Something very valuable just bloomed in my front yard. Or at least, if it was the year 1637 and I was living in the Netherlands…
If I had a time machine, I’d snatch my tulips and zoom back in time. Riches would await me, and you’d see me sumptuously dressed and painted into one of the scenes on Rembrandt’s canvases…
…for once upon a time during the 17th century, during the Dutch Golden Age (when Dutch achievements and advancements were making them the rockstars of Europe), there was a bizarre economic bubble.
Economic bubble: When you’re selling something worth a small sum for a lot of cash. Eventually the situation gets out of control, there is a crash, and everyone is financially ruined.
At the height of what history has now coined tulip mania, some of these precious tulip bulbs were being sold for what it would take most regular folks to make in ten years. What?! Yes, a single tulip bulb in exchange for what you earned in a decade.
Once when I was living in New York City, in the early evening in the spring, I spied a man stealing tulips planted by the city along the sidewalk. I was looking out over my balcony and had a clear view.
In the darkening light of dusk, the man physically laid down along the sides of parked cars when other pedestrians happened to walk by. He was hiding. When they had passed, he’d pop back up and clip some more tulips. He had quite the bouquet before making a run for it. I was both speechless and amused. And really grossed out; you do not want to lay down on a New York City sidewalk.
Perhaps the man was Dutch and from the 17th century. He’d hopped into a time machine to zoom ahead in time to steal his fortune.
Tulip mania. Proof that real life is stranger than fiction.