ROSEMONT, Ill. — Rasmus Holmberg might live eight hours from the only card shop in Sweden, but he developed a global connection to other collectors through the world of online case breakers.
For much of the last two years, Holmberg has been a fixture in the chat room of Cardsmiths Breaks. His friendly spirit and assistance in uploading break videos endeared him to owner Sam Smith and other regulars on the site that debuted nearly three years ago. Holmberg doesn’t let a four-hour time difference prevent him from participating. It’s his way of discussing the hobby in ways he can’t locally, mainly because hockey is the lone sport collected in his country and and his interest has grown to other sports, including baseball.
“He’s in our chat room every night making it fun for everyone,” said Smith of Holmberg’s charm.
Holmberg’s impression on the Cardsmiths’ community turned into a feel-good moment of international proportions Friday afternoon. That’s when Holmberg walked into the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center, stepping foot into his first-ever National — thanks in large part to the generosity of at least 30 Cardsmiths Breaks customers and collectors who leaped into action months ago to start fundraising efforts to get Holmberg to the hobby’s biggest show. Members dubbed the campaign “Bring the Swede to the States,” Smith said.
Holmberg and Smith talked about the journey from Sweden to Chicago during a visit to the Panini America booth as Cardsmiths set up shop to broadcast live breaks Friday afternoon. Holmberg pitched in, finally in person this time, sitting beside Smith to lend a hand with a few basketball and football products. Holmberg even joked about nabbing a box of cards destined for a group break.
The whirlwind, two-continent collecting tale started when Holmberg mentioned in the chat room that he planned to travel to Chicago for the 2015 National Sports Collectors Convention with whatever money he had in his pocket.
“I just made the decision I was going,” said Holmberg, a resident of Malmo, Sweden.
Smith said regulars and even one former customer contributed to the cause.
Holmberg, who acknowledges his sizable physical dimensions might make people think he’s a rough-and-tough guy, didn’t hesitate to say he became emotional when he learned his online friends from half a world away pitched in for his first trip to the United States.
“It was kind of overwhelming to say the least. I shed a tear or two,” Holmberg said while wearing a customer shirt emblazoned with the names of those who collectors who contributed to his trip.
The story came to its pay-off moment when Holmberg, who endured 20 hours of flights and plane changes with a friend before arriving in Chicago, walked into the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center and caught his first glimpse of the massive National show floor.
“It’s kind of amazing how much stuff there is,” he said. “This feels real good.”