MONTICELLO, Ill. (WCIA) — “Now, everybody around this area in Monticello and everything, the nickname is Abe,” explained Christopher Cody-Bantz.
While he can tell you a lot about Abraham Lincoln, he’s not an historian.
But, the 16th president has been part of his life for more than three decades.
You can find him – and his massive collection of lincoln memorabilia — in Our Town Monticello.
“It started when I was three-years-old,” he said. “We got a free trial book in the mail.”
The book was “The Life of Abraham Lincoln” and it changed the course of Cody-Bantz’s life.
“Later on that fall, my mom, grandmother and my uncle took me to New Salem, to Springfield, to his tomb, the house and there’s a little gift shop,” Cody-Bantz explained. “And he bought me a little, tiny bust and he told me I needed to start collecting it.”
That’s not all.
Cody-Bantz embodied Lincoln as a child — at least once a year – dressing up as the former president for Halloween from the time he was four until he was 12.
Now – known as “Abe” around Monticello – Cody-Bantz gives presentations with his Lincoln collection.
“I counted the night of the dinner and I’m over 5,000 [pieces],” he said. “I got anywhere from magnets to pictures…to Lincoln busts, plates, to Lincoln flags. I have pictures made out of pennies, to thimbles, videos, records of stories about Abraham Lincoln.”
But he says that collection isn’t complete.
“My goal, one day – and I’d pretty much have to win the lottery for this – is to have something that was Lincoln’s personal, even if it was just a handwritten note.”