In 1630s' Holland thousands of people, from the wealthiest merchants to the lowest street traders, were caught up in a frenzy of buying and selling. The object of the speculation was not oil or gold, but the tulip, a delicate and exotic bloom that had just arrived from the east. Over three years, rare tulip bulbs changed hands for sums that would have bought a house in Amsterdam: a single bulb could sell for more than £300,000 at today's prices. Fortunes were made overnight, but then lost when, within a year, the market collapsed.
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