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Mexico Papal Visit and a Mel Wacks Counterstamp


Pope John Paul II earned the name "The Pilgrim Pope" because he visited 129 countries during his papacy. In 1979, he was the first pope to visit the Dominican Republic, Mexico and the Bahamas. The visit to Mexico is significant because Mexico’s population is predominately Catholic, and an estimated 18 million people come out to view his procession and to hear him speak. Such an event spurs commemorative keepsake and numismatics is one of the leaders in commemoratives.

Image courtesy of PCGS TrueView®. Click to enlarge.

In 1976, Mel Wacks, a Jewish numismatist in the United States, began designing and producing counterstamps and counterstamped coins. The fifth design and counterstamped coin produced by Wacks commemorates the Mexico Papal Visit. The design features the Papal Seal and the inscription "POPE JOHN PAUL II VISITS MEXICO JAN. 26-31, 1979". The counterstamp was used to produce a mintage of 1,979 pieces, all stamped over Mexico 1957-1967 silver peso coins. The stamp was placed in the center of the coin over the eagle in the coat of arms. After the mintage of 1,979 pieces, Mel Wacks canceled the die for the counterstamp.

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Thereafter, Mel Wacks continued to produce and design counterstamped coins. These themes have included various Papal Visits, Olympic Games, and other themes. The most recent counterstamp by Wacks was released in 2016 to commemorate "Hoggie Money". Wacks’s issues have evolved from novelties to collectible in recent years. Prices of the Pope John Paul II Visit counterstamped coins have recently ranged from $30 to a few hundred dollars. PCGS has recently seen its first submission of the Pope John Paul II Mexico Visit counterstamped commemorative and has begun recognizing and grading these issues. Each will be attributed with Mel Wacks catalog numbers.

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