Wacks Counterstamps

The biggest social event of 1981 was the wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana. Twenty year-old Diana became The Princess of Wales when she married Charles on July 29, 1981 at St Paul's Cathedral, which offered more seating than Westminster Abbey, generally used for royal nuptials. This "fairytale wedding," was watched by a global television audience of about 750 million.

And so I counterstamped brilliant uncirculated Canadian Silver Dollars, which featured a portrait of Queen Elizabeth II, with St. Paul's Cathedral, the inscription “PRINCE CHARLES & LADY DIANA 7·29 1981,” and “© WACKS.” A maximum of 1,000 were authorized but fewer were actually made.

mw14 Diana


Sandra Day O'Connor was nominated to the Supreme Court by President Reagan on August 19, 1981, thus fulfilling his 1980 campaign promise to appoint the first woman to the highest court in the United States.


This was the inspiration for another counterstamped coin, with a maximum issue of 500. The design features a standing portrayal of a blindfolded representation of Justice holding scales in one hand and a sword in the other; the inscription is “SANDRA DAY O’CONNOR EQUAL JUSTICE UNDER LAW 1981” plus the designer’s initials “MRW.” The coins used were Proof 1971 Eisenhower Silver Dollars. During her 25-year tenure, O’Connor was regarded as the Court's leading centrist, and was the swing vote in many cases; this made her the most powerful justice for many years. In 2001, the Ladies' Home Journal ranked her as the second-most-powerful woman in America.


mw15 O'Connor


In 1982, the fourth Pope John Paul II counterstamp was issued in a maximum edition of 750 pieces, using uncirculated 1967 British Pennies. The design consists of a globus cruciger (orb), a sphere surmounted by a cross. The orb is a Christian religious symbol, representing the Monarch's role as Defender of the Faith and as Head of the Church of England. It symbolizes the stated purpose of the Pope’s trip to lead to “a new relationship … as a next stage towards Christian unity.”



The counterstamp inscription is “POPE JOHN PAUL II VISITS ENGLAND 1982” plus tiny “MW” for the designer Mel Wacks.


mw16 Papal Penny



Adam Cool was able to show off his engraving skills again, with the design of George Washington’s home at Mt. Vernon on counterstamped Bicentennial Eisenhower Silver Dollars celebrating the 250th anniversary of our first President’s birth. In 1754, George Washington, as executor of his brother's estate, arranged to lease "Mount Vernon" that December. Later, he bought his sister-in-law's life estate and became owner of the property. In 1757, Washington began the first of two major additions and improvements to the home. The second expansion was begun shortly before the outbreak of the Revolutionary War. On those occasions he entirely rebuilt the main house atop the original foundations, doubling its size each time.


The counterstamp is appropriately inscribed “GEORGE WASHINGTON FEB. 22, 1732-1982” plus a large “250” and 13 stars, and the designer initials “MW.” Fewer than the maximum of 1,000 were issued.


mw17 Washington


MW17 “GEORGE WASHINGTON FEB. 22, 1732-1982”


A trio of counterstamped coins was produced to commemorate the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, with maximum mintages of 2,000 each: Ancient runners and a modern weight-lifter, respectively, on proof 1971 Eisenhower Silver Dollars, and the Olympic torch on brilliant uncirculated 1776-1976 Bicentennial Kennedy half dollars, inscribed “LOS ANGELES GAMES SUMMER 1984” and XXIII, or something similar. The Runners counterstamp was designed by Mel Wacks (MRW), while the Weightlifter and Olympic Flame were designed by Alex Shagin (ASH).


The running star of the XXIII Olympiad was Carl Lewis, who equaled the performance of Jesse Owens in the 1936 Games, winning four gold medals in the 100 m, 200 m, 4x100 m relay; and the long jump.


mw18 runners


MW18 “LOS ANGELES GAMES SUMMER 1984” (Olympic Runners)




The weightlifting competition at the 1984 Summer Olympics consisted of ten weight classes, all for men only. The Soviet boycott meant that the most dominant force in weightlifting at the time, the USSR did not take part—and so the main medal winners were China (6) and Romania (8).



mw19 weightlifter

MW19 “1984 LOS ANGELES SUMMER GAMES” (Olympic Weightlifter)


The 1984 Olympic Torch Relay began in New York City and ended in Los Angeles, traversing 33 states and the District of Columbia. The torch was continuously carried by runners (a total of 3,616) on foot. Rafer Johnson, winner of the decathlon at the 1960 Summer Olympics, was the final runner. He touched off a flame which passed through a specially designed Olympic logo, igniting all five rings. The flame then passed up to a cauldron and remained lit for the duration of the Games.



mw20 torch




The last counterstamp in this series commemorated the 100th anniversary of the birth of the 33rd President, Harry S. Truman.



It featured another masterpiece of the engraver’s art by Adam Cool – the Truman home in Independence, Missouri – plus the inscription “HARRY S. TRUMAN CENTENNIAL MAY 8, 1884 1984” and the designer’s initials “MW.” Fewer than 1,000 were stamped on proof 1971 Eisenhower Silver Dollars.


Wallace House (also called the Truman Home), 219 North Delaware Street, Independence, Missouri, was the home of Harry S. Truman, after his marriage to Bess Wallace on June 28, 1919 until his death on December 26, 1972. Bess Truman's maternal grandfather, George Porterfield Gates, had built the house over a period of years from 1867 to 1895.


mw21 Truman




It was fun creating the ideas for these counterstamped coins and seeing them come to life thanks to the talents of engraver Adam Cool--and is very satisfying to see interest in them 25 years later as witnessed by their appearance from time-to-time on ebay, the U.S. Coin Forum of Collectors Universe, etc.
But wait, there’s more



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