Tulip mania or tulipomania was a period in the Dutch Golden Age during which contract prices for bulbs of the recently introduced tulip reached extraordinarily high levels and then suddenly collapsed. By 1636 the tulip bulb became the fourth leading export product of the Netherlands—after gin, herring and cheese. The price of tulips skyrocketed because of speculation in tulip futures among people who never saw the bulbs. Many men made and lost fortunes overnight, to the consternation of Calvinist elites who abhorred this artificial frenzy that denied the virtues of moderation, discretion and genuine work.
At the peak of tulip mania, in February 1637, some single tulip bulbs sold for more than 10 times the annual income of a skilled craftsman. It is generally considered the first recorded speculative bubble (or economic bubble), although some researchers have noted that the Kipperund Wipperzeit episode in 1619–22, a Europe-wide chain of debasement of the metal content of coins to fund warfare, featured mania-like similarities to a bubble. The term “tulip mania” is now often used metaphorically to refer to any large economic bubble (when asset prices deviate from intrinsic values).
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