This beautiful document was recently offered at an auction platform as a direct buy, and of course, it sold instantly as such an early GDR diplomatic passport is most rare. A sad moment for me. The good thing was, I knew who bought it. So, I contacted the buyer, and we agreed on a price. With a solid premium, of course.
But fine with me, as I wanted this treasure for my collection of East German passport history. Hence, once again, I am grateful to my German fellow collector who made it possible!
I do not exaggerate when I say I hold probably the most comprehensive collection of East German travel documents, from one of the first passports issued in 1955 to one of the very last ones issued by the GDR, just two days before the exodus of a communist state and reunification on 3 October 1990.
This document is the earliest diplomatic type I ever saw. However, the GDR regime issued in January 1950 a regulation on diplomatic and service passports for official use.
I never saw any of those travel documents, but I found out that such documents are in a German federal archive during research. Five years later, in 1955, travel documents were issued to ordinary GDR citizens.
Of course, only to selected ones who were loyal to the party and country. Traveling then was still the exception. Here is such an early GDR passport from July 1955 with a low passport number of 4214.
The following diplomatic passport was issued on 21 June 1956 to Anneliese Bambor, the spouse of the Attache of the German Democratic Republic to Vietnam. Passport number 065/56.
The number indicates that until June 1956, only 65 diplomatic passports were issued. The document number is A495, valid until 20 June 1958.
The printed text of the travel document is German, French, and Russian. Back then English was not in use in GDR passports. The condition is excellent. The first visa in her passport is an exit visa to leave GDR, issued on the same day as her passport, including a border stamp from airport Schoenefeld on 23 June.
The next visa is a diplomatic visa from Vietnam, issued on 21 July 1956. Page nine shows a Soviet transit stamp. The next is a Chinese diplomatic visa from 21 June 1956 as well. Page thirteen has a Soviet diplomatic visa, which is pretty rare to find in those days.
Anneliese came back to GDR in 1957, with a GDR diplomatic visa issued at the GDR consulate in Vietnam. The travel document is full of diplomatic visas, mostly from China, USSR, and Vietnam, besides Poland and CSSR. Fantastic evidence of early East German consular establishments. Here, a detailed look into the document.
FAQ Passport History 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?
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...
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