“Too many trips to Vegas”: California man has the largest collection of hotel keycards

By Aliciamarie Rodriguez
Published
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Morten Soerensen has a unique way of remembering the places he’s travelled to. 

The Livermore, California, USA resident has the largest collection of keycards, with 1,136 in his collection.

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Morten, who has been collecting hotel keycards for 30 years, has always had an interest in collecting things - whether it be stamps, coins, or paper currency. 

But something about hotel keycards makes them special. 

“Hotel key cards also offer great memories of trips I’ve taken, and places I’ve seen,” said Morten. 

Too many trips to Vegas!

Morten also loves that collecting keycards is an inexpensive hobby that anyone can participate in.

He started traveling extensively for business in the mid-90s and noticed that most hotels didn’t mind that he kept the card as a souvenir. 

“One of the first cards was the Hilton Pearl River in New York,” he said. 

“I was living in Minnesota at the time, and led a consulting team in New Jersey, so I was in the NY/NJ area very often.”

Morten’s favourite keycard is his Grand Hotel keycard from Odense, Denmark. 

“That was my hometown, and I remember looking in through the windows at the fancy hotel when I was a kid,” he said. 

“Now, when I come back to visit, it is where I stay with some pride!”

Over the years, Morten says he noticed keycards go through three distinct phases. 

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The very early keycards were strictly mechanical, with holes punched in them. 

They were difficult to reconfigure, and not very practical. 

Next, the mag-stripe cards came along, with very wide adoption by many hotels. 

They could be quickly created at the front desk but could be easily demagnetized if in proximity to other cards or anything magnetic. 

They had to be inserted with a specific orientation, so helpful arrows are almost always present. 

The current standard is NFC cards, where a customer can just tap the key to get into a room. 

There isn’t a mag stripe that can be demagnetized, and no orientation to worry about – just tap and go.

Morten stores his collection in albums, sorted by the first letter of the hotel name, with two special categories.

“My primary organization key is alphabetically by the first letter of the hotel name, ignoring articles, except where a chain name is integrated into the hotel name. I then use the chain name (Pearl River Hilton is under “H”, for example),” said Morton. 

All the ‘H’ cards are stored together, loosely grouped as it appears to make sense – so, all the Hilton cards are together, and so it is with the Holiday Inn cards.

Morten also groups his keycards into two special categories: generic cards and advertising cards. 

The most generic cards Morten has are white and don’t have anything written on them. 

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Advertising cards advertise a local business or a tradeshow. 

If Morten can identify the hotel, he will file the keycard under that. Otherwise, it goes into the advertising category.

“I have a few Chinese cards without English letters,” said Morten. 

“Google Translate helped me find the English-letter names of the hotels, and they are then stored accordingly.”

Morten also stores his collection in archival-grade plastic sleeves, manufactured by Leuchtturm, a German manufacturer specializing in collectible storage.

He says it’s best to ask nicely at the hotel if it is OK to keep the keycard. 

“Most will gladly let you keep one,” said Morten. 

“Then keep an eye out for special cards: casinos, high-end hotels, destination resorts, and unusual shapes are all highly collectible.

Morten says people typically react to his collection with disbelief that anyone is crazy enough to collect hotel key cards.

However, he enjoys his collection and says he would like to collect Intercontinental keycards, which typically have a special card for each hotel.

“I’d like many more of those!”

Morten is also hoping to add to his collection on a trip to Vietnam with a special person in his life.

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Morten was vacationing in Tahoe when he received an email notifying him that he was the new record holder. 

“I remember reading the Guinness World Records book when I was a young kid,” he said. 

Here I am, 50 years later, and now I’m in it!

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