Tom Topol, Expert & Author On Passports And Their HistoryHello, 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.

Travel documents are telling the stories of their 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 “Artwork” 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 also contain 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 of the U.S. Department of State in Washington D.C., for their historic passport exhibition, where I received even a recognition award from the U.S. Department of State. The newest project is for the world’s oldest watchmaker, Swiss company Vacheron Constantin and several others for museums around the globe.

Do you want to learn more about old passports and their history? Just drop me a line – I will help you! 


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 old passports (references testimonials). My historical passport database is the most comprehensive source for historical travel documents (passports).

Take a look at the Ephemera Society of the UK and the USA and become a member!
Tom Topol passport expert

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 – just 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 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

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 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 own views and laws that must not conform to this example!

All passports presented on this website are obsolete and for research, educational & collection purposes only! I do NOT buy or sell any biometric/electronic passports! To sell or buy current and valid passports is illegal! Tom Topol passport expert