When you think of Holland, one of the things that comes to your mind is probably the tulip.

Tulips are more or less the national the symbol of the country, together with the wooden shoes, wind mills and the diamond trade.

The tulip (from the Latin '
Tulipa'), meaning 'Like a Turban', originates from the Ottoman Empire, nowadays Turkey.

In 1562, the first tulip bulbs came to Europe when the Austrian ambassador
Ogier Gisleen van Busbeke at the court of Kanuni Sultan Süleyman I of Turkey, sent a few tulip seeds to Austria after seeing them for the first time in 1551.
What was the reason people in those days would page through a tulip brochure and pay such enormous prices for a flower ?

The tulip was new to Holland at the end of the 16th century and like all novelties, the flower grew in popularity as the flower was very different to what people were used to.

A period known as the '
Golden Age', roughly 100 years of enormous economical, military and cultural growth, thanks to international trade and the revenues of the colonies all over the world, brought riches and wealth to the merchants.

The Dutch upper class embraced the tulip and used the flower to flash around their wealth by erecting gardens with tulips.

Thus it became a luxury product and a status symbol, like you would buy an expensive car or clothes.

Because of the rarity and high profits, a trade in tulips was inevitable and florists as well as tulip traders made good money.
Tulips came in different colors but a virus changed the look of the tulip.

Very extra-ordinary varieties emerged and it is in fact this 'happy accident', officially called the '
Mosaic Virus', that made the tulip even more valuable, rocketing the prices sky high.

The flower developed various color schemes which made the tulip look even more exotic, but the tulip with yellow and/or white stripes on brown-, purple- and red colored patels, the
Semper Augustus or so-called 'Bizarres' tulip, became the most appreciated and most expensive tulip of all.
No need to say this craziness of excessive profit making wouldn't last forever (even though the merchants thought otherwise) and of course, it didn't.

The ever increasing prices of tulips led to the downfall of the trade. Fewer people were willing to pay the higher prices and the devaluation was inevitable.

The turning point came in early 1637 when traders had great difficulty finding buyers for their bulbs.

The period in which merchants became rich lasted roughly around 30 years and as the trade crumbled abruptly, it caused an economic disaster that would hurt the Dutch economy for years to come.
Tulip Mania or 'Tulipomania', was a period in the 17th century when tulips, or even a single tulip bulb, were worth a small fortune. To give you an idea of the value of just one tulip or bulb, mulitiply a very decent year income by 10...

It is recorded that in 1623 a single bulb was sold for as much as fl 1,000 (
Florins or Dutch Guilders), while in 1635 a record value of fl 2,500 was payed. By comparison, that would buy you a nice brand new car today !
Sultan Süleyman I
A Satire of Tulip Mania by Jan Brueghel the Younger (ca. 1640)
A new flower gets popular
Admiral Verijck (van der Eijck) (1637)
Semper Augustus (ca. 1640)
Viceroy (1637)
Florilegium Plate 10 (1647)
Tulip Mosaic Virus
Still- Life with Flowers by Hans Bollongier (1639)
Semper Augustus
Nothing lasts forever...