Tulip Bulbs As a Currency

Did you know that there was a period when a single tulip bulb had a value of 10 times as such as the annual salary of a skilled craftsman? This was in 1637 during the period known as Tulip mania or tulipomania when the tulip was introduced on the market. This period is also known as the first historic speculative economic bubble ever recorded.

Photo via Second Globe

The first tulip bulb originated from Turkey. From there, the bulbs were sent to Vienna and later distributed to Antwerp, Augsburg, and Amsterdam. The tulip’s popularity in The Netherlands is thought to have started in the late 1500’s and one of the reasons they became so popular in Europe was because of their uniqueness. The bright colored petals were unlike any other flowers in Europe during the 16th century. It even became a symbol of status and a luxury item that ushered in Holland’s Golden Age. People who wanted to show off their success built mansions surrounded by gardens full of tulips.

Photo via My City Flowers

The bright combination of colors on the petals caught the attention of many and multicolored tulips became the most sought after species. But this combination of colors actually came from virus-infected plants. Therefore they could only originate from a bulb that was infected or a “daughter bulb” of this infected bulb. Besides the combination of colors, this virus also caused for a lengthier maturation of the bulb. Due to its rarity, the value of the multicolored tulips increased considerably.

Tulips bloom from April through May and lay dormant from June to September. Traders created future contracts to secure their bulbs for the following season. Some financing tactics originated during the Tulip Mania and are still being used in today’s stock market. By 1636, tulip became the fourth leading exported merchandise in The Netherlands, after cheese, herring, and gin. Prices skyrocketed and margins even reached 400% at some point. Although, tulips experienced price deflation, they remain a highly sought out flower in modern days.


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