Collecting Twins

Two Naperville brothers enjoy a hobby you might say is “one for the books.”

Michael and Malcolm Phifer have more in common than first meets the eye. Besides being mirror images of each other, these twins are both avid collectors.

Malcolm has more than 10,000 books, so many he has to keep most of them in public storage. What’s more, 90% of his collection has been signed by authors and cover artists. He typically gathers the autographs at conventions and bookstores.

“It gives me a chance to meet the author, to chat with them,” said Malcolm. “Once in awhile, they tell me a neat little story about what they wrote and occasionally I get them to annotate that in the book.”

Meanwhile his twin boasts the largest assortment of autographed non-sport trading cards, with more than 34,000 different ones, most of them of comic book super heroes.

“I’ve been reading comic books since I was five years old, and I love the imagination and the breadth,” said Michael.

A quarter of his collection is from artists who are no longer alive. The array has aptly earned him the nickname “The Collector.”

“I’ll walk into a convention and you can hear right down artist alley, ‘Hey, the collector’s here,’ ‘Hey, Mike how [are] you doing?” ‘Hey Mike, I’ve got a card I’ve been saving for you.’ So that’s kind of a fringe benefit and a fun thing.”

Both Malcolm and Michael organize their hundreds of thousands of items in a spreadsheet to keep track of what they have.

Malcolm plans to eventually donate his compilation of books to Northern Illinois University’s library while Michael isn’t quite sure yet who will inherit his cards.

“For me this is a way to pass on the books that I enjoyed and to preserve the autographs of the cover artists and authors who wrote the books,” said Malcolm.

“I’ve been told by my friends in the business it would be a tragedy to have a collection of this magnitude split up and scattered to the four winds because it could never be reassembled,” said Michael.

The Phifer twins hope to add more treasures to their collections when they attend the Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Gaming Convention in Des Moines, Iowa in May.

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