I recently spotted on eBay the cover shown below. At first I was excited, because it looked to be a potential addition to my Small Events censorship collection. Then I looked again and decided that it was more likely a forgery or, more appropriately, a fantasy.
The bases for this hypothesis are as follow:
The marking clearly mimics the typical French handstamp except that AVERT is in place of OUVERT, and SAIGON appears in the center. However, when this cover was mailed in June, 1955, the French presence in South Vet Nam had diminished to a small cadre of military trainers (then on their way out, being replaced by Americans, who had also replaced the French as the dominant political patron of the South Vietnamese regime) in no position to censor civilian Vietnamese mail.
AVERT makes no sense. Even assuming that this was an official South Vietnamese handstamp mimicking the French pattern, Vietnamese governmental officials at that time would have been fluent in French, and would have not made such a foolish mistake. An Indian forger might well have done so; and the guy who made the "Chettiar" forgeries was extremely sloppy, putting copies of WWII-era markings on anachronistic covers.
This marking appears on a somewhat grubby Chettiar cover. As discussed elsewhere (http://c-c-s-g.org/forum/viewtopic.php?f=9&t=50), grubby Chettiar covers are notorious for having been the stock used by an Indian forger who added various (especially censor) handstamps to make them more salable.
All of that said, Konrad Morenweiser's 1997 monograph British Asia, Forged Censor Handstamps and Resealing Labels, lists such covers from India, Burma, Ceylon, Malaya and Singapore -- but not from South Viet Nam, So
Is it possible that this marking is legitimate?
Does anyone else have any censored material from Viet Nam during the 1950s?