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CSO Museum - Browse the world's history through coins and stamps

The museum comprises three parts: the Kiều’s collection, world stamps with special focus on horse stamps and world currencies with special focuses on colonial coins and notes. These are from the personal collection of the curator - a well-travelled Saigonese businessmen – who collects them from his various international business trips.

I, The Kiều’s collection in CSO museum

Kiều’s story is a long poem about the life of Kiều – the oldest daughter of a normal middleclass family. Besides her tumultuous life story and a star-crossed love that her little sister helped to “fulfil”, the poem contributes as much to Vietnamese literature and culture as Shakespeare’s works to British literature. Its words are deeply woven in many of Vietnamese’s daily vocabulary, and its characters become the classical reference for many metaphors in Vietnamese’s language. It has been adapted to more than 20 languages, taught in schools around the world and inspires so many derivative works in both arts and literature.

The CSO museum houses the largest collection of Kiều’s prints, derivative works, art works and adaptation in other world languages in Vietnam.

If you want to learn more about a core Vietnamese literature figure, you wouldn’t want to miss this collection.   

II, The world stamps in CSO museum

The curator has a special preference to horse stamps around the world, but it doesn’t stop his collection from being a wonderful representative of the world’s history.

  • You will find the stamps that were used during the colonial time around the world, representing by overprinted stamps with the name and extra information relating to each individual colony.

  • There are also images of the last Vietnamese monarchs including the famous Bảo Đại King, his Queen – Nam Phương, and his Crown Prince Nguyễn Phúc Bảo Long. There was also a stamp with a Tokin woman in her daily attire.

  • And how excited would you be to find the stamps used by Nazi during World War II, including the infamous swastika and the Reichs Chancellery Eagle. Considering their gruesome past, one could have thought that nothing of their existence should remain on Earth, shouldn’t it?

  • Some other the rare finds in this collection were the ration tickets during Vietnamese subsidy period. Those were the misery, the joy and the privileges of a long-gone past although its influence can still be found in a Vietnamese proverb “to have the face of someone who has just lost their rice book” – “mặt như mất sổ gạo”. Imagine the despair on someone face thinking about the hunger that his/her entire family must face over the upcoming month because he/she has lost the only proof of their monthly food rations. That is what that proverb talks about.

III, World currencies (coins and notes) in CSO museum

The curator has a massive collection of animal coins from all around the world which would definitely be a great attraction to children. He also has a special section for notes with women images (one point for feminism!) and a massive collection of British, French, American and Vietnamese coins throughout the years.

  • For the British coins, you can find the symbol of the British Empire – a woman wearing a helmet, holding a shield and a trident– on British coins between the 1960s to 1971, upon when the image on the coins was replaced by Queen Elizabeth’s and the portcullis representing the Parliament. 

  • As for the American, while there were some interesting representations of coins for many lesser-known regions of Vietnam such as Vũng Tàu or Bà Rịa, the highlight of the collection is the three Playboy Lounge coins used at Sanford Army Airfield. One could only hypothesise that those coins were used in some sorts of casinos that offered entertainment for American soldiers during the American War time. What if places like this were where the real-life Kim and Chris from Miss Saigon met?

  • Moreover, how could one miss out on the Vietnamese coins and notes collection while in the centre of arts and cultures of the Central of Vietnam? While the coins from Bảo Đại reign – the last monarchy of Vietnam – were a nice touch, my personal highlight would be the red 10,000 VND notes that is no longer in circulation. Just about 10-15 years ago, that note was the most common lucky money value in Vietnam because of its affordability and the colour red that represents good luck. We have moved on to the polymer note due to its durability since.

At the end of the exhibition, there are also interesting displays such as a tree of world coins, a world map in which you can see the only four countries in the world with a minute hand that runs in their own timeline, Japan’s first official block of currency (not a coin!), the world’s largest denomination bank note (the Zimbabwe note) and one of the world’s highest valued coins from Weimar Republic.

So if you are a world traveller, a stamps and coins collector, a history buff or just simply a culture-admirer, come to immerse yourself in this extended world of global history. Maybe you will enjoy this walk down the world’s memory land as much as I do.

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