11 July, 2015

I’m a fervent researcher & passport collector since 2003 when I explored the “Art” in old passports at some flea market in Kyoto, Japan. More than a decade now I study passports & their history.

Travel documents telling the story of their bearer and it’s interesting and quite educating history. Who were they? What did they work? Why they traveled to China, India or USA in 1924 or in mid 19th century or 200 years ago? Where was the passport issued and from whom? Of course there are many more questions to ask on geographical and political issues…it`s much more than just collecting it`s also an advanced research on travel documents.

Today our passports are uniform but look at an old passport back in 19th century – at that time they were really some kind of “Art” and unique. Handwritten on nice paper with colorful stamps, signatures and beautiful photographs.

Each collector has to define his own range of collection – you can’t have it all. Ask yourself “What is the purpose of my collection?”

Focus on quality not on quantity!

My core focus is on “German documents”. My collection has 600+ passports. The earliest one is from 1646 but also includes several collectibles  which are significant historic documents of German history.

Passport-collector.com is well recognized by international collectors and other interested parties. I am in regular contact with museums and archives such as the German Foreign Office – Political Archive in Berlin, I am adviser to foundations and support museums, Hollywood film makers, universities, libraries and TV stations when it comes to passports and their history.

Several articles on passport history and passport collecting were published by me (see references & testimonials). I can say I do have the most comprehensive documentation and database when it comes to travel documents. At my website you will find several guidelines on passports which is unique as on passport history & collecting almost no books are available.

A famous man once said “If you don’t find what you looking for – create it – be it!” So I did as there was nothing available at all. All is done by my private time and efforts.


Legal Note On Passport Collecting

The purpose of this site is to establish a platform for collectors, historians, researchers and other interested parties to share and exchange information, knowledge and collectibles and to raise awareness of passport collecting as a leisure activity.

All passports presented on this website are obsolete and for research, educational & collection purposes only!

Passports as government property

Most countries declare by law that passports are government property, and may be confiscated, withdrawn or revoked at any time, usually on specified grounds. A confiscation, withdrawal or a revocation is generally subject to judicial review. The definition of “Government property” is stated in most of the passports and/or in the country specific passport law and came up (by my best knowledge) within the last 30-40 years. Really old passports (100 years old and more) do not have such a statement at all – not on the document nor in the passport laws at that time.

Therefore the statement e.g. from eBay is not only incorrect but also in-consequent. Why? Firstly they state in their policy government ID’s remain property of the issuing country and can’t be sold but then secondly they state that US passports expired 20 years ago (from issue date) are ALLOWED to sell. eBay is also canceling travel documents on their website of extinct countries which is ridiculous!

Is passport collecting legal? YES, don’t worry it is – as long the passports are obsolete!

I was in contact with several government agencies and even they are often unable to give a clear statement. Basically it is safe to say that passport collecting is “tolerated” as long you have a good reason for your collection, e.g. for historical research.

Normally you will get your old and however obsolete marked passport back when you pick up your new one. This indicates that passport offices do not really have an interest on their “property” by collecting “old paper”.

My aim is to achieve the best possible legal security for our collectors community in this topic!

The German Interior Department e.g. made the following statement to me by email
(translated by the author)

“The retention of title extends only to passports and identity cards of the Federal Republic of Germany. The pattern of the passports and identity cards from the period before 1945 and from the former German Democratic Republic (GDR – East Germany) are very different from the current one. Those “historical” documents are therefore NOT protected.”

(Authors note)
Also the patterns after 1945 till the 1980s are very different to the current one so there should be also no retention of title in my opinion. The statement of the German Interior Department can be used as an example for travel documents of other countries but of course each country has his own views and laws which must not be conform with this example!

+++The following data are archived when you visit the website, contact me via the contact link or when you sign up for the newsletter: Name, IP, email address. These data are never shared with any third parties.+++

ABOUT ME was last modified: July 11th, 2015 by Author
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Tom Topol is a member of the Ephemera Society in UK & USA and a well-recognized expert on passports & their history with several publications. He does consult collectors, foundations, museums and news media agencies on this topic. A reference list is available online. You can follow Tom on Twitter & Facebook.

23 Responses to ABOUT ME

  1. Steve Frank on 9 July, 2014 at 04:38

    I’m doing research on British World War II diplomatic passports, that is diplomatic in minor positions working in London. Do you know where I could go to find information on such a topic? Thanks for any help!

    • adim on 9 July, 2014 at 10:33

      Hi Steve, drop me some more details via my contact page. Best, Tom

  2. Terence Taylor on 10 May, 2014 at 02:39


    Fascinating site — I found it while researching for a documentary I am editing about European Jews who fled the Holocaust to Ecuador. We saw one passport that would be great to use to illustrate a section on obtaining visas to leave — is it possible for us to get a high resolution scan of what you have posted, and to get permission to use it in our film? Thanks for any help!

    • adim on 31 May, 2014 at 01:00

      Hi Terence, I replied with a PM. Check your email. Tom

  3. Adrienne on 22 June, 2012 at 12:28

    Hi there
    I’m can see by your website that you’re the world expert on passports! I am a valuer of manuscripts and art here in Australia. I have never valued a passport before. I am currently valuing the collection of one of our ex-Prime Ministers for donation to a library. This Prime Minister is seen historically as an important one. Can you help me to evaluate?

    • admin on 22 June, 2012 at 12:30

      Hi Adrienne
      thank you for your kind words. Indeed I can tell I am the source when it comes to passports and their history. Please look at “About this site” where you can learn more about me. I was already supporting many different interested parties.

      I really envy you for your task 😉
      Would love to see this great collection.

      More by private email…

  4. Kate Hilson on 29 April, 2012 at 11:07

    hi there, we are looking for an old Ethiopian Passport that would have been used in the 1960′s. We are currently shooting a movie and are looking for reference to recreate. Any help would be greatly appreciated. Your website is very informative and interesting. Thank you kate

    • admin on 29 April, 2012 at 11:09

      Dear Kate
      thank you very much for your message and kind words. I do myself not have such a passport but I will ask my collector friends. I got a few times such requests and I am proud to say even from a famous Hollywood studio and BBC, which I did support. Be patient a bit and we might be successful.

  5. Bruce on 27 February, 2012 at 21:09

    Oh, I see you are the guy with the great website! Regards Bruce.

    • admin on 27 February, 2012 at 21:10

      Thank you, Bruce.

  6. Christopher on 18 January, 2012 at 04:43

    Any advice you can give for selling a passport of a famous person? I own a passport issued to the actor James “Jimmy” Stewart. Issued in the 1950’s. I would be intersted in finding out what it is worth. Thank you. All the best!

    • admin on 18 January, 2012 at 10:58

      Dear Christopher
      thank you very much for your interesting message.
      A Jimmy Stewart passport is surely something outstanding.

      Did you saw my celebrity passport gallery and related auction results on my website? I have listed many celebrity passports incl. auctions results.

      Best regards from Switzerland

  7. Henry on 4 January, 2012 at 09:50


    I have been following your website for awhile, and I must say, you have quite the collection, and much knowledge on the subject. Thank you for your tremendous service to passport collectors everywhere! I am interested in your Vatican passports (ID numbers 1561, 1564, and 1567 on your passport list).

    Your collection is so great. I must ask, where do you find these, and how do you get your hands on them? Is it just plain luck, or is there some way other than ebay and Delcampe to find them?

    Thank you in advance for your help regarding the passports. I am a huge fan of your website. I look forward to hearing from you.


    • admin on 4 January, 2012 at 10:07

      Dear Henry
      thank you very much for you nice comment. I appreciate your statement. I do my best to keep the site attractive for readers and collectors. Well, finding passports is not always that easy. Ebay, flea markets are two sources but I always got many items from fellow collectors and direct via requests by my website. Nice to have fans like you. Did you already signed up for my newsletter? I will reply to you more in detail by email. Best regards Tom.

  8. Jason on 8 December, 2011 at 09:26

    Hey Tom, All I can say is wow. I did a little reading and research, to post something interesting on the passport and it’s history, but your site is like a public library on the topic.

    • admin on 17 December, 2011 at 17:57

      Thank you Jason.

  9. Peter on 7 September, 2011 at 10:42

    I love your website (i’m sorry it’s taken me so long to discover it!) I have been learning so much.

    • admin on 7 September, 2011 at 17:54

      Thank you Peter and Welcome!

  10. admin on 5 July, 2011 at 09:25

    Hi Bogdan, you are very welcome.

  11. Abbas on 17 April, 2011 at 12:11

    It’s a pleasure finding your site, and I think it’s a great hobby to take interest in old passports. I used to work with an airlines company, and I had developed an interest in passports as well, and I had a habit of taking pictures of the covers of some passports (with the consent of the bearer of course).

    I suppose I was wondering if you had an interest in seeing some. Although I will admit my collection is rather small, maybe nearing 70. I will continue looking through your wonderful site for now.


    • admin on 17 April, 2011 at 12:16

      Dear Abbas, very nice to see your message and you are very welcome to contibute with some nice pictures. Thank you for your kind words. Please enjoy the site.

  12. Gil on 15 February, 2011 at 16:59

    Hi Tom, thanks for this fantastic website. I appreciate the time and efforts it took to make it happen. I’m a passport collector based in Singapore and originally from Zurich….. Best wishes. Gil

    • admin on 15 February, 2011 at 18:54

      Hi Gil, thank you very much for your kind words and i’m glad you like my website. Did you sign up for newsletter already? As i’m in Bangkok we should be able to meet in time here or in Singapore. Regards Tom

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