US Stamps

Waterfalls stamps voted overall favorite, best designed commemorative in Linn’s 2023 U.S. stamp poll

Mar 25, 2024, 8 AM

By Charles Snee

The 12 commemorative stamps featuring vibrant photographs of waterfalls were selected by Linn’s Stamp News readers as the overall favorite United States 2023 stamp issue.

The 2023 Linn’s U.S. Stamp Popularity Poll was introduced in the Dec. 12, 2023, 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 11 issue. Ballots sent by mail had to be postmarked by Feb. 29.

Readers of all ages mailed in a total of 738 ballots in the 2023 stamp poll. This total is approximately 80 percent of the 921 mail-in ballots that were cast in the 2022 poll. Readers cast 950 ballots by mail in the 2021 poll.

A total of 555 online voters also participated via, bringing the total of mail-in and online votes to 1,293. The votes from online and mail-in ballots were combined to calculate this year’s winners.

The nondenominated (63¢) Waterfalls commemorative forever stamps, which received 300 votes in the Overall Favorite category, were issued June 13, 2023, at Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming.

The 12-stamp Waterfalls pane 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.

Linn’s U.S. Stamp Popularity Poll, which began in 1948, is intended as an entertaining and 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).

The U.S. Postal Service issued one postal stationery item in 2023: the Northern Cardinal stamped envelope, which was only eligible for the overall favorite 2023 stamp.

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 2023 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 were tallied separately. No irregularities occurred during online voting for the 2023 poll.

Placing a distant second in the Overall Favorite category, with 135 votes, was the pane of 20 nondenominated (66¢) Life Magnified commemorative stamps featuring stunning photographs of various diminutive organisms and other biological objects as seen from a greatly enlarged perspective.

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

Microorganisms and other biological features on the Life Magnified pane of 20 are organized by row in the following order:

Row 1: red blood cells, a macaw parrot feather, a human hair tied in a knot, and moss leaves;

Row 2: arranged diatoms (unicellular microalgae), freshwater protozoans (single-cell organisms), cirri (legs) of an acorn barnacle, and a moth antenna;

Row 3: front foot of a diving beetle, mouse brain neurons, starling bone tissue, and moth wing scales;

Row 4: a zebrafish, mushroom gills, the tongue of a freshwater snail, and a blue button (a small marine organism comprised of a colony of hydroids);

Row 5: mold spores, barnacle legs, flame lily pollen, and the surface of an oak leaf.

The Life Magnified stamps were issued Aug. 10, 2023, at the Great American Stamp Show in Cleveland, Ohio.

The commemorative stamp honoring Ponca Chief Standing Bear (circa 1829-1908) received 116 votes, placing third in the Overall Favorite category.

The May 12, 2023, issue date was the anniversary date of the 1879 landmark court case Standing Bear v. Crook that granted Native Americans civil rights under U.S. law.

Thomas Blackshear II created the portrait of Standing Bear shown on the stamp. “I feel as if Thomas’ portrait conveys the inner soul of this extraordinary man,” USPS art director Noyes said.


With 316 votes, the Waterfalls stamps came out on top in the commemorative Best Design category. The Life Magnified stamps came in second place, with 232 votes, while the Railroad Stations stamps received 205 votes to capture third place. The order of finish for these three issues is almost identical to their placement in the Overall Favorite category.

Fourth place, with 147 votes, went to the Chief Standing Bear stamp.

In general, these results demonstrate Linn’s readers’ strong affinity for commemorative issues featuring multiple designs, which often offer a rich palette of color and greater flexibility to pay tribute to a subject from different angles.

On the other hand, readers of Linn’s tend to have negative views of stamp designs that are abstract, gimmicky or difficult to discern.

Such was the case for the nondenominated (60¢) commemorative forever stamp that features Noah MacMillan’s graphic image of a female soccer player kicking a ball. The Women’s Soccer stamp took first place in the commemorative Worst Design category, with 377 votes.

Although horizontal in format, the Women’s Soccer stamp was often seen on mail oriented vertically with the text that appears at left running across the top instead.

Voters also weren’t pleased with the designs of the five nondenominated (60¢) Thinking of You stamps, which came in second place in the Worst Design category, with 225 votes.

To complement the Thinking of You stamps, various upbeat expressions were 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 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.

Third place in the commemorative Worst Design category went to the four Art of the Skateboard stamps, with 202 votes,

The Art of the Skateboard stamps feature vividly colored artwork on the underside of skateboard decks by four U.S. artists.

Each stamp shows a photograph of one of four unidentified people 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.)

First-place accolades in the commemorative Most Important category, with 537 votes, went to the 20 Endangered Species stamps.

The stamp honoring U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg (1933-2020) received 172 votes to capture second place, followed by the stamp celebrating iconic civil rights activist John Lewis (1940-2020), which came in third place, with 149 votes.

Linn’s readers vigorously stamped their seal of disapproval on the Art of the Skateboard stamps, which were voted as the least necessary commemorative issue, with 561 votes.

Coming in a distant second, with 301 votes, were the Thinking of You stamps.

Despite the eye-catching nature of the issue’s subject, voters were not impressed with the five commemorative stamps picturing artwork by pop artist Roy Lichtenstein (1923-97), which came in third place in the Least Necessary category, with 74 votes.

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.


Voters in the 2023 poll gave a resounding thumbs up to the Priority Mail and Priority Mail Express stamps featuring Dan Cosgrove’s poster-style illustrations of the Florida Everglades and the Great Smoky Mountains in North Carolina and Tennessee.

In the Best Design category, the $28.75 Great Smoky Mountains Priority Mail Express stamp took first place by a decent margin, with 419 votes. Second place, with 123 votes, went to the $9.65 Priority Mail stamp, and the four nondenominated (25¢) Bridges coil stamps received 119 votes, good enough for third place.

In the Worst Design category, Linn’s voters firmly rejected the nondenominated (5¢) Patriotic Block coil stamp, which received 270 first-place votes. Intended for use on mass mailings by nonprofit organizations, the Patriotic Block coil stamp was printed in rolls of 3,000 and 10,000. Plate numbers appear on every 25th stamp.

Second place, with 230 votes, went to the $10 Floral Geometry stamp, the third issue in the series of high-denomination stamps that began in 2022 with the issuance of the $2 and $5 Floral Geometry stamps.

Spaeth Hill, a contemporary design firm in Alexandria, Va., designed the three Floral Geometry stamps issued thus far. They showcase “a series of overlapping geometric shapes that mimic the symmetry of floral patterns found in nature,” according to the Postal Service.

(The next Floral Geometry stamp, a $1 denomination, will be issued April 26 at the Westpex stamp show in Burlingame, Calif., near San Francisco.)

Third place for worst design, with 139 votes, was captured by the 10 stamps showing close-up photographs of tulips by Denise Ippolito. 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.

Linn’s voters selected the $9.65 Florida Everglades Priority Mail stamp as the most important definitive issue in the 2023 program, with 328 votes.

Coming in second and third place among the most important definitive stamps were the Freedom U.S. Flag stamp, with 293 votes, and the Bridges coil stamps, with 133 votes.

The four Pinatas stamps came out on top in the Least Necessary category among definitives, with 330 votes.

The runners-up in the Least Necessary category were the $10 Floral Geometry stamp and the 40¢ stamp featuring an illustration of the face of a red fox by wildlife artist Dugald Stermer, with 185 votes and 156 votes, respectively.


The nondenominated (66¢) Northern Cardinal stamped envelope was the sole postal stationery item issued in 2023. As such, it qualified only for the overall favorite stamp of 2023. In the Overall Favorite category, the Northern Cardinal envelope attracted 34 votes, placing ninth.

The Postal Service did not issue any postal stationery in 2022.

In 2021, the Postal Service issued its last Priority Mail stamped envelope (Scott U701), a $7.95 denomination featuring Cosgrove’s vibrantly colored illustration of the historic fort of Castillo de San Marcos in St. Augustine, Fla. The 2021 $7.95 Priority Mail stamp (5554) also shows Cosgrove’s depiction of Castillo de San Marcos.


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.

Youth participation in the 2023 stamp poll resulted in 122 ballots being submitted. That total represents a modest increase from last year, when 119 ballots were submitted. In 2021, youth voters sent in 78 ballots.

This year, youth voting in the Overall Favorite category saw the pair of Love stamps picturing cute images of a puppy and kitten, each holding a valentine heart, take first place, with 23 votes.

Second place, with 18 votes, went to the 10 stamps displaying close-up photos of tulip blossoms.

The 40¢ Red Fox stamp garnered 17 votes to capture third place, and fourth place went to the Endangered Species stamps, with nine votes.

The Waterfalls stamps claimed the youth vote as having the best design among the 2023 commemoratives. The children picked the Roy Lichtenstein stamps as the worst-designed commemorative issue.

Youth voters gave the top spot to the Endangered Species stamps in the Most Important category among commemoratives. They also selected the Roy Lichtenstein stamps as the least necessary commemorative issue.

The Tulip Blossoms stamps came out on top in the youth vote in the Best Design category for definitives, while the Freedom U.S. Flag stamp reigned supreme in the Most Important category.

In the Least Necessary category, young people picked the School Bus stamp as their top choice.


Voters are always welcome to include additional comments with their ballots, and a handful of participants in the 2023 poll elected to share their thoughts with Linn’s readers.

Roger Tollerud was drawn to the Chief Standing Bear stamp because it “speaks to me of: strength, dignity and vision.”

Steven Scheibner picked the Waterfalls stamps as his overall favorite because “it was well designed, colorful and is a common element of most states in our country.”

Some voters wrote to say they weren’t impressed with the 2023 program.

Mildred Barylski, a longtime stamp collector with her husband, Doug, panned the Tulip Blossoms stamps.

“Do we really need more flowers?” she asked. “I should put in a suggestion to the [Citizens’ Stamp Advisory Committee] to have some mushroom stamps. Fungi come in many interesting shapes and colors.”

“Why do we need more than one stamp of an issue?” Ken Morrison asked, citing the Art of the Skateboard, Tulip Blossoms, Pinatas, Roy Lichtenstein, Thinking of You and Snow Globes issues. “All of these could fall under the least necessary category,” he said.

Steve Maginnis has participated in Linn’s U.S. stamp poll for many years and regularly includes thoughtful comments along with his ballot. He selected the Waterfalls stamps as his overall favorite 2023 issue.

“I’ve always loved waterfalls, and looking at these stamps is the next best thing to seeing the waterfalls themselves in real life,” he said.

The John Lewis stamp received Maginnis’ vote as the most important 2023 commemorative.

“When you see integrated workplaces, successful people of different backgrounds, and interracial couples in America, you’re reminded that we live in a world that John Lewis helped to create for us,” he asserted.

Arnold Kalan included a note of thanks with his ballot.

“Thank you for publishing a wonderful magazine,” he wrote. “I’m 88 and [have] been collecting for 80 years. I’m a general collector but do save stamps from countries I’ve been to.”

As one might expect, the vast majority of poll ballots Linn’s receives are sent via regular first-class mail. (This year, two such ballots were postmarked on Leap Day, Feb. 29, the final day to vote in the 2023 poll.)

One notable exception (for the second year in a row) was the Lancaster Country Day School, which used a large flat-rate Priority Mail envelope franked with a $9.85 Pillars of Creation Priority Mail stamp to submit a sizable number of youth ballots from the school’s students.

The envelope has a nice bonus near the top: a red “POSTAGE VERIFIED” handstamp.

In a cover letter accompanying the ballots, John Ford said this is the 17th year that students at the school have participated in Linn’s U.S. stamp poll.

“I had a particularly tough time picking my favorite issue this year,” Ford wrote in a letter accompanying additional ballots from family and friends mailed one day after he sent the students’ ballots.

“ … the Endangered Species [stamps] have been the most challenging for me to obtain postally used (one of my favorite collections), so that’s the one I chose,” he said.

“The students (and their teachers) are looking forward to seeing the results this spring,” Ford said. “Thanks for a great newspaper — keep up the good work.”


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

Participating groups that identified themselves include Ashland Stamp and Coin Club, Ashland, Ohio; Berkshire Stamp Club, Pittsfield, Mass.; Casper Stamp Club, Casper, Wyo.; Cedar Rapids Stamp Club, Cedar Rapids, Iowa; Euclid Stamp Club, Euclid, Ohio; Finger Lakes Stamp Club, Rochester, N.Y.; Greater Mound City Stamp Club, St. Louis, Mo.;

Medina County Stamp Club, Litchfield, Ohio; Naperville Area Stamp Club, Naperville, Ill.; Nevada Stamp Study Society, Sparks, Nev.; Port Saint Lucie Stamp Club, Port Saint Lucie, Fla.; Springfield Stamp Club, Springfield, Va.; Sweetgrass Stamp Club, Richmond, Texas; World Wide Stamp Club, Dunedin, Fla.; and Tuscora Stamp Club, New Philadelphia, Ohio.

Youth Stamp Club: Lancaster Country Day School, Lancaster, Pa.

Voting in Linn’s U.S. Stamp Popularity Poll for 2024 is scheduled to begin in December.

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