Passport Collector Market Flash

Passport collectors – Quo Vadis? Passport Collector Market Flash

I don’t want to bother you with the current economic, inflation, and political situation, but the collectors market is on a downward trend. Following the market for 20 years as a passport history expert and collector, I believe this statement is justified.

2012 to 2014 was the “hot market” for passport collectors. 2015 to 2018 was a solid market on a still high level. The downfall began in 2019 and is still ongoing today. Nowadays, there is a lot of quantity but no quality available. Even for occasionally rare listed items, prices are far from what was paid ten years ago. Passport Collector Market Flash

The highest price was archived in 2022 for two late 1918 Russian diplomatic passports sold for 2200 EUR. Auction results hardly reach values over 100 EUR for old travel documents today if looking at a specific online platform.

Also, the classic auction houses have very little to offer regarding historical passports. New, younger collectors go into modern e-Passports rather than collect travel documents with a solid passport history.

Some are hoarders who “collect” not only simply everything but also multiple copies of the same type. It’s OK to upgrade to a better condition or more exciting content. But if you get half a dozen of the exact same type – that’s hoarding and has nothing to do with collecting. I find such people pretty selfish as they deny other collectors the chance to grab exactly such a document for their collection, which they search for, maybe for years.

As mentioned before, we lost three long-time collectors last year. They all had a fine collection. I know one collection will go to an archive. Another was partly sold, and the third one – no idea what happened there.

Another German long-time collector tries to sell his large collection for years, but his asking price was always too stiff and even more so in the current situation.


The market is down on quality and price levels. Even some long-time collectors are rather selling (partly) than adding to the existing collection. This is at least my impression when communicating with collectors, no matter if they are from the USA or Europe. The ones who still adding documents to their collection (like myself) do so only at a moderate price level. No big spending (as there are anyway no quality items available). WHAT DO YOU THINK? Passport Collector Market Flash

Happy hunting. May the next treasure find its way into your fine collection.

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?

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...