In the 1600s the price of tulip bulbs in Holland soared. A single bulb could cost more than a house and in some cases tulip bulbs were used as a form of currency. Single bulbs would be sold multiple times, and investors would buy the rights to tulips yet to be grown. This created a futures market.
Eventually the market crashed leading to what many economists consider the first speculative bubble. Known as tulip mania, the extent of the phenomenon, and the cause of the market collapse, is disputed.
According to some accounts the tulip fever spread to all segments of the population. Other accounts maintain it was limited to aristocrats. Either way, the fascination with tulips is clear and continued after the market crash. Far into the 18th and 19th centuries tulips played a central role in many Dutch paintings.
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