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Friday, December 15, 2017

Tulips from Amsterdam


What was a massive hit in the English-speaking world for Max Bygraves had already become something of a national anthem in Holland, while in neighbouring post-war Germany every housewife hummed it as she was stirring her pot of 'Linsensuppe'.

Tulips - their name derives from the Persian word for turban which they resemble - originally came from Turkey, and were introduced to the Dutch in 1593. The novelty of the new flower made it widely sought after and therefore fairly pricey. After a time, the tulips contracted a non-fatal virus known as mosaic, which didn't kill the tulip population but altered them causing "flames" of color to appear upon the petals. The color patterns came in a wide variety, increasing the rarity of an already unique flower. Thus, tulips, which were already selling at a premium, began to rise in price according to how their virus alterations were valued, or desired. Everyone began to deal in bulbs, essentially speculating on the tulip market, which was believed to have no limits. During the height of the Tulipmania from 1634 to 1637, one single tulip would sell for the price of a house. When it was all over, you could buy it for the price of a common onion.

I was reminded of this when I saw this chart of the rise and fall of some famous bubbles:

The current Bitcoin bubble has "outbubbled" the lot of them and the time has come to stop and smell the tulips rather than to buy them.