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Trading in bulbs

Onion futures act

I did not know that trading in humble, but delicious goods as the onion can lead to the introduction of laws. In 1955 two traders in Chicago owned 98% of the onion market in future options importing onions from all over the States to Chicago. As a result, they could initially drive up the price and made millions out of it.

Later, they even shipped the onions, who were rotting, out of Chicago to clean them and ship them back to be sold for less than the price the packaging was worth. In the end, the onions were scarce and farmers were paid an abominable low price. An unsustainable situation leading to the Onion Futures Act which was signed by the Supreme court in 1958, excluding a perishable commodity such as the onion for future trading.

Tulip Mania

A whole different story is the trading in tulip bulbs. Nowadays bulbs and tulips are sold all over the world and still a good business. In the 17th century though it was big business.

The tulip originated from Turkey and became famous when Carolus Clusius wrote a book about the tulip in 1592. So famous that his gardens were plundered by people who got hold of the bulbs and sold them on. The price of tulip bulbs went as high as 10,000 guilders a bulb, which at that time was the price of a whole mansion in Amsterdam. Not surprising that this could not continue and by 1637 the price of the tulip bulbs was so inflated that the whole market crashed. The period 1633 to 1637 became known as the first economic crisis in the Netherlands, called Tulip Mania.

Ten thousand guilders in current money would be something like 750,000 Euro. Just the thought of paying so much for something you can enjoy for only a couple of years is incredible.


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