US Stamps

Voting opens in Linn’s 2023 U.S. stamp popularity poll

Nov 21, 2023, 3 PM

By Charles Snee

In 2023, the United States Postal Service issued 126 varieties of stamps and postal stationery, just five more than were issued for the 2022 program and 14 more than the 112 issued in 2021. Of this total, 80 are commemoratives, 45 are definitive (regular-issue) and special stamps, and one is a stamped envelope.

For comparison, 117 varieties were issued in 2020 and 2019, 105 in 2018, 128 in 2017 and 154 in 2016.

Special stamps are issued to recognize occasions such as weddings and the Christmas holiday season. In addition to stamped envelopes, postal stationery includes postal cards. The Postal Service last issued a postal card in 2021. That nondenominated (36¢) card pictures a male (drake) mallard duck.

Among the standout subjects honored on 2023 stamps are a renowned playwright whose childhood experiences permeated his works, an iconic artist of the pop art movement, the Ponca Indian chief who loomed large in the quest for civil rights for Native Americans, endangered species, a space mission that brought a sample from an asteroid back to Earth, a U.S. Supreme Court justice who entered the cultural zeitgeist, and much more.

Unless stated otherwise, the stamps described are denominated “forever,” meaning they will always satisfy the current first-class mail rate for a 1-ounce letter. The current first-class letter rate, 66¢, went into effect July 9.


The Postal Service kicked off its 2023 commemorative offerings with a familiar subject: the Lunar New Year.

The Postal Service inaugurated a new 12-stamp Lunar New Year series Jan. 11, 2020, when it issued a single commemorative celebrating the Year of the Rat. The Year of the Ox was featured on the 2021 Lunar New Year stamp, and the 2022 Lunar New Year stamp welcomed the Year of the Tiger. The series rolled along this year with the Year of the Rabbit commemorative issued Jan. 12.

All four stamps issued thus far feature a three-dimensional ceremonial mask by Camille Chew, who has been tapped to create mask artwork for all 12 stamps in the series.

The series chronicles the full zodiac cycle of lunar years observed in many Asian cultures. Each year in the repeating cycle is identified and characterized by a specific animal.

A Lunar New Year stamp for the Year of the Dragon is expected early in the 2024 program. The Year of the Dragon will start Feb. 10, 2024.

The 46th stamp in the Postal Service’s long-running Black Heritage commemorative series celebrated esteemed author Ernest J. Gaines.

In selecting Gaines (1933-2019) for recognition on the stamp, the Postal Service drew attention to two of his most important works: The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman and A Lesson Before Dying.

In 1971, Gaines achieved critical and popular acclaim with the publication of The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman. The novel’s narrator is a 110-year-old former slave.

A 1974 movie adaptation of the work stars Cicely Tyson in the title role. The film received nine Emmy Awards, including the best actress award for Tyson.

The 13¢ Harriet Tubman stamp (Scott 1744) inaugurated the Black Heritage series in 1978. Edmonia Lewis, the first sculptor of African American and Native American descent to achieve international recognition, was honored on last year’s Black Heritage stamp.

The series has commemorated individuals from the worlds of sports, civil rights activism, politics, business, literature and the arts, and more.

Women’s soccer received the ultimate philatelic tribute when the USPS issued a commemorative forever stamp in the sport’s honor Feb. 16 at the SheBelieves Cup, an invitational women’s soccer tournament held Feb. 16-22 in Orlando, Fla.

USPS art director Antonio Alcala designed the stamp using an original graphic image created by artist Noah MacMillan, who died July 31, 2022, at age 33.

One element of the stamp design, a soccer ball, also appears on one of the eight nondenominated (49¢) Sports Balls stamps issued in 2017 (Scott 5205). Like their subjects, the Sports Balls stamps are round.

Toni Morrison, author of acclaimed novels such as Song of Solomon and Beloved, was honored on a nondenominated (63¢) commemorative forever stamp issued March 7 in Princeton, N.J.

Postal Service art director Ethel Kessler designed the stamp, which shows a photograph of Morrison taken by Deborah Feingold in 2000.

A smiling Morrison, wearing dark clothing, is shown in a relaxed posture against a bright yellow background and looking to her right with her hands lightly clasped in front of her.

Five railroad stations of architectural significance were recognized on five stamps issued March 9 at Union Terminal in Cincinnati, one of the issue’s featured stations.

The other four stamps feature illustrations of Point of Rocks Station in Maryland; Main Street Station in Richmond, Va.; Santa Fe Station in San Bernardino, Calif.; and Tamaqua Station in Pennsylvania.

“Noteworthy railroad stations began brightening the American landscape by the 1870s,” the U.S. Postal Service said, “and, although many fell to the wrecking ball once they had outlived their original purpose, hundreds survived.”

The five stations were constructed over a period of 60 years, beginning in 1873 with Point of Rocks Station and concluding with Union Terminal, which opened in 1933.

The Art of the Skateboard stamps issued March 24 in Phoenix (in conjunction with Cowtown Skateboards’ 21st annual PHXAM contest) feature vividly colored artwork on the underside of skateboard decks by four U.S. artists.

“The bold artwork emblazoned on a skateboard deck is often as eye-catching and individualistic as a skater’s most breathtaking moves,” the Postal Service said.

Each stamp shows a photograph of a young person holding a skateboard across their body so that their face is obscured. This presentation avoids running afoul of the Postal Service’s rule prohibiting a living person from appearing on a U.S. stamp.

Despite this rule, many U.S. stamps issued in the past have portrayed living people.

Roy Lichtenstein (1923-97), an iconic member of the pop art movement, was honored with five stamps showcasing five of his vibrantly colored works.

The stamps were issued April 24 at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City, which houses 444 of Lichtenstein’s works.

The stamps picture the following works by Lichtenstein: Standing Explosion (Red), porcelain enamel on steel, 1965; Modern Painting I, acrylic, oil, graphite pencil on canvas, 1966; Still Life with Crystal Bowl, acrylic, oil, graphite pencil on canvas, 1972; Still Life with Goldfish, acrylic, oil, graphite pencil on canvas, 1972; and Portrait of a Woman, acrylic, oil, graphite pencil on canvas, 1979.

Postal Service art director Derry Noyes designed the stamps. She told Linn’s Stamp News that she learned a great deal about Lichtenstein in a short period of time.

“I hadn’t taken the time to see the breadth and evolution of his work over a lifetime. And my learning curve was huge,” Noyes said.

Children’s author Thomas Anthony “Tomie” dePaola, who wrote and/or illustrated more than 270 books during a career spanning half a century, was honored with a stamp issued May 5.

Pictured on the stamp is the cover of Strega Nona, one of dePaola’s best-known books.

More than 100 of dePaola’s works are contained in the collection of the Currier Museum of Art in Manchester, N.H., which hosted the first-day ceremony for the stamp.

“DePaola’s stories contain layers of emotional meaning that appeal to readers of all ages,” the USPS said.

“DePaola tried to convey three fundamental truths in all his books: Success depends on hard work, happiness relies on embracing one’s true self, and love and kindness underscore all.”

On May 12, the USPS issued a single commemorative featuring a painting of Ponca Chief Standing Bear (circa 1829-1908) by Thomas Blackshear II.

The stamp was issued 144 years to the day after the 1879 court case Standing Bear v. Crook that granted American Indians civil rights under U.S. law.

“Standing Bear sued the government for his freedom after being arrested, along with 29 other Ponca, for attempting to return to his homeland,” according to the Postal Service. “Lawyers filed a writ of habeas corpus to test the legality of the detention, an unprecedented action on behalf of a Native American.”

Many U.S. stamps have pictured Native American people and cultural artifacts. The first was the 1898 4¢ Trans-Mississippi (Scott 287), which illustrates an Indian on horseback racing after a buffalo. He can be seen holding a bow, the arrow drawn back in anticipation of making the kill.

Stunning photographs of endangered species in the United States and its territories and two North American species living close to U.S. borders are featured on 20 commemorative stamps issued May 19, Endangered Species Day, at the National Grasslands Visitor Center in Wall, S.D.

Pictured on the se-tenant (side-by-side) pane are the Laysan teal, black-footed ferret, Roanoke logperch, thick-billed parrot; candy darter, Florida panther, masked bobwhite quail, Key Largo cotton mouse, Lower Keys marsh rabbit, Wyoming toad, Vancouver Island marmot, golden-cheeked warbler, Guam Micronesian kingfisher, San Francisco garter snake, Mexican gray wolf, Attwater’s prairie chicken, Nashville crayfish, piping plover, desert bighorn sheep and Mississippi sandhill crane.

Joel Sartore, a photographer and National Geographic Explorer, took the pictures depicted on the stamps. The photos are among the more than 45,000 that can be viewed on Sartore’s Photo Ark, an online archive that has documented almost 14,000 species.

The Postal Service also offered a limited number of proof sets in addition to the Endangered Species pane of 20. The proofs were included with a book titled Endangered Species. A total of 4,000 proof sets and books were produced. The cost for the proofs and book was $59.95.

Waterfalls cascaded down 12 stamps issued June 13 in Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming.

The 12-stamp pane, illustrated on page 29, is arranged in three rows of four stamps each. Beginning with the first stamp in the top row and continuing left to right and top to bottom to the last stamp in the bottom row, the waterfalls shown are as follows:

First row: Dear Creek Falls in Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona (photo by Sandra Woods), Nevada Fall in Yosemite National Park in California (Quang-Tuan Luong), Harrison Wright Falls in Ricketts Glen State Park in Pennsylvania (Kenneth Keifer), and Lower Falls of the Yellowstone River in Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming (Keifer);

Second row: Waimoku Falls in Haleakala National Park in Hawaii (Luong), Stewart Falls in Mount Timpanogos Wilderness in Utah (Nicole Nugent), Niagara Falls in Niagara Falls State Park in New York (John Cancalosi), and Dark Hollow Falls in Shenandoah National Park in Virginia (Luong);

Third row: Grotto Falls in Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee (Joe Miller), Sunbeam Falls in Mount Rainier National Park in Washington (Kevin Schafer), LaSalle Canyon Waterfall in Starved Rock State Park in Illinois (David B. Vernon), and Upper Falls of the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina (Tim Fitzharris).

The decorative selvage surrounding the 12 stamps in the pane features Vernon’s photograph of LaSalle Canyon Waterfall pictured on the third stamp in the bottom row.

John Lewis (1940-2020), a revered civil rights activist who later served for more than three decades in the House of Representatives, is the subject of a commemorative stamp issued July 21 at Morehouse College in Atlanta.

The stamp shows Marco Grob’s unadorned photograph of Lewis wearing a suit against a dark gray background and staring resolutely at the viewer with a firm, piercing gaze.

USPS art director Derry Noyes, who designed the John Lewis stamp, told Linn’s she was immediately drawn to Grob’s photo “because of the gravitas and power of the portrait.”

The powerful visage of Lewis on the stamp was captured by Grob while he was on assignment covering the 50th anniversary of the Aug. 28, 1963, March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom for the Aug. 26, 2013, issue of Time magazine.

In that issue, Lewis was one of 17 participants in the march who recalled that memorable day in the nation’s capital when Martin Luther King Jr. gave his famous “I Have a Dream” speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.

On Aug. 10, the Great American Stamp Show in Cleveland, Ohio, provided a stage for the Postal Service’s 20 commemorative stamps showing stunning photographs of various diminutive organisms and other biological objects as seen from a magnified perspective.

Working with a philatelic canvas of just 1.2 square inches per stamp, Noyes selected a visually arresting array of 20 photos by eight photographers.

To narrow down the number of photos to be shown, Noyes turned to an excellent source of pictures captured with electron microscopy: the annual Nikon Small World Photomicrography Competition.

Noyes picked the winning photos of 2020 and 2021 to appear on two of the Life Magnified stamps.

The 2020 picture of a zebrafish is seen on the first stamp in the fourth row of the pane, and the last stamp in the fifth row features the 2021 image of the surface of an oak leaf.

The Great American Stamp Show also hosted the Aug. 11 first-day ceremony for the five Thinking of You stamps.

Ellen Surrey, an illustrator from Van Nuys, Calif., created original artwork for the five Thinking of You stamps.

Each stamp includes a potpourri of cheerful images rendered in a palette of bright, cheery colors. The designs are “filled with a variety of whimsical images, including flowers, balloons, cute animals, sweet treats and symbols of good luck,” the Postal Service said.

To complement the stamps, various upbeat expressions are printed in the selvage (margin paper) surrounding the 20-stamp pane. The sayings, like the stamps, are die cut and may be removed and affixed to an envelope.

The 13 different messages, displayed in capital letters, are You’re a star, Cheers!, You’re the best!, Hooray!, You’re awesome, Feel better!, You make me happy, Miss you, Thinking of you, Best wishes, Grateful for you, Congratulations!, and Thank you.

On Sept. 22, two days prior to the successful Sept. 24 completion of the seven-year OSIRIS-REx mission to gather rocks and dust from the asteroid Bennu and return them to Earth, the USPS issued a forever stamp in celebration of that remarkable achievement.

The mission’s name is an abbreviation for Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security, Regolith Explorer.

OSIRIS-REx began its return to Earth more than two years ago, on May 10, 2021. The spacecraft was launched Sept. 8, 2016, from Cape Canaveral, Fla.

On Sept. 24, the OSIRIS-REx capsule containing the sample of dust and rocks from Bennu successfully landed via parachute in the desert at the Utah Test and Training Range.

“This is the first pristine sample of an asteroid collected by the United States, and it will help scientists learn how our solar system formed,” the Postal Service said.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg, whose storied legal career and 27 years on the Supreme Court of the United States cemented her stature as a feminist icon, was honored on a commemorative forever stamp issued Oct. 2 at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C.

Renowned portrait artist Michael J. Deas of New Orleans, using a photograph by Philip Bermingham, created the painting of Ginsburg (1933-2020) that appears on the stamp.

A bespectacled Ginsburg is shown staring forward with the barest hint of a smile, her right eyebrow ever so slightly raised. She is wearing her black judicial robe, and her neck is wreathed with a collar similar in style to her dissent collar, which she wore when she put forth her cogent, focused opinions that went against the high court’s majority.

Seasoned Postal Service art director Ethel Kessler of Bethesda, Md., designed the stamp.

“For me, this was the stamp project of a lifetime,” Kessler told Linn’s. “Ruth Bader Ginsburg was so highly regarded, and it was a tremendous honor and privilege for me to be assigned the art director role for this [stamp].”


The 2023 program opened Jan. 9 with a 40¢ stamp featuring wildlife illustrator Dugald Stermer’s pencil-and-watercolor image of a red fox. The stamp comes in three formats: a pane of 20 and coil rolls of 3,000 and 10,000.

In an apparent case of philatelic matchmaking, the USPS issued the 40¢ definitive (regular-issue) stamp Jan. 5 in Fox, Ark.

Stermer (1936-2011) was an acclaimed illustrator in San Francisco and former art director of the political magazine Ramparts. As a freelance artist, he later created illustrations for numerous publications and also designed the medals for the 1984 Summer Olympic Games in Los Angeles.

“He rendered his subjects in such rich color and intricate detail, they appeared nearly alive,” Stephanie Lee wrote in a remembrance of Stermer in the San Francisco Gate after the artist’s death in 2011.

Stermer’s illustration of a brush rabbit appears on a nondenominated (20¢) additional-ounce-rate stamp issued Jan. 24, 2021, in panes of 20 (Scott 5544) and coil rolls of 100 (5545).

Jan. 5 also saw the issuance of the nondenominated (24¢) School Bus additional-ounce-rate stamp in panes of 20 and coil rolls of 100.

The stamp shows a right profile of a school bus painted in the traditional bright yellow set against a silhouetted school building.

While the bus has a modern appearance, the school building hearkens back to an earlier architectural period.

National School Bus Glossy Yellow is how the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration officially describes the instantly recognizable color of the nation’s school buses.

A pair of Love stamps showing a kitten and puppy resting their front paws on a valentine heart debuted Jan. 19, just one week before the 50th anniversary of the 1973 8¢ Love stamp (Scott 1475) featuring Robert Indiana’s iconographic LOVE with the letters LO stacked atop the letters VE.

The two 2022 Love stamps showcase the work of artist Chris Buzelli, who counts Rolling Stone magazine, The New York Times, Newsweek, Politico, United Airlines and MGM Resorts among his clients.

Most stamps in the Love series have been issued in January or early February so mailers have adequate time to use them on Valentine’s Day letters and cards.

Lahaina, Hawaii, served as the first-day city for the Jan. 22 issuance of two nondenominated (48¢) postcard-rate coil stamps picturing sailboats skimming across glassy calm waters. The stamps were issued on the same day that the domestic postcard rate rose 4¢, from 44¢ to 48¢.

Michigan artist Libby VanderPloeg created the designs and the cursive “postcard” lettered across the bottom of the stamps.

Released on the same day as the Sailboats coil stamps were two new high-denomination stamps for expedited mail service. The stamps were issued in response to the Jan. 22 rate increases that impacted the cost of domestic first-class letter mail and also increased postage rates for expedited mail, including the familiar flat-rate envelopes used for Priority Mail and Priority Mail Express.

The $9.65 Priority Mail stamp features the Florida Everglades in Florida, and the $28.75 Priority Mail Express stamp shows a scene in the Great Smoky Mountains in North Carolina and Tennessee. They were the last additions to the Postal Service’s American Landmarks series of Priority Mail and Priority Mail Express stamps that began in 2008.

Beginning next year, Priority Mail and Priority Mail Express stamps will feature photographs of stellar formations taken by the James Webb Space Telescope.

The $9.65 stamp satisfies the current flat rate for standard Priority Mail envelopes, and the $28.75 stamp pays the corresponding Priority Mail Express rate.

The $9.65 Priority Mail stamp is the third in the series to picture a Florida landmark, while the $28.75 stamp for Priority Mail Express service is the first to highlight a landmark in North Carolina and Tennessee.

On Feb. 24, the USPS issued the third stamp in its series of high-denomination definitive (regular-issue) stamps depicting geometric floral patterns. A flower with six symmetrical petals is nested inside the hexagon in the center of this $10 Floral Geometry stamp.

The first two Floral Geometry stamps, denominated $2 and $5 (Scott 5700 and 5701), were issued June 20, 2022.

Spaeth Hill, a contemporary design firm in Alexandria, Va., designed the three Floral Geometry stamps issued thus far. The series is intended to replace the $1, $2 and $5 Statue of Freedom stamps (Scott 5295-5297) issued June 27, 2018.

A single nondenominated (5¢) coil stamp intended for use on bulk mailings by authorized nonprofit businesses was issued March 1 in Liberty, N.Y.

The design of the Patriot Block coil stamp consists of four blocks (quadrants) depicting various elements similar to those on the U.S. flag.

The “NONPROFIT ORG/USA” inscription at the bottom of the stamp indicates that a permit is required to use it on mail.

Beautiful tulip blossoms in a rainbow of colors burst forth on 10 definitive forever stamps issued April 5 in Woodburn, Ore.

The stamps illustrate close-up photographs of tulips by Denise Ippolito.

On her website, Ippolito informs readers about the new Tulip Blossoms stamps and states that another 10 of her close-up photos of flowers “will be featured as another Forever Stamp Collection.” She provided no additional details about the second set of stamps.

The Tulip Blossoms stamps were issued in three formats: a double-sided pane of 20 (which the USPS calls a booklet) and coil rolls of 3,000 and 10,000.

On April 10, the Freedom Flag stamp was issued in seven formats: a pane of 20, two different double-sided panes of 20, two different rolls of 100 coil stamps, and rolls of 3,000 and 10,000 coil stamps.

A total of six Scott catalog numbers were assigned to the collectible varieties of the stamp.

Across all seven formats, Ashton Potter (USA) Ltd. and Banknote Corporation of America produced a total of 4.74 billion stamps. Print quantities range from a low of 15 million stamps produced in coil rolls of 3,000 to a high of 1.35 billion stamps for each of the coil stamps in rolls of 100.

Four nondenominated (25¢) coil stamps picturing bridges were issued Aug. 24 in Portland, Conn. The stamps are intended for use on presorted first-class mail.

The bridges shown are Arrigoni Bridge connecting Middletown, Conn., with Portland; the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge between Council Bluffs, Iowa, and Omaha, Neb.; the Skydance Bridge in Oklahoma City, Okla.; and the Iowa-Illinois Memorial Bridge linking Bettendorf, Iowa, and Moline, Ill.

The 36th annual Pinata Festival in Roswell, N.M., provided the perfect backdrop for the Sept. 8 first-day ceremony for the four stamps illustrating four pinatas, the vibrantly colored candy- and treat-filled containers often covered with papier-mache that are broken apart during celebrations.

Two of the stamps picture a donkey pinata, and a pinata in the shape of a seven-point star is shown on the other two stamps.

On Sept. 19 in Breckenridge, Colo., the USPS shook up the holiday mailing season with four stamps illustrating snow globes.

The scenes artist Gregory Manchess painted for the snow globes feature a cheerful snowman wearing a red and white scarf; Santa Claus, his pack of toys slung over his shoulder, about to descend into a chimney; a male deer with an impressive rack of antlers emerging from a tree line; and a decorated Christmas tree, its branches heavily coated with snow.

The Postal Service closed out its 2023 stamp program on Oct. 10 with a quartet of stamps highlighting stylized artwork of four woodland animals — a deer, rabbit, owl and fox — set in colorful scenes appropriate to the winter season.

In a nod to the name of the issue, Winter Woodland Animals, the USPS selected Woodland, Mich., to be the official first-day city.

Katie Kirk of Minneapolis illustrated the Winter Woodland Animals stamps using original artwork.


On July 9, the day new postal rates went into effect, the Postal Service issued its only postal stationery item of the year: a single nondenominated (66¢) stamped envelope picturing a male northern cardinal perched on the branch of a pine tree. As the only 2023 postal stationery item, the Northern Cardinal envelope is only eligible for the overall favorite 2023 stamp.

The envelope, the first from the USPS in six years to picture a bird, was produced in 10 formats.

Images of all the 2023 stamps are presented in the Dec. 11 issue of Linn’s Stamp News. Readers may vote online or by mail. Mail-in ballots must be postmarked by Feb. 29, 2024.

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