The obsession with tulips—referred to as “Tulipmania”—has captured the public’s imagination for generations and has been the subject of several books including a novel called Tulip Fever by Deborah Moggach. According to popular legend, the tulip craze took hold of all levels of Dutch society in the 1630s. A Scottish journalist Charles Mackay, in his famous 1841 book Memoirs of Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds, wrote that “the wealthiest merchants to the poorest chimney sweeps jumped into the tulip fray, buying bulbs at high prices and selling them for even more.”
Dutch speculators spent incredible amounts of money on these bulbs, but they only produced flowers for a week—many companies formed with the sole purpose of trading tulips. However, the trade reached its fever pitch in the late 1630s.
In the 1600s the Dutch currency was the guilder, which preceded the use of the euro. At the height of the bubble, tulips sold for approximately 10,000 guilders. In the 1630s a price of 10,000 guilders equated roughly the value of a mansion on the Amsterdam Grand Canal.