US Stamps

O Beautiful set voted favorite for 2018, also named top commemorative design

Mar 31, 2019, 9 PM

By Michael Baadke

The O Beautiful set of 20 commemorative forever stamps lives up to its name, according to the readers of Linn’s Stamp News, who chose the set as their overall favorite among the United States stamps issued in 2018.

The same stamp set featuring colorful landscape views was also selected as having the best design among the commemorative stamps issued over the past year.

The 2018 Linn’s U.S. Stamp Popularity Poll was introduced in the Dec. 17, 2018, issue. A two-page magazine spread illustrated all of the stamps issued during the calendar year.

Readers voted online and by postal mail, with ballots published each week in Linn’s through the March 4 issue.

Readers of all ages mailed in a total of 1,165 ballots to vote in the stamp poll, roughly 70 percent of last year’s mail-in ballot total of 1,631.

More than 770 online voters participated via as well. The votes from online and mail-in ballots were combined to calculate this year’s winners.

The O Beautiful set brings together 20 different photographs organized in five categories to represent the lyrics of America the Beautiful, the well-known song by Katharine Lee Bates and Samuel Augustus Ward that begins with the words “O beautiful for spacious skies.”

The stamps were issued July 4, 2018, with a ceremony in Colorado Springs, Colo.

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.

The tables provided with this article list the poll results for the overall favorite, and for the categories of commemorative stamps, and definitive and special stamps (combined).

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

Within each category, voters could select the stamps or issues they felt had the best design and worst design, and those that they considered the most important and least necessary.

A separate section on the ballot was reserved for the voter’s overall favorite 2018 stamp.

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

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 happened in the past, the online votes have been tallied separately.

In this year’s poll there are indications that someone voting online had a special place in his heart for the Flag Act of 1818 forever commemorative. The ratio of online votes for the Flag Act stamp dramatically exceeded the share of paper ballot votes cast for the same stamp.

Linn’s editors decided this year to include all the votes as they came in while noting that some Flag Act stamp vote totals may have been skewed by a devoted fan.

The Flag Act stamp did come in second in the poll category for favorite stamp of 2018, with 233 votes as compared to 380 cast for the O Beautiful set. Third place was taken by the Bioluminescent Life set of 10 stamps issued in a pane of 20, with 125 votes. The fourth place finish went to a definitive stamp set, the State of Freedom issue of $1, $2 and $5 stamps, with 118 votes.

Commemorative winners

The O Beautiful set was the runaway winner in the voting for the best design among commemorative stamps, with 573 votes.

The Bioluminescent Life set also scored high, garnering 303 votes from Linn’s readers. In previous stamp popularity polls, Linn’s readers have often favored commemorative issues with multiple designs when expressing their preferences for U.S. stamps.

The Flag Act stamp came in third in the commemorative best design category, followed by The Art of Magic, a set consisting of five different designs, plus a three-stamp souvenir sheet that uses one of the same designs with a lenticular overlay to add the illusion of motion to the stamp design.

Readers voting online and by postal mail agreed that the Dragons set of four designs was not their cup of tea. Despite its shiny foil accents, that issue led the Worst Design category, with a total of 459 votes.

The STEM Education set of four designs celebrating the teaching of science, technology, engineering and mathematics was picked second for worst design among commemoratives, and the Illinois Statehood stamp finished third.

Two stamps honoring those who have served the public good came in first and second in the category for most important commemorative.

With 510 votes, the World War I: Turning the Tide commemorative topped the Most Important category. Coming in second, with 476 votes, was the Honoring First Responders issue. Third place went to the Flag Act of 1818 stamp.

The least necessary commemoratives, according to Linn’s readers, were the Scooby-Doo stamp issued July 14, 2018, in a pane of 12 (415 votes) and the Hot Wheels set of 10 issued in a pane of 20 (396 votes).

The set of four similar but differently colored stamps honoring musician John Lennon came in third with 326 votes.

Definitive choices

The Statue of Freedom stamp set has been widely praised for its design and production values. The three large stamps in the set each show the same design: the head of the statue of Freedom from atop the U.S. Capitol dome, rendered in emerald on the $1 denomination, indigo on the $2, and brick red on the $5.

The stamps are printed by a combination of offset and intaglio with accents of optically variable ink on the numerical denominations.

The Statue of Freedom stamp designs were enough to easily top the Best Design category among definitive stamps.

The subject matter also appealed to collectors, and the same set won the top spot in the Most Important Definitive stamp category.

Second place for best design went in a different direction, with the simple but appealing set of four Birds in Winter stamps issued in a double-sided pane of 20.

Third place in the design category was taken by the Sparkling Holiday Santas issue of five stamps and a souvenir sheet that repurpose illustrations originally created for Coca-Cola advertising.

Following the Statue of Freedom set among most important definitive stamps was the Madonna and Child by Bachiacca Christmas stamp, and the U.S. Flag definitive.

Collectors found the Frozen Treats definitive stamps to be less than appealing, with the set of 10 designs taking the top spot in both the Worst Design and Least Necessary categories among definitive stamps.

The Frozen Treats stamps each show two colorful summertime treats on a stick, and they have a scratch-and-sniff feature that releases a fruity aroma. Regardless, Linn’s voters soundly voiced their disapproval.

The runners-up in the Worst Design category were the Peace Rose stamp and the U.S. Flag stamp. The votes for the Peace Rose stamp approached those of the Frozen Treats, with the Flag a distant third.

The Least Necessary definitive category was rounded out by the Kwanzaa stamp and the 2¢ Meyer Lemon, both distantly trailing the Frozen Treats issue.

Postal Stationery

There literally was no competition in any category for United States postal stationery in 2018.

The U.S. Postal Service issued only one stamped envelope last year, the $6.70 Byodo-In Temple envelope for Priority Mail, which came out Jan. 21, 2018.

The imprinted stamp on the envelope mimics the design of the $6.70 Byodo-In Temple Priority Mail stamp, which landed around the middle of the pack in most of the definitive stamp categories.

The Postal Service hasn’t issued a postal card since the Azulillo forever postal card debuted Aug. 11, 2017, and it hasn’t issued an aerogram since 1999.

Youth vote

Linn’s encourages votes from youngsters in the annual stamp poll and asks that ballots be marked to indicate when they are being submitted on behalf of a young person.

The youth votes are compiled and combined with all the other votes, but they are also examined as a separate group to get a sense of the recent stamps that appeal to younger collectors.

This year, completely defying the adult vote, youngsters picked the Frozen Treats as their overall favorite stamp, with 17 votes, closely followed by the O Beautiful set that the adults selected as overall favorite, which tied at 16 youth votes with the Scooby-Doo stamp.

In the individual youth categories, however, the Frozen Treats took the top spot as the least necessary definitive stamp, while also claiming the youth vote as having the best design among definitives.

The youngsters picked the U.S. Flag and the Statue of Freedom as the most important definitive issues.

Scoring high as the important commemoratives were the Flag Act of 1818, Honoring First Responders and World War I: Turning the Tide stamps.

Like their adult counterparts, the youngsters also picked the O Beautiful stamp as the best-designed commemorative.


Voters are always welcome to include additional comments with their ballots, and a few readers participating in this year’s poll chose to do so.

Milton Smith liked the Statue of Freedom stamps and the designs of the Mister Rogers, Sally Ride and Hanukkah stamps, but he thinks that with the Bioluminescent Life and O Beautiful issues the Postal Service missed an opportunity to identify the specific subject on the face of the stamp.

“And whatever happened to detailed explanations printed on the back of the liner?” Smith asked.

Steve Maginnis provided a detailed description of his choices, including John Lennon for his favorite 2018 stamp.

“John Lennon was in the greatest rock band ever, he chose to make his home in America, and he recorded most of his solo work in America,” Maginnis wrote. “He was as much a part of America as he was of Britain, and Beatles fans like myself are mightily pleased to see him on a U.S. stamp at last.”

Steve Bahnsen wrote to say that too many of the U.S. stamps are either poorly designed or come out as some kind of mish-mash.

“My choice for the best stamps of 2018 was easily the O Beautiful stamps,” Bahnsen wrote. “They had good colors and showed some of the beautiful wide open spaces in America.”

Gregory Leyes is a fan of the Peace rose, but not of the Peace Rose stamp, which he says does no justice to the flower.

“This stamp is just a yellow glob,” Leyes wrote, adding that the photo in the design is too much of a close-up. “Too bad.”

Jim Havlena took issue with the designs of the Dragons stamps. “Even now, despite knowing that dragons are depicted, I have great difficulty finding a dragon on any of these four designs,” he noted.

Charles Robinson wrote to say that “Postage stamps should serve as ambassadors to the world for this great country. In my opinion, only three issues portray this country in a positive manner: O Beautiful, Mister Rogers, and Birds in Winter.”

“The only issue which I considered for both favorite and best design was O Beautiful,” Robinson wrote. “In my mind there were no other contenders.”

Thanks to all participants

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 for youngsters and adults that submitted ballots after distributing them to members during club meetings.

Participating groups that identified themselves include: American Topical Association Chapter 5, Waukesha, Wis.; Ann Arbor Stamp Club, Ann Arbor, Mich.; Ashland Coin and Stamp Club, Ashland, Ohio; Atlanta Stamp Collectors Club, Atlanta, Ga.; Austin-Texas Stamp Club, Austin, Texas; Black River Stamp Club, Elyria, Ohio; Central Wyoming Philatelic Association, Casper, Wyo.;

Euclid Stamp Club, Euclid, Ohio; Finger Lakes Stamp Club, Geneva, N.Y.; Fred Sawyer First Day Cover Club, University of Texas at Dallas, Dallas, Texas; Greater Mound City Stamp Club, St. Louis, Mo.; Green Bay Philatelic Society, Green Bay, Wis.; Huntsville Senior Stamp Club, Huntsville, Ala.; Jackson Philatelic Society, Jackson, Miss.; Juniata River Stamp Club, Port Royal, Pa.; Long Beach Stamp Club, Long Beach, Calif.; Mancini Center Stamp Club, North Providence, R.I.; Medina County Stamp Club,
Litchfield, Ohio; Naperville Area Stamp Club, Naperville, Ill.; Nevada Stamp Study Society, Sparks, Nev.;

Oklahoma City Stamp Club, Oklahoma City, Okla.; Oregon Stamp Society, Portland, Ore.;

Rockford Stamp Club, Rockford, Ill.; San Luis Obispo Philatelic Society (SLOPS), San Luis Obispo, Calif.; Southern Nevada Stamp Club, Las Vegas, Nev.; Spring-Ford Philatelic Society, Spring City, Pa.; Spring Hill Stamp Club, West Dundee, Ill.; Sweetgrass Stamp Club, Richmond, Texas; Tri-State Stamp Club, Dubuque, Iowa; Waltham Stamp Club, Framingham, Mass.; World Wide Stamp Club, Dunedin, Fla.

Youth Stamp Clubs: Cutler Middle School Stamp Club, Mystic, Conn.; Lancaster Country Day School, Lancaster, Pa.

Voting in Linn’s U.S. Stamp Popularity Poll for 2019 is scheduled to begin in December.

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