My great(^7)-grandfather, Piet van der Coolen, Crashed the Tulip Market

Things are so much more clear to me now. My special abilities to generate Devastating Asset Declines(DeAD) and Asset Event Destruction (AssED) that erases value in investments are not first-generation powers. As it happens, I, Pete the Cooler, come from a long-line of powerful Coolers. I’ll introduce you to a number of my ancestors in the coming months, but let’s start with what may have been, the biggest market crash in the history of human civilization, the fall of ‘Tulip Mania”  in February of 1637.

The proliferation of mail-order DNA testing and genealogy services like Ancestry.com have made genetic testing and lineage tracing easily accessible and affordable. I eagerly submitted my saliva swab to learn all about my ancestral origins. For a few weeks I waited and imagined all the amazing royal, historical figures that may have been in my family lineage.  Here’s what I learned:

It turns out, I have a significant blood line traced back to 17th century Holland.  Sadly, I am not the descendant of any royal family but was able to identify a specific ancestor of some historical consequence.

My great, great, great, great, great, great, great-grandfather, Piet van der Coolen was a well-liked, Dutch blacksmith working and living in Scheveningen, a bustling, coastal city in western Holland during the 1620’s.

Piet van der Coolen

While Piet van der Coolen was a skilled blacksmith, he was struggling financially to pay the high interest loan on his bicycle and support his young family. Piet was looking for new opportunities that would help him achieve financial independence and retire early (FIRE).

Tulip bulbs had made their way from Turkey through Europe in the late 1500’s and by the early 1600’s, Tulips had become increasingly popular as a luxury item and status symbol due to their unique coloring. As farmers tried to profit on the newest cash-crop, prices for bulbs began to climb.  By the early 1630’s, speculators started betting on tulips continuing to drive the price upwards.

By 1636, the tulip bulb was the fourth leading export product of the Netherlands, after gin, herrings and cheese. It was at this point, that Piet van der Coolen took notice.

After conducting some preliminary research on the tulip market, and gathering his financial resources, Piet was ready to make a significant investment in Tulip bulbs. And so he did, on February 2, 1637, allocate a substantial portion of his savings.

Standardized price index for tulip bulb contracts 1636-1637, created by Earl Thompson

As you can see from the chart above, his cooling powers were strong. Within a day, the most Devastating Asset Decline (DeAD) of all time began only one day later. While the chart doesn’t contain data after May 1, 1637, trust me, the prices never recovered.

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