Hello, I am Tom Topol, a fervent researcher & passport collector since 2003 when I explored the “Art” in old passports at some flea market in Kyoto, Japan. Since more than 14 years I study passports & their history.
Travel documents telling the stories of its bearers. Who were they? What did they work? Why did they traveled to China, India or USA in 1924 or in 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…it`s much more than just collecting it`s also an advanced research on travel documents.
Today our passports are uniform but look at an old passport back in 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 own 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 core focus are German documents. My collection has now 700+ travel documents and is always growing. The earliest travel document is from 1646 but also includes 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 lifes. I own and have seen plenty of their documents, which are outstanding evidence of the Holocaust.
Passport-collector.com is well recognized by international collectors and other interested parties. I am in regular contact with museums and archives such as the German Foreign Office – Political Archive in Berlin, I am adviser to foundations and support museums, Hollywood film makers, universities, libraries and TV stations when it comes to passports and their history.
Several articles on passport history and passport collecting were published by me (see references & testimonials). I can say I do have the most comprehensive documentation and database when it comes to travel documents. At my website, you will find several guidelines on passports which is unique as on passport history & collecting almost no books are available.
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, April 2017
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 a 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.
Therefore, the statement e.g. from eBay is not only incorrect but also in-consequent. Why? Firstly, they state in their policy government ID’s remain property of the issuing country and can’t be sold but then secondly, they state that US passports expired 20 years ago (from issue date) are ALLOWED to sell. eBay is also canceling travel documents on their website of extinct countries which is ridiculous!
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 on their “property” by collecting “old paper”.
My aim is to achieve the best possible legal security for our collector’s community in this topic!
Please read also my article “Legal Information On Obsolete Passports – A Lawyers Comment” for more details!
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.”
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 be conform with this example!
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