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Stamps and postal history of Indochina

The postage stamps of Indochina begin on May 16, 1886, with the overprinting of "5" or "5 C. CH." on the generic stamps of the French Colonies, for use in Cochin China (mainly Saigon).

5c Annam & Tonkin overprint used at Hanoi

On January 21, 1888, stamps crudely overprinted A & T (meaning Annam & Tonkin), along with a "1" or "5", and also on the generic colonies stamps, were issued for those territories. The example at left was cancelled at Hanoi (spelled "HA-NOI") in Tonkin, on 17 March 1888.

5c overprint of 1889 used at Vinh Long

The 1889 unification of colonial administration first resulted in surcharges in January 1889, on the 35c French Colonies stamp, reading INDO-CHINE 89 / 5 / R D (8 January) and INDO-CHINE / 1889 / R - D (10 January), where the "R" referred to the colonial governor P. Richaud, and the "D" to the postmaster at Saigon, General P. Demars. The example illustrated at right was cancelled at Vinh Long, a town of the Mekong Delta, on 4 April 1889, just a few months after the stamp was issued.

In 1892 the first regular stamps of Indochina were issued as part of the standard Navigation and Commerce series used by the other colonies, and inscribed INDO-CHINE.

4c stamp of 1907
depicting Annamite girl

Subsequent issues included an attractive and artistic set featuring native women (1907), a surcharged set of 1919 necessitated by the changeover from centimes and francs to cents and piasters in the previous year, and a reprinted set valued in the new currency, starting with a 1/10-cent denomination.

Sets featuring local sights appeared in 1927 and 1931, and one in 1936 depicting the various native emperors and kings in Indochina, followed by a variety of commemoratives honoring notable figures, up to a last airmail issue June 13, 1949, which was issued in only small numbers due to the growing rebellion.

A number of the 1940s issues were later overprinted and used by the Viet Minh.

Francis Garnier on a 1943 stamp