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Two heads are better than one
Lincoln to join George Washington on Illinois quarter

CHICAGO - As if a new library and museum weren't enough, the honors keep coming for Springfield's most famous resident.

A new quarter depicting a young Abraham Lincoln - juxtaposed with a modern farm scene and Chicago's lakefront skyline - will begin circulating in January. The Illinois image will be the 21st commemorative quarter produced by the U.S. Mint as part of an ongoing program to honor the 50 states in the order they joined the union.

Illinois' design is the culmination of a two-year review by state officials, who filtered more than 6,000 ideas from letters and e-mails before Gov. George Ryan and his wife, Lura Lynn, gave final approval to suburban artist Thom Cicchelli's composite. Not making the cut, according to Ryan, were two state symbols: the cardinal and the violet.

"Lincoln is perhaps the state's greatest citizen and representative," Cicchelli, joined by Ryan, said Tuesday during a news conference at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago. "He stands for many of the principles we cherish and value most, such as freedom, equality, opportunity and integrity."

The coin's youthful, beardless Lincoln - after the Avard Fairbanks statue at New Salem State Historic Site - is shown setting down his ax in favor of a book. Rather than a mature, presidential Abe, Cicchelli said he sought to highlight the central Illinoisan as he was transforming from a laborer into "an attorney and public servant."

In a nod to the state's economic and geographic diversity, the new quarter also will feature a farm tableau to Lincoln's left and, to his right, Chicago's cityscape with a sailboat cutting across the Lake Michigan. The coin includes the Illinois motto "Land of Lincoln" and inscriptions that Illinois became the 21st state in 1818. Twenty-one stars ring the outer edge.

The coin will hit cash registers a couple of months after the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library opens in downtown Springfield in late November to honor America's 16th president, who already is depicted on pennies and $5 bills. A museum counterpart to the library is slated to open in 2004, and both the state and federal governments are planning events in 2009 to mark Lincoln's 200th birthday.

With all of the pending projects, Lincoln's "presence on the Illinois version of the quarter is no surprise," Lincoln scholar Cullom Davis of Springfield said. "I would say it was a no-brainer because the state calls itself the Land of Lincoln, and most of the images of the state, including the license plate, have Lincoln's image."

As with the other state quarters issued since 1999, one side of the coin will continue to bear the likeness of George Washington. The earliest quarters in the series had mintings that ranged from 600 million to more than 1 billion coins.

Mike Ramsey can be reached at (312) 857-2323 or cnsramsey@aol.com.

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