Passport collectors market situation

Passports Passport collectors market situation

Collecting old passports was and still is a challenge, as such documents are in general not much available on the market. It’s important to note that I’m referring to historical passports, not contemporary expired or currently valid travel documents.

Other collectors and both online and offline auction platforms continue to be the main outlets for locating the documents we desire. But it’s getting more and more difficult to find quality documents. E.g., if I look at my success rate at online auctions, I hardly top a 50% winning rate – and I am usually willing to spend a substantial amount for the items I like to get into my archive and collection. In contrary, I lose 50% of the things I am looking for. Why is that?

The basic rule of “Supply & Demand” always remains!

A dedicated, long-time collector always defines their collection focus and is aware that as they approach the pinnacle, it becomes increasingly challenging. This means that while they may have successfully acquired around 90% of their desired items, the remaining 10% proves to be the most difficult to obtain.

In my case, it’s the German Empire passport booklets. I’m missing only two types to reach the peak, but these two types are the most difficult to spot. I never even saw them in over 20 years of research and collecting – but they must exist, as the records say so.

The British territory, which is a vast collection field, is another example, but the only documents you find today are expired blue passports from 1979 to 1930 and frequently Lord Salisbury folios. Everything else is nowadays difficult to find. Jersey, Guernsey, British HK, British Singapore – British former territories in general, good luck. 

Russian folio passports from different Tsar’s? Nothing available. Early Arabic countries? Very difficult. Early Scandinavian passports? Nothing! Let all the different extinct countries and territories aside. Passport collectors market situation

Price-wise, I believe my guideline as laid out in my book “Let Pass Or Die” makes sense and is a good “indicator” of the value of historical passports.

In my opinion, there are probably not more passport collectors in general, at least not for historical documents, but perhaps for modern expired ones. This is a trend I see for years, that younger collectors (newbies) go for the contemporary passports. Well, also they will become historical in some years, especially as ICAO recommends to re-design a passport about every ten years to follow up on state-of-the-art technology and security.

Prices will always rise for exceptional & rare documents. Which is great news for any collector!

As the anniversary of 50 years, moon landing is on its brink on 20 July 2019, there are six passports offered of the first man on the Moon – NEIL ARMSTRONG. Someone believes it’s an excellent time to auction them, and probably he is right. I will watch the auction result with interest. Initial bid was at $22.000. Update: sold for $81.250! Congrats to the seller and buyer!

Neil Armstrong, six passports

Luckily, I could already secure a passport of MOON WALKER – JOHN YOUNG. Such a travel document is most personal and always remember – we have 8 Billion people on Earth, but only 12 people have been on the Moon. 


Passport collectors market situation



incl. FREE guideline!

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?

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...

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