It started with a school project, "We had this English teacher in school who once asked us to write letters, and we needed stamps to do it. That was my first encounter with a stamp, and since then, for the next eight years, I collected them indiscriminately." Jaishankar Prasad explained to the Times of India.

That was the start of a fascination which led Prasad to become a record holder. He is noted in the Limca Book of Records as being the Indian who has collected stamps from the greatest number of countries - at the tender age of 20.

This started without his intention. Initially his stamp collecting was omnivorous and undirected, until he sat down to sort them. He knew his collection extended beyond Indian stamps to the rest of the world, but he didn't expect what he found.

"To my surprise, I found that I already had stamps from 200 countries, and they could be separated into as many categories. That was when I started collecting stamps more seriously," says Prasad, in comments that are likely to dishearten collectors who hadn't realised they were collecting casually.

Prasad read about categorising collections, and tried to gain stamps from as many countries as he could, until in 2008 he submitted his claim to the LBR for his collection, which now included stamps from 308 countries. Some of them are particularly valuable as the countries no longer exist in that form, such as those from Czechoslovakia, or unified Korea.

To his delight, the LBR confirmed his claim. Prasad has pressed on, and his stamp collection now has representatives from 325 countries.

Naturally he has become regarded as something of an expert, although he has not always enjoyed that side of the endeavour.

"I was once approached by a man with a simple definitive stamp released twenty years ago. It pained me to tell him that the stamp would fetch him hardly 10 rupees, because he was expecting to sell it for [hundreds of thousands]!"

Prasad's story is a reminder that one should only mix money with stamp collecting if trustworthy advice has been taken first. But for him, as with many philatelists, it's not about the money or even the records, he is simply hooked.

"Whenever I collect a stamp, I not only get to know a little bit about the culture of the country, but also about what language is spoken there, what their currency is, what is commemorated and a lot more." he enthuses. 


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