When then 5 year-old Elias Brooks went on vacation with his family in 2009, he decided to keep the key card from the hotel on a whim.
Now five years and 539 key cards later, Brooks, of Fort Mill, is attempting to establish the Guinness World Record for the largest private collection of hotel key cards.
“About a year ago, I thought to myself that it would be cool to break a world record and to have that distinction,” said Brooks, “I asked my father what I could do and he suggested that maybe my key card collection was large enough to be a record.”
Ever since putting that first key card into his desk drawer at home, Brooks had continued to collect key cards every time his family went to a hotel.
“My father recognized that I was doing this and as he travels extensively for work, he started to bring me back cards as well,” said Brooks.
They did some research and after filling out the application on the Guinness World Records website and receiving the requirements for a claim, Brooks went back to collecting cards.
“My collection continued to grow but finding unique cards became more and more difficult,” he said.
Since one of the requirements for the record was that all the cards be unique from one another, Brooks has kept a detailed audit log where he documents even the smallest of distinguishing marks.
“Sometimes it is something very small like the color of the magnetic strip or a different shade of blue, but each card is unique and represents a different hotel,” he said.
When his collection reached about 520 cards, he decided to make his record attempt.
“Even though I only needed 500, I decided it was smarter to go over just in case the judges did not count some of them for whatever reason,” said Brooks.
On Nov. 1, Brooks arrived at the Hampton Inn in Rock Hill with several binders in hand. The binders contained his collection of now 540 cards from six continents, displayed neatly in plastic protector sheets.
“I took each of the sheets out of the binders and laid them out across all the tables (and) then invited my witnesses to review all the cards and explained that if they felt there were any duplicates, that I would use my audit log to explain what was unique about each card,” he said.
Brooks’ parents, Jeff and Nikki, helped him select the witnesses, which needed to include an expert in the field, as well as upstanding members of the community.
They recruited local hotel manager, Eddie Bosch, Doby’s Bridge Elementary School Principal Dr. Scott Frattaroli, and Brooks’ fourth grade teacher, Kalisa Staats, from DBES.
“I was honored to be involved in the Guinness Book of World Records attempt,” said Frattaroli, “I was proud of Eli’s effort, organization and dedication to reach his goal.”
Brook’s record attempt is a dream come true for Staats as well.
“As an educator, it is my dream for my students to find something that interests them in order to drive their desire to be a life-long learner,” she said, “I feel like Eli has that desire and then some.”
After reviewing each of the cards, they filled out their witness statements, which Brooks will submit to Guinness as part of an evidence package.
And now they wait.
It will most likely take a few weeks to hear back on the result, but Brooks said he is excited and happy with his attempt.
“That would probably be the most exciting thing ever, to get a world record. I mean how many people can say they have a world record?”
And even though he hasn’t officially secured the title yet, he’s already ready to defend it.
“I plan to keep the collection going in case someone tries to break my record,” he said. “I want to be ready to defend and get the record back. There are probably still hotels that I can get unique cards from.”