Hello, my name is Tom Topol. I am a passionate expert and author for passports and their history. Since 2003, I have discovered the “Art” and history of old passports at some flea market in Kyoto, Japan, ever since I studied passport history.
As a well-recognized expert on passport history, I advise many interested parties like Foundations, Museums, Universities, Libraries, News Media, Film, T.V. & Radio. I published numerous articles on passport history, and I collect old passports (references & testimonials). My historical passport database is the most comprehensive source for historical travel documents (passports).
Legal Note On Passport Collecting
The purpose of this site is to establish a source for collectors, historians, researchers, and other interested parties to share and exchange information, knowledge, and collectibles and to raise awareness of passport collecting as a leisure activity. I have a FREE passport collecting guideline for you – drop me a line via my contact link!
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Most countries declare by law that passports are government property and may be confiscated, withdrawn, or revoked at any time, usually on specified grounds.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 the country-specific passport laws and came up (by 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 passports are obsolete!
I contacted several government agencies, and they are often unable to give a clear statement. It is safe to say that passport collecting is “tolerated” as long as you have a good reason for your collection, e.g., for historical research. Usually, you will get your old and, however, obsolete marked passport back when you pick up your new one. Passport offices do not have an interest in their “property” by collecting “old paper.” Tom Topol passport expert
Statement of the German Interior Department (translated by the author)
“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 one. 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 for research, education & collection purposes only! I do NOT buy or sell any biometric passports! To sell or purchase current / valid passports is illegal! Tom Topol passport expert