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 telling the stories of its bearers. Who were they? What did they work? Why did they travel to China, India or USA in 1924 or in 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 of technology and security printing, it`s much more than just collecting it`s also 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 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 archive/collection includes 1000+ 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 lives. Such documents 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, I do advise foundations and support museums. Hollywood filmmakers, universities, libraries and TV stations contacting me when it comes to passports and their history.

Numerous articles on passport history and passport collecting were published by me (references & testimonials). I can say I do have the most comprehensive documentation and database when it comes to travel documents. Here you will find also several guidelines on passport history & collecting as there are no so many books available on the topic in general.

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!

41 comments for “About me

  1. Josh
    28 December, 2018 at 06:07

    Hi Tom, great page! I am trying to get a copy of my grandads German passport or his application for it, would you happen to know which German authority would hold such identification documents? He would have lived in Bremen.
    Thanks in advance.

    • 28 December, 2018 at 06:43

      Thx Josh,
      Unfortunately in Germany you can’t get a copy of passport applications like e.g. in the US. One eason is the passport system was never centralized like in other countries. It was up to the local police station. However, you are somehow lucky as I have access to a Bremen database. Send me the full name, DOB, POB and I might find something. Cheers, Tom

  2. Karen Gardner
    4 February, 2018 at 16:59

    Hello Tom, My mother,now deceased was an international bank examiner, and I now have a large number of passports and would like to know of their worth.

    • 4 February, 2018 at 17:29

      Hello Karen, I sent you a private message. Cheers, Tom

  3. Michael Weinstein
    3 August, 2017 at 04:39

    A woman named Haike (Chayke?) emigrated from Italy to Palestine in 1947. She was the sister of my grandmother (who had much emigrated to the US). From information passed on to me, my family had obtained an immigration certificate to allow legal entry to Palestine. I’m not sure if the British required other documents (including some type of passport) to qualify for legal entry under the Mandate.What British agency was responsible for issuing immigration certificates to people during the Mandate? And how would a researcher try to discover if and when this certificate was obtained in 1947 that would have allowed Haike to emigrate to Palestine. Thank you. Michael Weinstein

    • 3 August, 2017 at 07:12

      Thanks Mike, PM sent. Cheers, Tom

  4. Rouven F.
    29 November, 2016 at 01:32

    Hi Tom, first of all, congratiulations for this great page. We (me and my family) just found an old passport. The passport is from 1897 and contains the physical description and the ID number is 351. We thought that this piece could probably be something special and would be very grateful if you could maybe tell us something about it.

    Greetings from Germany

    • 29 November, 2016 at 08:32

      Hi Rouven. Sure I will have a look at it. Send me some pictures. Cheers Tom

  5. Crystal Gulley
    22 November, 2016 at 00:16

    Hello my name is Crystal and I have a official passport United States of America it was issued July 21st 1961 to Emily Curtis carran and on one of the pages handwritten it states American Embassy Paris France October 9th 1961 this passport is hereby amended to show that the bearer is the wife of John Alfred carran who is assigned to the Embassy of the United States of America at Paris France and it’s signed by John Alfred American Vice counsel I believe it says I am interested in selling this but I’m not sure how much it goes for it’s been cancelled it states new application on 6 of 82 if you could get back to me and kind of let me know if you’re interested or what I can get out of it I would appreciate it a lot of stamps from an immigration officer and I don’t know exactly what that means thank you

    • 22 November, 2016 at 12:41

      Thank you Crystal. I sent you a pm and looking forward to learn more about your document. Cheers, Tom

  6. Khilen
    26 September, 2016 at 16:43

    Hi Tom,

    Nice to read your posts. I have a 2 single page passports issued some time in 1909- this one is “Capitania Mor D Angoche” and is now in pieces but i have all parts. The one issued in 1911 is more like a butter paper and British.

    Let me know your thoughts.


    • 27 September, 2016 at 06:15

      private message sent. Thank you, Tom

  7. dean watson
    15 September, 2016 at 05:24

    hi would you be interested in a 1950’s uk passport in pretty mint condition?

    • 15 September, 2016 at 21:43

      Thanks. Private message sent. Best regards, Tom.

  8. Paul
    9 March, 2016 at 02:28

    Hi I’m not sure if I’m at the right place but I am looking for a valuation on a ex footballers passport

    • 9 March, 2016 at 15:02

      Thx Paul. I sent you a private message. I will look into it. Cheers Tom

  9. Steve Frank
    9 July, 2014 at 04:38

    I’m doing research on British World War II diplomatic passports, that is diplomatic in minor positions working in London. Do you know where I could go to find information on such a topic? Thanks for any help!

    • 9 July, 2014 at 10:33

      Hi Steve, drop me some more details via my contact page. Best, Tom

  10. Terence Taylor
    10 May, 2014 at 02:39


    Fascinating site — I found it while researching for a documentary I am editing about European Jews who fled the Holocaust to Ecuador. We saw one passport that would be great to use to illustrate a section on obtaining visas to leave — is it possible for us to get a high resolution scan of what you have posted, and to get permission to use it in our film? Thanks for any help!

    • 31 May, 2014 at 01:00

      Hi Terence, I replied with a PM. Check your email. Tom

  11. Adrienne
    22 June, 2012 at 12:28

    Hi there
    I’m can see by your website that you’re the world expert on passports! I am a valuer of manuscripts and art here in Australia. I have never valued a passport before. I am currently valuing the collection of one of our ex-Prime Ministers for donation to a library. This Prime Minister is seen historically as an important one. Can you help me to evaluate?

    • 22 June, 2012 at 12:30

      Hi Adrienne
      thank you for your kind words. Indeed I can tell I am the source when it comes to passports and their history. Please look at “About this site” where you can learn more about me. I was already supporting many different interested parties.

      I really envy you for your task 😉
      Would love to see this great collection.

      More by private email…

  12. Kate Hilson
    29 April, 2012 at 11:07

    hi there, we are looking for an old Ethiopian Passport that would have been used in the 1960′s. We are currently shooting a movie and are looking for reference to recreate. Any help would be greatly appreciated. Your website is very informative and interesting. Thank you kate

    • 29 April, 2012 at 11:09

      Dear Kate
      thank you very much for your message and kind words. I do myself not have such a passport but I will ask my collector friends. I got a few times such requests and I am proud to say even from a famous Hollywood studio and BBC, which I did support. Be patient a bit and we might be successful.

  13. Bruce
    27 February, 2012 at 21:09

    Oh, I see you are the guy with the great website! Regards Bruce.

    • 27 February, 2012 at 21:10

      Thank you, Bruce.

  14. Christopher
    18 January, 2012 at 04:43

    Any advice you can give for selling a passport of a famous person? I own a passport issued to the actor James “Jimmy” Stewart. Issued in the 1950’s. I would be intersted in finding out what it is worth. Thank you. All the best!

    • 18 January, 2012 at 10:58

      Dear Christopher
      thank you very much for your interesting message.
      A Jimmy Stewart passport is surely something outstanding.

      Did you saw my celebrity passport gallery and related auction results on my website? I have listed many celebrity passports incl. auctions results.

      Best regards from Switzerland

  15. Henry
    4 January, 2012 at 09:50


    I have been following your website for awhile, and I must say, you have quite the collection, and much knowledge on the subject. Thank you for your tremendous service to passport collectors everywhere! I am interested in your Vatican passports (ID numbers 1561, 1564, and 1567 on your passport list).

    Your collection is so great. I must ask, where do you find these, and how do you get your hands on them? Is it just plain luck, or is there some way other than ebay and Delcampe to find them?

    Thank you in advance for your help regarding the passports. I am a huge fan of your website. I look forward to hearing from you.


    • 4 January, 2012 at 10:07

      Dear Henry
      thank you very much for you nice comment. I appreciate your statement. I do my best to keep the site attractive for readers and collectors. Well, finding passports is not always that easy. Ebay, flea markets are two sources but I always got many items from fellow collectors and direct via requests by my website. Nice to have fans like you. Did you already signed up for my newsletter? I will reply to you more in detail by email. Best regards Tom.

  16. Jason
    8 December, 2011 at 09:26

    Hey Tom, All I can say is wow. I did a little reading and research, to post something interesting on the passport and it’s history, but your site is like a public library on the topic.

    • 17 December, 2011 at 17:57

      Thank you Jason.

  17. Peter
    7 September, 2011 at 10:42

    I love your website (i’m sorry it’s taken me so long to discover it!) I have been learning so much.

    • 7 September, 2011 at 17:54

      Thank you Peter and Welcome!

  18. 5 July, 2011 at 09:25

    Hi Bogdan, you are very welcome.

  19. Abbas
    17 April, 2011 at 12:11

    It’s a pleasure finding your site, and I think it’s a great hobby to take interest in old passports. I used to work with an airlines company, and I had developed an interest in passports as well, and I had a habit of taking pictures of the covers of some passports (with the consent of the bearer of course).

    I suppose I was wondering if you had an interest in seeing some. Although I will admit my collection is rather small, maybe nearing 70. I will continue looking through your wonderful site for now.


    • 17 April, 2011 at 12:16

      Dear Abbas, very nice to see your message and you are very welcome to contibute with some nice pictures. Thank you for your kind words. Please enjoy the site.

  20. Gil
    15 February, 2011 at 16:59

    Hi Tom, thanks for this fantastic website. I appreciate the time and efforts it took to make it happen. I’m a passport collector based in Singapore and originally from Zurich….. Best wishes. Gil

    • 15 February, 2011 at 18:54

      Hi Gil, thank you very much for your kind words and i’m glad you like my website. Did you sign up for newsletter already? As i’m in Bangkok we should be able to meet in time here or in Singapore. Regards Tom

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