A readers question which became most interesting

“I have the passport of a Baroness of Germany when they were fleeing Germany. She gave it to me in NYC. Is it valuable?” readers question most interesting

That was the message from a reader, one of the many messages I get via my website each month. I always answer and asked for more details. The next email included five pictures of the passport, but I didn’t find much at first about Baroness Wilhelmine von Godin. But then, Carlos, so the name of the reader, told me more details as he had met the baroness in person and she gifted him her old German passport.

And Carlos told further…“She was a very colorful lady when I met her. She showed me pictures of the Kaiser in his car, also when Lindbergh went to Berlin after his flight. She was destitute when she died. I used to bring her breakfast and lunch from my pocket. When she told me she was a Baroness, I thought she was crazy. In the end, she gave me her passport, a picture of Lindbergh, and a piece of tapestry from 1200 for my kindness. As you can see, she was a notable lady in my eyes.”

German passport New York 1939
Her passport was issued at the German consulate in NY on 21 April 1939 and was valid until 20 April 1944.

“As I remember, I was a Junior in college, it could be 1974 or 1975 when she gave me her passport. I worked as a clerk at the Gracie Square Hotel in 86 st. 1st ave. in Manhattan, the place where she lived. I heard she fell out of bed and broke her hip. She was placed in a city Hospice, 4 weeks later she died. I believe it was 1975 or 76.” readers question most interesting

Baroness Godin made her career in America, it seems as The New Yorker reported on May 13, 1939…

Baroness von Godin
Baroness Wilhelmine von Godin, a seasoned expert on tapestry, spent two years restoring the set before seven panels returned to the apse for the dedication of the nave in 1941.
The Crucifixion
The Crucifixion from ‘Scenes from the Life of Christ’ (1647–48), Rome, series designed by Giovanni Francesco Romanelli. Cathedral of St John the Divine New York

Baroness Wilhelmine von Godin who is a specialist in restoring tapestries. “The Crucifixion,” by Berberini, which has been hung over the new altar in the Cathedral of St. John the Divine was restored by the Baroness. Her biggest job so far has been the restoration of “the Hunt of the Unicorn,” the set of six tapestries that were hung in the Cloisters last May. There are considered the finest in existence, & is supposed to have cost Rockefeller $1,100,000. The hardest part of restoring tapestries is getting the wool dyed. The weaving is nothing to her. Some of the dye formulas she uses have been handed down in her family from a 17th-century ancestor who was a master-weaver in Hanau. The Baroness was brought up in Munich.

Read also here more details about her work in the chapter Mid-20th Century. https://www.stjohndivine.org/art/cathedral-tapestries/

I love to get reader’s emails and requests as they are always most curious and in most cases, I can support their requests. This story of Carlos Barreda Thompson is touching and shows us what fantastic stories old passports can reveal. Thank you for sharing, Carlos. And to answer your question about the collector’s value, I would estimate about $80 for this document.

readers question most interesting

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Passport collection, passport renewal, old passports for sale, vintage passport, emergency passport renewal, same day passport, passport application, pasaporte passeport паспорт 护照 パスポート جواز سفر पासपोर्ट

1. What are the earliest known examples of passports, and how have they evolved?

The word "passport" came up only in the mid 15th Century. Before that, such documents were safe conducts, recommendations or protection letters. On a practical aspect, the earliest passport I have seen was from the mid 16th Century. Read more...

2. Are there any notable historical figures or personalities whose passports are highly sought after by collectors?

Every collector is doing well to define his collection focus, and yes, there are collectors looking for Celebrity passports and travel documents of historical figures like Winston Churchill, Brothers Grimm, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. Read more...

3. How did passport designs and security features change throughout different periods in history, and what impact did these changes have on forgery prevention?

"Passports" before the 18th Century had a pure functional character. Security features were, in the best case, a watermark and a wax seal. Forgery, back then, was not an issue like it is nowadays. Only from the 1980s on, security features became a thing. A state-of-the-art passport nowadays has dozens of security features - visible and invisible. Some are known only by the security document printer itself. Read more...

4. What are some of the rarest and most valuable historical passports that have ever been sold or auctioned?

Lou Gehrig, Victor Tsoi, Marilyn Monroe, James Joyce, and Albert Einstein when it comes to the most expensive ones. Read more...

5. How do diplomatic passports differ from regular passports, and what makes them significant to collectors?

Such documents were often held by officials in high ranks, like ambassadors, consuls or special envoys. Furthermore, these travel documents are often frequently traveled. Hence, they hold a tapestry of stamps or visas. Partly from unusual places.

6. Can you provide insights into the stories behind specific historical passports that offer unique insights into past travel and migration trends?

A passport tells the story of its bearer and these stories can be everything - surprising, sad, vivid. Isabella Bird and her travels (1831-1904) or Mary Kingsley, a fearless Lady explorer.

7. What role did passports play during significant historical events, such as wartime travel restrictions or international treaties?

During war, a passport could have been a matter of life or death. Especially, when we are looking into WWII and the Holocaust. And yes, during that time, passports and similar documents were often forged to escape and save lives. Example...

8. How has the emergence of digital passports and biometric identification impacted the world of passport collecting?

Current modern passports having now often a sparkling, flashy design. This has mainly two reasons. 1. Improved security and 2. Displaying a countries' heritage, icons, and important figures or achievements. I can fully understand that those modern documents are wanted, especially by younger collectors.

9. Are there any specialized collections of passports, such as those from a specific country, era, or distinguished individuals?

Yes, the University of Western Sidney Library has e.g. a passport collection of the former prime minister Hon Edward Gough Whitlam and his wife Margaret. They are all diplomatic passports and I had the pleasure to apprise them. I hold e.g. a collection of almost all types of the German Empire passports (only 2 types are still missing). Also, my East German passport collection is quite extensive with pretty rare passport types.

10. Where can passport collectors find reliable resources and reputable sellers to expand their collection and learn more about passport history?

A good start is eBay, Delcampe, flea markets, garage or estate sales. The more significant travel documents you probably find at the classic auction houses. Sometimes I also offer documents from my archive/collection. See offers... As you are already here, you surely found a great source on the topic 😉

Other great sources are: Scottish Passports, The Nansen passport, The secret lives of diplomatic couriers

11. Is vintage passport collecting legal? What are the regulations and considerations collectors should know when acquiring historical passports?

First, it's important to stress that each country has its own laws when it comes to passports. Collecting old vintage passports for historical or educational reasons is safe and legal, or at least tolerated. More details on the legal aspects are here...

Does this article spark your curiosity about passport collecting and the history of passports? With this valuable information, you have a good basis to start your own passport collection.

Question? Contact me...