About me Tom Topol

Tom Topol Passport History Expert

About Me

Hello, I am Tom Topol, a seasoned expert in passport history and author. Since 2003, I have been fascinated by the “Art” and history of old passports, which I discovered at a flea market in Kyoto, Japan. My passion for passport history has driven me to study and explore this field extensively.

“Travel documents are not just pieces of paper, but they tell the stories of their bearers. These documents provide information about the person’s profession, their destination, and the reason for their travel. They also reveal where the passport was issued and by whom. Additionally, there are many questions related to geographical and political issues, processing, and security printing. Therefore, travel documents are not just a collection of papers, but they are a source of advanced research on travel documents.”

Passport History and Collection

Nowadays, passports are standardized, but if we look back at passports from the 19th century, they were unique pieces of artwork. Handwritten on fine paper and adorned with colorful stamps, signatures, and beautiful photographs. Each passport was a work of art in itself. However, it is important to note that collectors of passports have to define the range of their collection, as it is impossible to have every single passport from that time period. My collection has about 700 historical travel documents, with the earliest one dating back to 1646.


I have worked on several projects, including assisting the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C. with their historic passport exhibition, for which I received an award from the U.S. Government. Furthermore, on a project for the world’s oldest watchmaker, Swiss company Vacheron Constantin, and numerous museums around the world.


My book LET PASS OR DIE (2019) was a massive success and is SOLD OUT. It is worth mentioning that it was sold by 70% in the security printing/passport industry! But, the 2nd edition (as e-Book only) with plenty of additional new content is available now!

You can find numerous articles from me about passport history in news media and with market leaders of the security printing industry. Take a look at my Reference List.

Legal Note On Passport Collecting

This site aims to establish a source for collectors, historians, researchers, and other interested parties to share and exchange information, knowledge, and collectibles and raise awareness of passport collecting as a leisure activity.

Passports As Government Property

Most countries declare by law that passports are government property and may be confiscated, withdrawn, or revoked at any time, usually on specified grounds. A confiscation, withdrawal, or revocation is generally subject to judicial review. The definition of “Government property” is stated in most passports or country-specific passport laws, and came up (to my best knowledge) within the last 30–40 years. Old passports (100 years old and more) do not have such a statement at all – not on the document nor in the passport laws at that time. Tom Topol, passport expert

Is Passport Collecting Legal?

YES, don’t worry, it is – as long the documents are obsolete/canceled!
I contacted several government agencies, and they often cannot clearly communicate. It is safe to say that passport collecting is “accepted” as long as you have a good reason for your collection, e.g., for historical research. Usually, you will get your old and obsolete marked passport back when you pick up your new one. Passport offices are not interested in their “property” by collecting “old paper.” About me Tom Topol passport history expert

Statement Of The German Interior Department

“The retention of title extends only to passports and identity cards of the Federal Republic of Germany. The passports and identity cards pattern from before 1945 and the former German Democratic Republic (GDR – East Germany) are very different from the current ones. Those “historical” documents are therefore NOT protected.”

The statement of the German Interior Department can be used as an example for travel documents of other countries. However, each country has its views and laws that must not conform to this example! Patterns after 1945 till the 1980s are very different from the current one, so there should also be no retention of title, in my opinion.

Documents presented on this website are obsolete and only for research, education & collection purposes! I do NOT buy or sell any biometric passports! Selling/purchasing current and valid passports is illegal! About me Tom Topol passport history expert