About me

Tom Topol passport expert

“If you don’t find what you are looking for – create it – be it!”

Tom Topol, Expert & Author On Passports And Their History
Hello, my name is Tom Topol. I am a passionate expert and author for passports and their history. Since 2003, when I discovered the “Art” and history of old passports at some flea market in Kyoto, Japan ever since I study about passport history.
Travel documents are telling the stories of its bearers. Who were they? What did they work? Why did they travel to China, India or the USA in 1924 or the mid-19th century or 200 years ago? Where was the passport issued, and from whom? Of course, there are many more questions to ask on geographical and political issues but also in regards to technology and security printing; it’s much more than just collecting its advanced research on travel documents. Today our passports are uniform but look at an old passport back in the 19th century – at that time they were some “Art” and unique. They are handwritten, on excellent paper with colorful stamps, signatures, and beautiful photographs. Each collector has to define his range of collection – you can’t have it all. My archive/collection includes about 700 travel documents and is always growing. The earliest travel document is from 1646. However, my collection and archive contain also several collectibles that are essential for German passport history. Another topic of my research & collection are protection passes & letters issued during the Holocaust by Righteous Diplomats, e.g., Sugihara, Wallenberg, Lutz, Rotta, to save Jewish lives. Such documents are outstanding and rare evidence of the Holocaust.One of my latest projects was the assistance for the U.S. Department of State in Washington D.C., for their historic passport exhibition, where I received a recognition award from the U.S. Department of State. The newest project is for the world’s oldest watchmaker, Swiss company Vacheron Constantin. 

Passport-collector.com is online since October 2010 and has approximately 1 Million page views each year.
Tom Topol passport expert

As a well-recognized expert on passport history, I advise a wide range of interested parties like Foundations, Museums, Universities, Libraries, News Media, Film, T.V. & Radio. I published numerous articles on passport history and collecting of old passports (references testimonials). My historical passport database is the most comprehensive source when it comes to historical travel documents (passports).

Please take a look at the websites of the Ephemera Society of the U.K. and the USA; maybe you want to become a member? Tom Topol passport expert

Legal Note On Passport Collecting
The purpose of this site is to establish a platform 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.

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 of the passports or the country-specific passport law 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.

Is passport collecting legal? Tom Topol passport expert
YES, don’t worry, it is – as long the passports are obsolete!
I was in contact with several government agencies, and even 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

The German Interior Department, e.g., made the following statement to me by email(translated by the author)
“The retention of title extends only to passports and identity cards of the Federal Republic of Germany. The pattern of the passports and identity cards from the period before 1945 and from the former German Democratic Republic (GDR – East Germany) are very different from the current one. Those “historical” documents are therefore NOT protected.”

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. The statement of the German Interior Department can be used as an example for travel documents of other countries. However, of course, each country has its views and laws which must not conform with this example!

All passports presented on this website are obsolete and for research, educational & collection purposes only!

Tom Topol passport expert