U.S. Ships Passports Behind Expectations

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Ships Passports Behind Expectations

FOUR SHIP’S PASSPORTS issued and signed by Jackson, Jefferson, Madison and Monroe ended UNSOLD and far below expectations at a US auction.

  • James Madison and James Monroe Four Language Ship’s Papers Signed. One partially-printed page, 20.5″ x 15.75″ (sight), December 21, 1811. Printed in French, Spanish, English, and Dutch, this passport authorizes passage of “Richard Marner master or commander of the ship called the General Gates of the burthen 576 42/95 tons or thereabouts . . . bound for Bordeaux and laden with Coffee, Sugar, Pepper, Bark & Logwood.” Countersigned by James Monroe as secretary of state. Matted with portraits of Madison and Monroe and framed to an overall size of 41.5″ x 25″. Condition: Folds. Slight paper loss at the lower-left corner; .5″ tear near the upper left corner. Lightly toned along the vertical fold with light spots of staining near the upper left corner. UNSOLD! ESTIMATE: $1800-$2500 Ships Passports Behind Expectations
  • James Madison and James Monroe Four Language Ship’s Papers Signed. One partially-printed page, 21″ x 16.5″ (sight), February 15, 1812. Printed in French, Spanish, English, and Dutch, this passport authorizes passage of “Silas Tobey master or commander of the Brig called Prince Eugene of the burthen 146 39/95 tons or thereabouts . . . laden with Flour & Corn.” Countersigned by James Monroe as secretary of state. Matted and framed to an overall size of 28″ x 23.5″. Condition: Separation with some minor paper loss along the folds, not affecting the text. Scattered foxing. Ghosting at the right edge from two seals. A dark spot near the lower edge is likely from ink. Scattered spots of foxing and light staining near the right edge. UNSOLD! ESTIMATE: $1800-$2500
  • Andrew Jackson Scallop-Top Ship’s Passport Signed. One partially-printed vellum page, 10.5″ x 14.5″ (sight), [Washington], April 13[?], 1834. Issued to “the Bark Harriet of New York Seth Curtis master or commander of the burthen of 275 tons or thereabouts mounted with no guns navigated with Ten men.” Countersigned by Louis McLane as secretary of state. Matted with an engraved portrait of Jackson above a facsimile signature and framed to an overall size of 27.75″ x 23.75″. Condition: Unevenly toned. Folds; three small holes along the right vertical fold obscures some of the text; one small hole at the lower horizontal fold. Ships Passports Behind Expectations
    UNSOLD! ESTIMATE: $1000-$1500
  • Thomas Jefferson Scallop-Top Ship’s Passport Signed. One partially-printed vellum page, 10.5″ x 15.25″ (sight), [Washington], November 14, 1804. Issued to the ship “Snow Boston of Philadelphia Nathaniel Franklin master or commander, of the burthen of one hundred forty-four. . . tons or thereabouts mounted with no guns, navigated with Ten men. TO PASS with her Company, Passengers, Goods, and Merchandize, without any hindrance, seizure, or molestation.” Countersigned by James Madison as secretary of state. Matted and framed to an overall size of 20″ x 25.25″. Condition: The text, including the signatures of Jefferson and Madison, is very faint and can be difficult to read. Light to moderate foxing throughout. Smoothed folds. UNSOLD! ESTIMATE: $3000-$4000

Ship’s passports were issued for the whole crew including freight and signed by the president to “secure” the journey. Not much desired by passport collectors but however an interesting passport type and not often to spot.

One of the earliest ship’s passports I had was one from JERSEY 1753! This great document went into a collection of a British collector.

Ships Passports Behind Expectations

FAQ Passport History
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1. What are the earliest known examples of passports, and how have they evolved?

The word "passport" came up only in the mid 15th Century. Before that, such documents were safe conducts, recommendations or protection letters. On a practical aspect, the earliest passport I have seen was from the mid 16th Century. Read more...

2. Are there any notable historical figures or personalities whose passports are highly sought after by collectors?

Every collector is doing well to define his collection focus, and yes, there are collectors looking for Celebrity passports and travel documents of historical figures like Winston Churchill, Brothers Grimm, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. Read more...

3. How did passport designs and security features change throughout different periods in history, and what impact did these changes have on forgery prevention?

"Passports" before the 18th Century had a pure functional character. Security features were, in the best case, a watermark and a wax seal. Forgery, back then, was not an issue like it is nowadays. Only from the 1980s on, security features became a thing. A state-of-the-art passport nowadays has dozens of security features - visible and invisible. Some are known only by the security document printer itself. Read more...

4. What are some of the rarest and most valuable historical passports that have ever been sold or auctioned?

Lou Gehrig, Victor Tsoi, Marilyn Monroe, James Joyce, and Albert Einstein when it comes to the most expensive ones. Read more...

5. How do diplomatic passports differ from regular passports, and what makes them significant to collectors?

Such documents were often held by officials in high ranks, like ambassadors, consuls or special envoys. Furthermore, these travel documents are often frequently traveled. Hence, they hold a tapestry of stamps or visas. Partly from unusual places.

6. Can you provide insights into the stories behind specific historical passports that offer unique insights into past travel and migration trends?

A passport tells the story of its bearer and these stories can be everything - surprising, sad, vivid. Isabella Bird and her travels (1831-1904) or Mary Kingsley, a fearless Lady explorer.

7. What role did passports play during significant historical events, such as wartime travel restrictions or international treaties?

During war, a passport could have been a matter of life or death. Especially, when we are looking into WWII and the Holocaust. And yes, during that time, passports and similar documents were often forged to escape and save lives. Example...

8. How has the emergence of digital passports and biometric identification impacted the world of passport collecting?

Current modern passports having now often a sparkling, flashy design. This has mainly two reasons. 1. Improved security and 2. Displaying a countries' heritage, icons, and important figures or achievements. I can fully understand that those modern documents are wanted, especially by younger collectors.

9. Are there any specialized collections of passports, such as those from a specific country, era, or distinguished individuals?

Yes, the University of Western Sidney Library has e.g. a passport collection of the former prime minister Hon Edward Gough Whitlam and his wife Margaret. They are all diplomatic passports and I had the pleasure to apprise them. I hold e.g. a collection of almost all types of the German Empire passports (only 2 types are still missing). Also, my East German passport collection is quite extensive with pretty rare passport types.

10. Where can passport collectors find reliable resources and reputable sellers to expand their collection and learn more about passport history?

A good start is eBay, Delcampe, flea markets, garage or estate sales. The more significant travel documents you probably find at the classic auction houses. Sometimes I also offer documents from my archive/collection. See offers... As you are already here, you surely found a great source on the topic 😉

Other great sources are: Scottish Passports, The Nansen passport, The secret lives of diplomatic couriers

11. Is vintage passport collecting legal? What are the regulations and considerations collectors should know when acquiring historical passports?

First, it's important to stress that each country has its own laws when it comes to passports. Collecting old vintage passports for historical or educational reasons is safe and legal, or at least tolerated. More details on the legal aspects are here...

Does this article spark your curiosity about passport collecting and the history of passports? With this valuable information, you have a good basis to start your own passport collection.

Question? Contact me...