces of Ha Nam, Ha Dong and Hoa Ninh) south of Hanoi. There are two types of overprints that exist. One that shows a large “K” and smaller numbers and one that shows a smaller “k” and larger numbers. It appears that all stamps in one sheet are of the same type as this is the case with all the multiples of the editor, but since complete sheets do no seem to exist any longer, this cannot be proven. Michel reports that the overprint only occurs on the brown and red base color but the editor does have some genuine specimens that show the overprint on the light-brown and orange-red base color. These are so far unlisted.

This is a small “K” with the large numbers in a rare block of six in the brown color. Notice the slightly different appearance of each cliche.

Here is the overprint magnified.

This is the small “K” with the large numbers in the light-brown color

Again, here a detailed scan.

This is the large “K” with the small numbers in the brown color.

A detailed scan of the overprint.

This is the large “K” with the small numbers in the light-brown color.

Again, a detailed scan of the overprint.

This is a rare block of four of the large “K” with the small number in the red base color. Notice the thin and partially missing margins; a sign that the paper was hand-made.

A detailed scan of the overprint.

This is the large “K” with the small numbers on the orange-red base color.

A detailed scan of the overprint.

This is the a rare block of four of the small “k” with the large numbers in the red base color.

A Details scan of the overprint.

The small “K” with the large numbers on the orange-red base should exist but has not been collected yet.

Both, Michel and Scott do value a mint pair of either type at €300 and $475, which may be a bit high. They do not offer a value for used specimens and Michel just shows -.- which stands for price cannot be established due to a lack of market activity.

Forged overprints do exist. They are characterized by the fact that the most right “0” in “100” is open to the right.

Overprint errors do exist. Here the large “K” small number version showing a double overprint on the right stamp.

This is a detailed scan of the error stamp.

Given that these stamps were only used on official mail and these mail pieces were either destroyed upon receipt or went into the archive (which was most likely later destroyed in the on-going wars) very few used specimens do survive. In over 25 years the editor has only been able to find a single used specimen carrying a Hanoi cancel. It also happens to be an error stamps at the same time as it has a double-overprint. This is on the red base color.

A detailed scan of the double overprint.

Less than  hand-full of these stamps on letters survive and the editor has been unable to acquire one so far.

Registration Nr. 100040

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