This story goes all the way back to the 1630s, when the Netherlands economy was booming. Tulips were seen as a luxury item as they were imported and looked like no other native flower. This enticed people to purchase tulips as a statement of wealth and encouraged farmers to learn to grow the flower locally. Instead of saving their guilders (the Dutch currency at the time) people moved their money into purchasing tulip bulbs as they thought this would give them a greater return.
1634 was when ‘Tulipmania’ hit. Everyone, from the wealthy to the poor, scrambled to own tulip bulbs of which many were estimated to cost the modern equivalent of £40,000 - £120,000 each. Some bulbs even cost more than a luxury canal townhouse in Amsterdam! Professional traders also began owning the items to make money on the expectation that the price of the bulbs would continue to go up. Eventually tulip prices got so high, people began buying bulbs on credit and they were even added to the Amsterdam Stock Exchange in 1636.