The History and Importance of Passports

Russian passport of a General's widow 1918
Russian passport of a General’s widow 1918

History Importance Passports
A passport is a document that verifies the identity and citizenship of an individual for the purpose of international travel. It is a mandatory requirement for individuals traveling from one country to another. The history of passports dates back to ancient times when individuals carried letters of introduction from their monarch or government as proof of identity.

Origin of Passports

The modern passport as we know it today can be traced back to King Henry V of England, who issued the first recorded passport in 1414. It was a letter requesting safe passage for the bearer and their companions through foreign lands. Over time, the concept of the passport evolved and became standardized with the introduction of a 1414 Act of Parliament in England, which made it a legal requirement for individuals to carry a passport while traveling abroad.

Here is a German passport, 1646, from my collection.

Types of Passports History Importance Passports

There are two main types of passports – diplomatic and regular. Diplomatic passports are issued to individuals representing their government in foreign countries, such as diplomats and consular officers. Regular passports, also known as ordinary passports, are issued to individuals for personal travel. The diplomatic passport of a WWII B26 Bomber Pilot.

Issuing Authority

The issuing authority for passports varies from country to country. In most countries, the national government is responsible for issuing passports to its citizens. For example, passports are issued by the U.S. Department of State in the United States.

Passport Requirements History Importance Passports

To obtain a passport, individuals must provide proof of identity and citizenship. This may include a birth certificate, naturalization papers, or government-issued identification. Passport applicants must also provide a passport photo and pay a fee.

Passport Renewal

Passports must be renewed every ten years in most countries. The renewal process is similar to obtaining a new passport and requires individuals to provide updated personal information and a new passport photo.

The Role of Passports in Travel

Passports play a crucial role in international travel by verifying the identity and citizenship of individuals. They allow individuals to cross international borders and enter foreign countries. Passports also assist in tracking individuals who may pose a threat to national security. Take a look at the passport power index.

History Importance Passports

[Passport Usage Flowchart]

Don’t miss the exciting news!

FREE Collecting Guideline!

We don’t spam!, the ONLY website on Passport History you need to know.

FAQ Passport History
Passport collection, passport renewal, old passports for sale, vintage passport, emergency passport renewal, same day passport, passport application, 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...