Consider this. A pack of 20 tulip bulbs will cost you around £ 4.99, but there was a time when tulips were worth their weight in gold - and that was when they were cheap!

Sounds suspicious? Travel back 450 years to the Dutch golden age and you can witness the first ever economic bubble. This was a time when the most prized examples would sell at close to £1,000,000 for a single bulb! Unbelievable indeed, but absolutely true.

Tulip 'Semper Augustus'
Tulip bulbs were all the rage, but the most coveted of all were 'Viceroy' and 'Semper Augustus'.

On average, the Viceroy bulb cost between 3000 and 4200 florins depending on the size of the bulb. To put this into context, a contemporary skilled craftsman would have earned about 150 florins a year.

This is an awful lot of money for anyone to come up with but some enterprising individuals would succeed in a sale through battering.

In one such transaction, and after a long period of hard bargaining, an individual paid out thirty-six bushels of wheat, seventy-two of rice, four oxen, twelve sheep, eight pigs, two barrels of wine, four barrels of beer, two tons of butter, a thousands pounds of cheese, a bed, a suit of clothes, and a silver cup. This again was to own a single Viceroy bulb and he got it cheap! In today's money, that works out to be approximately £25,000.

The peak arrived in 1637, just before the crash, when a price of 10,000 guilders was asked. In those days, such an exorbitant amount of money would have purchased a grand house on the most fashionable canal in Amsterdam. If the sale went through, the hammer would have gone down on a transaction worth £2,500,000.

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