Meet Hildegard Kihn, nee Lessing, born 1906 in Koenigsberg, Prussia, Germany. Her Federal German passport was issued on 21 January 1952 at the Consulate General in Pretoria, South Africa. The passport booklet is the very first ever printed series in May 1950 with an edition of 50.000 copies. Hildegard renewed her travel document again in Pretoria in 1953 and a second time in 1957 but now in Luanda, Angola! Her passport expired in 1962, hence was valid for 10 years. Here, some sample pages… German passport Pretoria
The document shows plenty of stamps/visas. Angola, with revenue stamps, Germany, Portugal, Belgium (B-Congo), France, Denmark, Spain, and the final stamp is from Switzerland (1961). For me as a German collector a most interesting early travel document with a rather very unusual place of issue. A great addition to my collection.
This green type was the first model of the newly founded Federal Republic of Germany. The first passports were issued on 1 February 1951 but I have an even earlier issue in my collection. Issued at the German consulate in New York in November 1950. This must be one of the very first passports of federal Germany at all.
Germany’s post-war diplomatic network started as early as 1949 with a mission in Paris to the newly formed Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. The following year consulates-general was (re)opened in London, New York City, Paris, Istanbul, Amsterdam, Brussels, Rome, and Athens (until 1951 these were not embassies, as by virtue of the Occupation Statute the three allied powers had competence of foreign affairs; these consulates were intended to just manage commercial and consular affairs). West Germany’s Federal Foreign Office grew, and by the time of Germany’s reunification in 1990, there were 214 diplomatic missions abroad. Following German reunification, the Federal Republic inherited several diplomatic representations of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of former East Germany.
FAQ Passport 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?
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 😉
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...