Abraham Lincoln spent most of his adult life in the Springfield area. It was here where he became a self-trained lawyer and where he first went into politics, which led to his Presidency. It was also here where he met his wife, Mary Todd, and where they raised their family. At the request of his wife, it was in Springfield that Lincoln was buried in Oak Ridge Cemetery following his assassination.
The ceremony took place on the grounds of the Old State Capitol in Springfield, Illinois with a stage set at the southeastern corner of the building. A few hundred chairs were available in front of the stage, but most attendees remained in a winding line awaiting the penny exchange.
An estimated 2,000-2,500 people attended, making its size quite similar to that of the previous launch ceremony held in Indiana. Expectations were for a slightly larger crowd, owing to the fact that Springfield is a larger city and the town has built quite a tourist business around the former President.
The ceremony commenced shortly after 10 AM (Central Time) with short speeches from Springfield Mayor Timothy J. Davlin, US Senator Dick Durbin and US Mint Director Ed Moy. Debbie Ross sang the 'Star Spangled Banner' and a group known as the Lincoln Troubadours also performed.
Closing the ceremony, Durbin and Moy presented the new design and the penny exchange started. This appears to be the draw for most in attendance and each person was allowed to exchange up to $3 cash for 6 rolls of the newly minted Professional Life coins that were minted in Philadelphia. Once through the line, many rejoined it at the end to purchase more rolls.
Chase Bank operated the exchange, supplied by 20,000 rolls (1 million coins) they had delivered via a Garda armored truck. Six individual exchange stations allowed for a predominantly smooth flow. It took almost 4 hours for the pallets of rolls to be exhausted, and some were able to go through the line several times in this period.
Once an attendee had completed their exchange, dealers were on hand wanting to purchase those newly gained rolls from them. Offers of between $5-$10 a 50-cent roll were common. The dealers were either trying to fulfill previous orders customers had placed with them, or were intending to sell them at a later date for an additional premium.
Many of the exchangers, evidently intent on keeping the rolls or selling them at a later date, made the two block trip to the local post office where stamps were purchased and affixed to the rolls, and then cancelled. Programs from the ceremony were also stamped and cancelled. This way, the coins and programs were marked with the date and location of the ceremony. Cancelled rolls and programs from previous launch ceremonies increased their value significantly from secondary markets. Current eBay auctions show prices of between $20-$30 per roll.
Die-hard collectors and enthusiasts were seen on the grounds of the old Capitol the night before the ceremony, camping out to insure their place in line. By early morning, some 50 people were waiting for the proceedings to begin.
The Old State Capitol hosted several events once the excitement over the release had died down. At 12:30 Chris Vallillo performed his Lincoln in Song and at 2 PM the actor Fritz Klein was on hand portraying Abraham Lincoln. Finally, at 3 PM, Joel Iskowitz, designer of the reverse of the Professional Life coin held a short program explaining the process and answering questions about the honor of his work being chosen for the coin.
By late in the afternoon, signs of the crowd were almost gone and just the normal pedestrian tourist traffic appeared to still be milling around. For those who attended, however, it was a once in a lifetime opportunity that most will not soon forget.