Sometime between now and June 18, Illinois Treasurer Mark Frerichs will roll out the new Illinois Bicentennial coin.
You might be thinking a state awash in financial troubles — with billions of dollars in unfunded pension liabilities — needs a bicentennial coin like a fish needs a bicycle.
Actually, such a coin can make us a buck. The federal government regularly mints commemorative coins and sells them to collectors. You can buy either a commemorative to fight breast cancer or to celebrate the centennial of World War I.
Illinois, in fact, has a sesquicentennial (150 years) coin. It showed, among other things: a railroad, Chicago skyscrapers, a plow, an Indian teepee and Lincoln splitting a rail.
What should the bicentennial coin show?
Illinois has been the home of four presidents: Abraham Lincoln, Ulysses S. Grant, Ronald Reagan and Barack Obama. Virginia and Ohio claim more, but all of Illinois’ reach the top rank of historic significance. There is no Millard Fillmore in the bunch.
Each of the four, too, has played a critical role in expanding freedom. Lincoln was the author of the Emancipation Proclamation. Grant won the Civil War, then created the 15th Amendment, which established voting rights vote for former slaves. Reagan challenged Gorbachev to “tear down” the Berlin Wall, helping to free Eastern Europe. Obama rose to become president of a land which once held African American citizens such as himself in captivity.
Not a bad series of sentiments to have in your desk drawer.