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The time for tulip mania in Vancouver is now!

April 19, 2016

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The flash bulbs that are tulips are going off all over Vancouver—and I mean all over—which may go some ways to helping explain all the glare, not to mention the heat that we’re suddenly experiencing.

A young tulip growing up with its petals tightly closed is colourful, I’ll give it that but when it finally deigns to open wide and reveal its inner beauty a tulip can be…unspeakably beautiful.

Now that tulips are virtually exploding across the city, it’s definitely worth stopping to appreciate their breathtaking displays, as well as their irony.

And by irony I’m referring to the fact that, growing as they do, around some of the most expensive real estate in the world, Vancouver’s tulips are once again, arguably, part of a financial bubble.

This time, it’s the dirt that Vancouver’s tulips are growing in that’s being driven by speculation ever-higher in value but 380 years ago in Holland it was the tulips themselves.

Long before people flipped condos, they flipped tulip bulbs

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Imagine an entire country going crazy over a flower. That was Holland in the 1630s—the zenith of the country’s golden age as a world power in trade and investment and the flower that Holland fell for was the tulip.

The Tulip arrived in Europe in the late 1500s from the Turkish Ottoman Empire by way of Dutch traders and was a sensation. It came in more hues and was more intensely colourful than any flower that Europeans had ever seen and it quickly became a high luxury item. Gardens of the rare, showy flowers offered a new way for Europe’s rich to flaunt their wealth.

I’m oversimplifying but the ultimate result of the introduction by the Dutch of the tulip into Europe was one of the first great economic bubbles,known in English as “tulip mania” and in Dutch as “tulpenwoede” (tulip madness).

At the dizzy heights of the Dutch tulip market in late 1636, speculation was rampant, with some bulbs changing buyers several times a day. Often transactions were in tulip futures and no physical tulip bulbs ever changed hands.

According to an article in the Economist, Before tulip bulb prices finally crashed in February 1637, an especially rare and beautiful red and white variety called Semper Augustus, was valued at 5,500 guilders per bulb—roughly the cost of a luxurious house in Amsterdam!

That inflated price for a tulip bulb, some 380 years ago, would possibly covert to a modern value somewhere between USD$64,000 and about CDN$99,363.73–enough today to buy a condo in Vancouver.

On the other hand,with 16 going for about $9.99, today’s tulip bulb isn’t worth the dirt that it’s planted in—certainly not in Vancouver, which is something to think about.  Click the images to enlarge them.

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