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Tulips carried astonishing value in the 1600s. Source: master1305 / Adobe Stock.

How Tulips Became the Bitcoin of the 1600s (Video)


In the 1600s, before Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies, Europe experienced a unique phenomenon known as tulip mania. Amsterdam's wealthy merchants assigned astonishing value to exotic tulips, reaching up to $25,000 in today's money for a single Semper Augustus bulb. What's fascinating is that many never saw these tulips bloom; they traded bulbs, similar to modern cryptocurrency speculation. Tulip mania not only affected the economy but also transformed Dutch culture. Dutch traders unwittingly set the stage for an economic bubble by introducing tulip bulbs to the region.

While multi-colored tulips with unique patterns were highly sought after, the bulbs themselves held enduring value as durable goods for trade. Tulip mania had its share of odd tales. One sailor ended up in jail after mistaking a tulip bulb for an onion, and the bulbs were mildly poisonous. Trading and breeding tulips became a competitive sport, with botanists striving for unique colors and patterns. Tulip mania eventually collapsed, causing financial ruin for many. The Dutch saying "Do not seek inconsistent wealth before honor" serves as a reminder of the tulip's volatile value. In the end, tulip mania was a brief but extraordinary episode, much like modern economic bubbles, illustrating how the pursuit of wealth can defy reason.

Top image: Tulips carried astonishing value in the 1600s. Source: master1305 / Adobe Stock.

By Robbie Mitchell

Robbie Mitchell's picture


I’m a graduate of History and Literature from The University of Manchester in England and a total history geek. Since a young age, I’ve been obsessed with history. The weirder the better. I spend my days working as a freelance... Read More

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