Did you know: There are commemorative passports


Have you ever come across commemorative passports? They’re not as common as commemorative coins or banknotes, but they do exist! Allow me to shed some light on this rarity. While they’re not widespread, I’m aware of a few examples which I’ll outline here. If you know of any others, I’d love to hear about them. Commemorative Passports History

USA: American Revolution Bicentennial 1776–1976

The 1976 Bicentennial passport is smaller. Prettier. Easier to keep clean. Its cover, a new, more durable leather-grained vinyl material in dark blue, corresponding to the field of the US flag, is replacing the lighter “horizon blue” of passports issued from 1961 through 1975, and the dull green of the ones before that.

United States of America: Commemorative Passport “American Revolution Bicentennial 1776–1976”

The foil stamping of the lettering and Great Seal is done in silver-colored aluminum rather than gold. On the front cover is the inscription, “Bicentennial 1776-1976”; on the back is the Bicentennial seal. Commemorative Passports History

There’s a new-look inside the Bicentennial passport, too. Its interior pages feature a Liberty Bell pattern printed with a specially formulated red and blue ink. A grid pattern is printed on the visa pages to encourage the orderly stamping of entry and exit stamps.

And for the first time, conforming to international practice, the passport is bilingual. The message from the Secretary of State, the captions of the identification data, and the titles of the amendments and endorsements page appear in both English and French.

For the first time, conforming to international practice, the passport is bilingual.

The passport fee in 1976 was $10 plus an execution fee of $3. The passport had only twenty pages and was valid for five years. The Bicentennial was issued only during the calendar year 1976. Commemorative Passports History

USA: Benjamin Franklin – 200 years US Consular Service

In 1993, the blue US passport became green again to honor Benjamin Franklin and the 200th anniversary of the US Consular Service.

From April 1993 to March 1994, this special passport was issued. According to the statistics of the foreign office, 4.2 million copies of this type have been given.

Andorra: 700 years Andorra 1278–1978

There is not much information on this Andorra passport. It had 32 pages, and only the cover mentioned the anniversary. The travel document was issued only in 1978. The population of Andorra in 1980 was only 35.460; hence such a commemorative type must be scarce. Commemorative Passports History

Andorra: Commemorative Passport “700 years Andorra 1278–1978.”

Andorra is the rarest of all three special issues, followed by the Bicentennial and the Franklin. So far, I only know that these two countries have issued a special passport edition. If you know of others, please let me know!

Finland 2017–100 Years Independence

The back cover features an embossed 100th-anniversary logo, as does UV text on the ID card. From my understanding, the current passports from 2022 have the anniversary logo too.

Poland 2018–100 Years Independence

Like the Finnish passport, the Polish anniversary features are also in the current 2022 passport types.

A colleague suggested once to the Swiss government to issue a special passport edition on 700 years Ruetlischwur – he never got a reply.

It takes too much effort and might be mainly a security printing issue that states do not make such commemorative passports anymore. Such special editions make splendid collectibles. Commemorative Passports History


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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...