About me

Tom Topol, Expert On Passports & Their History
Tom Topol, Expert On Passports & Their History
Hello, my name is Tom Topol, and I am a passionate researcher & passport collector since 2003 when I explored the “Art” in old passports at some flea market in Kyoto, Japan. Since 15+ years I study passports & their 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 really some kind of “Art” and unique. Handwritten, on nice paper with colorful stamps, signatures and beautiful photographs. Each collector has to define his range of collection – you can’t have it all.

Ask yourself: 

“What is the purpose of my collection?” 

Focus on quality, not on quantity!


My archive/collection includes 1000+ travel documents and is always growing. The earliest travel document is from 1646 but also contains several collectibles which are significant documents of German history.

Another key topic of my research & collection are Schutz-Passes (protection passes) & Schutz-Letters (protection 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.

I am a well-recognized expert & author on passports and their history; advising a wide range of interested parties like Foundations, Museums, Universities, Libraries, News Media, Film, TV & Radio. I published numerous articles on passport history and collecting of old passports (references testimonials).

My database is the most comprehensive source when it comes to travel documents. Here, on my website, you will find also several guidelines on passport history & collecting as there are no so many books available on the topic.

A famous man once said, “If you.” don’t find what you looking for – create it – be it!” So, I did as there was nothing available at all. All is done by my private time and efforts.

Tom Topol, January 2019


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.

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

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 and/or in the country-specific passport law and came up (by my best knowledge) within the last 30-40 years. Really 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? 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. Basically, it is safe to say that passport collecting is “tolerated” as long you have a good reason for your collection, e.g. for historical research. Normally you will get your old and however obsolete marked passport back when you pick up your new one. This indicates that passport offices do not really have an interest in their “property” by collecting “old paper”.

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.”

(Authors note)
Also, the patterns after 1945 till the 1980s are very different to the current one so there should be also 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 but of course, each country has his own views and laws which must not conform with this example!