Passport Collectors’ Market

passport collectors’ market

Passport Collector Market Flash
Old market flash

Observing and understanding the vintage passport collectors market is crucial to identify potential opportunities and challenges. Being a collector for 20+ years I always made reports about the market. Long-time newsletter subscribers will remember my “Market Newsflash”.

Market Scope passport collectors’ market

Market data and experience show that passport booklets are always preferred from collectors. While older and long-time collectors going for folios and booklets, to make a defined area complete, young and new collectors are less focused on history, but on the rather modern passport booklets with their security features and design.

Some collectors don’t even have a collection focus and they are hoarding everything they like. Third Reich travel documents are always on demand, if the price is right. While 16th-18th century documents are sought by passionate collectors with focus on (passport) history. passport collectors’ market

Market Size and Growth

The market for passport collectors has long been recognized as an exclusive and refined niche, distinct from the more widely recognized fields of stamp collecting, numismatics (coins/banknotes), or postcard collecting. Whenever I am asked about the size of this particular market, the question of how many passport collectors exist, I must admit that it is difficult to provide an exact figure. However, based on my own extensive experience and extensive network of connections across the globe, I would estimate that the number of passport collectors likely falls within the range of a lower five digits.

In recent times, it has come to my attention that numerous collectors have refrained from adding new documents to their collections, possibly influenced by factors such as the ongoing pandemic or concerns regarding inflation. Additionally, there seems to be a prevailing sentiment that the current market lacks noteworthy items of exceptional quality or that evoke a sense of excitement. Instead, there appears to be an abundance of quantity without the corresponding level of quality. This sentiment echoes my previous observations and remains pertinent to the present circumstances. passport collectors’ market

The presence of new collectors in the market is indeed noticeable, albeit it requires a deep-rooted passion to transform into a dedicated, long-term collector. I have witnessed numerous instances where “new” collectors initially display enthusiasm by making a few acquisitions, only to eventually lose interest over time.

Often, their attraction to such items is fueled by their novelty and the initial excitement they evoke. However, presently and for quite some time, I have observed a state of stagnation within the market. This sentiment is best illustrated by the graph below, indicating a lack of significant growth or change in recent times.

Passport collector’s market 2012-2023

During the period from 2012 to 2015, the passport collectors’ market experienced a remarkable surge of activity and enthusiasm. This period was characterized by a sense of novelty, excitement, and a high demand for vintage passports, with the peak of this fervor occurring particularly in 2012 and 2013. However, following this period, there was a noticeable cooling down of the market.

The year 2019 witnessed a significant sell-off in the market, marked by a substantial increase in transaction volume. Unfortunately, the subsequent onset of the pandemic and its adverse impact on the global economy further exacerbated the prevailing challenges, leading to a sustained decline in the market. Regrettably, these unfavorable conditions persist until the present day.

What do you think? Share your opinion… passport collectors’ market

  • Readers/collectors contact me frequently, asking for specific collectibles.
    A rough summary can me found in the menu under WANTED.
  • Auction houses increasing their commission. I have seen auctioneers asking now for a 35% premium!
  • eBay is getting more strict on passport listings and cancel everything non-conform to their policy.
    (Highest sold vintage passport at eBay (YTD) was ~$2000. In previous years we saw results of up to ~$7000.)
  • Delcampe is a good source – good for buying, not so for selling.
  • Having traveled within Europe recently and strolling over well-known flea markets, I found nothing.
    Except the collection I could buy in Switzerland. A long planned and rare deal.
  • Currently, we only can find quantity items of no significance at quite high prices, and even “standard” documents at reasonable prices don’t sell.




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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