US Stamps

Circus stamps picked as overall favorite, best design

May 1, 2015, 9 AM

In the recently concluded Linn’s United States Stamp Popularity Poll, the Circus Posters set of eight stamps was chosen as the overall favorite issue of 2014.

Voters also picked the Circus Posters set as the best commemorative stamp design of the year, beating out the Songbirds set of 10 stamps with a comfortable margin.

The selection of the Circus Posters set as the overall favorite continues the tradition of Linn’s readers favoring stamp issues or sets with multiple designs rather than a single-design issue. Only three times since the favorite stamp category was established in 1984 has a single-design issue been picked as the overall favorite.

The Circus Posters stamps received 367 votes as the year’s overall favorite issue, positioning it with a comfortable lead over the Songbirds set with 220 votes, the Hudson River School stamps showing landscape paintings with 131 votes, the War of 1812: Fort McHenry stamps with 121 votes, and the Civil War: 1864 stamps with 114 votes.

The top eight vote-getters for overall favorite are commemorative forever stamps.

The ninth pick, with 83 votes, was the $19.99 USS Arizona Memorial definitive.

Readers of all ages mailed in a total of 1,499 ballots, nearly identical to the mail-in total of 1,483 for the 2013 stamp poll.

About 380 readers voted online this year at

Linn’s U.S. Stamp Popularity Poll, which began in 1948, is intended as a fun way for readers to voice their opinions about the U.S. stamp program. When the poll was first conducted, the categories consisted only of best stamp and worst stamp.

The poll is neither scientific nor statistically valid.

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The tables provided with this article list the poll results for the overall favorite and for the three specific categories of commemorative stamps, definitive and special stamps, and postal stationery.

Commemoratives are usually printed once and are available at post offices for a short time. Definitives and special stamps are printed in larger quantities, often more than once, and are available for longer periods.

Within each of the three categories, voters could select the stamps or issues they felt had the best design and worst design, and the stamps or issues they considered the most important and least necessary.

A separate section on the ballot was reserved for the voter’s overall favorite 2014 stamp.

As in previous years, a few voters left some spots on their ballots unmarked, so the various totals often do not agree.

The totals reported here represent a combined total of the paper ballots mailed in by Linn’s readers and the votes cast online.

Online voting was introduced with the 1997 Linn’s U.S. stamp poll, but extreme online ballot box stuffing has taken place from time to time; when that happens, the online votes have been tallied separately.

Mail-in ballots and online votes were accepted from mid-December 2014 through early March. The ballot was published weekly in Linn’s during the voting period.


The poll total includes 215 mail-in ballots from children, mostly from school classes and youth stamp clubs. This figure is more than triple the 68 youth ballots received in the 2013 stamp poll.

Youth votes are counted equally with all other votes, but they also are looked at separately by Linn’s editors to gauge how youngsters view the U.S. program.

With 40 votes, the runaway winner for youth overall favorite was the Batman set of eight stamps. The second-place selection, Songbirds, had just half the number of votes as Batman, with 20. Following closely in third place as the youngsters’ favorite was the Winter Flowers stamps.

The Circus Posters set, which ranked tops in the overall voting, did not sit well with younger voters: it came in tied for 16th place with just four votes.


In the general voting, the Circus Posters set placed first as the best-designed commemorative issue, with 483 votes. The Songbirds set was a distant second with 338 votes, and the Farmers Markets issue made a strong showing in third place with 215 votes.

Two issues commemorating historic conflicts gathered two-thirds of the votes in the most important commemorative category.

The Civil War: 1864 set topped the list with 646, followed by the War of 1812: Fort McHenry issue with 565 votes.

The commemorative honoring gay rights activist Harvey Milk was named the third most important stamp by Linn’s readers, with 142 votes.

The least necessary commemorative stamps, according to readers, were Harvey Milk with 423 votes, Batman with 347 votes, and the Celebrity Chefs set with 252 votes.

Batman’s high ranking in the least necessary commemorative category is not unusual, considering that Linn’s stamp poll voters often do not favor stamps with pop culture subjects. The commemorative issue voted least necessary in 2013 was the Harry Potter set.

The two stamps honoring music icons Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix landed at the top of the 2014 worst design commemorative category, with 471 votes for Joplin and 245 votes for Hendrix. The Shirley Chisholm commemorative received 208 votes to claim the third spot.


The best design winner among definitive stamps in 2014 was the $5.75 Glade Creek Grist Mill stamp showing a West Virginia scene by artist Dan Cosgrove. The stamp took first place with 249 votes.

Second in the category was the Christmas Magi stamp with 196 votes, and third place with 153 votes went to the USS Arizona Memorial stamp, another issue with a Cosgrove illustration.

The USS Arizona Memorial stamp led the field as the most important stamp, with no other contenders even coming close to its 809 votes. The 21¢ Abraham Lincoln stamp achieved second place with 194 votes.

Linn’s readers are often dismayed by unorthodox renditions of the American Flag, and that was expressed in this year’s poll, as the four Red, White and Blue definitives showing close-up details of billowing flags were picked as the definitive issue with the worst design, with 398 votes.

The second-place issue in the category, Winter Fun, had half as many votes, 198.

The Red, White and Blue stamps were voted third in the least necessary definitive category, with 198 votes. Second place went to the Ferns definitives with 203 votes, but the Hot Rods stamps ran over all of them, voted as the least necessary definitive issue with 352 votes.


The postal stationery categories had just three contenders in 2014: the $5.60 Verrazano-Narrows Bridge stamped envelope, the Tree forever postal card and reply card, and the Winter stamped forever envelope.

The Bridge envelope won the best design (951 votes) and most important (1,007 votes) postal stationery categories; the Winter envelope took the worst design (632 votes) and least necessary (642 votes) categories.

The Tree postal card came in second place in all four categories.


As in years past, some Linn’s readers included comments with their ballots, giving reasons for their votes and expressing opinions about the U.S. stamp program in general.

Steven Maginnis wrote that he considered the War of 1812: Fort McHenry stamp more important than the Civil War issue, “not just because the Battle of Fort McHenry inspired our national anthem, but because it was an important battle in a war that has been inappropriately forgotten.”

Maginnis also liked the Abraham Lincoln definitive, noting “the stamp design based on Daniel French’s statue is the most dignified design.”

Mike Clement’s votes matched some of the group winners, when he picked the Circus Posters set as the best designed commemorative and overall favorite, and also chose Red, White and Blue as the worst design for definitives.

“Batman, on the other hand, is the least necessary issue,” Clement wrote, “and eight different [Batman] stamps is overkill!”

Clement liked the design of the Silver Bells global forever stamp enough to call it the best of the definitives, but Linn’s readers weren’t quite as enthusiastic, placing it ninth out of 19 candidates in the definitive category.


Thanks to all Linn’s readers who participated in this year’s poll. Special thanks go to teachers who distributed ballots to the students in their classes, and to stamp clubs that submitted ballots after distributing them to members during club meetings.

Participating groups that identified themselves include: American First Day Cover Society-Fred Sawyer Chapter, Plano, Texas; Ashland Coin & Stamp Club, Ashland, Ohio; Brandywine Valley Stamp Club, Wilmington, Del.; Calumet Stamp Club, Griffith, Ind.; Champaign Urbana Stamp Club, Champaign, Ill.; Colonial York Junior Stamp Club, York, Pa.;

Dayton Stamp Club, Dayton, Ohio; Euclid Stamp Club, Euclid, Ohio; Finger Lakes Stamp Club, Geneva, N.Y.; Flagler County Stamps and Coin Club, Palm Coast, Fla.; Glen Ellyn Philatelic Club, Glen Ellyn, Ill.; Hamilton Township Philatelic Society, Hamilton, N.J.; Lancaster Country Day School, Lancaster, Pa.; Long Beach Stamp Club, Long Beach, Calif.; Longview Stamp Club, Longview, Texas; Medina County Stamp Club, Litchfield, Ohio;

Nevada Stamp Study Society, Sparks, Nev.; Philatelic Society of Lancaster County, Lancaster, Pa.; Pottstown Stamp Club, Pottstown, Pa.; Reedsport Stamp Club, Reedsport, Ore.; Salvatore Mancini Resource and Activity Center Stamp Club, North Providence, R.I.; San Luis Obispo Philatelic Society (SLOPS), San Luis Obispo, Calif.; Senior Center Stamp Club, Huntsville, Ala.; Spring Hill Stamp Club, Dundee, Ill.; Springfield Stamp Club, Springfield, Va.; St. Nicholas Academy Stamp Club, Louisville, Ky;

Tuscora Stamp Club, New Philadelphia, Ohio; Walla Walla Valley Philatelic Society, College Place, Wash.; Waltham Stamp Club, Framingham, Mass.; Williamsburg Stamp Society, Williamsburg, Va.; World Wide Stamp Club, Dunedin, Fla.; Yucca Stamp Club, Hobbs, N.M.

Voting in Linn’s U.S. Stamp Popularity Poll for 2015 is scheduled to begin in December.