Tulipmania Takes Over Second Life

by Alphaville Herald on 01/03/06 at 10:28 am

by Dow Jonas


The crocuses aren’t even up in real life yet, but in Second Life, people are going wild about pixelated tulips.

The craze was started two weeks ago by a modest, unassuming but rather prosperous furniture and prefab creator, Desmond Shang of West Trade Imports Ltd., in Alice, who describes himself as an antiques dealer. In a virtual world where nothing is ever very old and nothing can wear out, he assures himself some cachet by making certain items in a limited one-time, non-copyable edition, stamping them with his trademark and the date, and releasing them in limited quantities.

In a world sated with freebies and copies of just about everything bulging the avatar inventories, the exquisite prim-crafted tulips of Desmond Shang have sparked a Tulipmania worthy of the old meaning of the term for creating scarcity and paying high prices in secondary markets. In this case, just by calling something a collectible, Desmond has managed to create a high level of demand for an item with no intrinsic value in itself. And Slers, it seems, are willing to pay.

In a forums post titled “An Unusual Economic Experiment,” Desmond announced he was releasing exactly 100 tulips priced at L$10 each into the wilds of the Second Life economy, and was going to donate the proceeds of L$990 to a worthy cause, the Shelter, a place helping newbies orient to SL. (The meticulous Mr. Shang kept one tulip to verify the original.)


He gave his creations intriguing names like “Scarlet Passion” and “Phantom White” and “Spirit of Flame” and set forums-watchers and formerly AFK camp-chair sitters scuttling all over his hilly property in the PG riverfront sim of Alice in search of the flowers. Some were even spotted camping for hours — days — waiting for the reclusive Shang to log on and be caught stealthily setting out his precious posies.

As dedicated tulip-trackers began to score hits, a brisk trade in the flowers rapidly developed, with first, individuals trying to assemble their collections among fellow tulip-hunters, then some of SL’s existing major floral businesses getting into the act. One enterprising florist, Smuk Zaftig of Treeline in Cub, rapidly aquired the complete set — even the final, Precious Gold — and put them in a dark, lighted showcase replete with a velvet rope and a DO NOT CROSS sign worthy of such valuable items (Cub (177, 210, 89). Currently, they’re not for sale, Smuk told the Herald — evidently he’s waiting for them to increase in value.

Smuk Zaftig’s Tulip Shrine

With the forums overflowing with commentary, Desmond started a TulEx thread where SL businesspeople like Schwanson Shlegel and Prokofy Neva could be seen paying as much as triple or ten times what the tulips originally cost.

Asked by your correspondent whether he planned to issue any other exotic and rare flowers to start a frenzy — the tulip-tracking was immensely popular — Desmond said, “I haven’t any plans one way or the other; I just got a new sim, and it has me extremely busy – fair distribution of the tulips and concern that they might be duplicated somehow did prove to be a huge headache though. :)

Theo Lament, another prominent florist, was offering as much as L$200 or more, he said, for the no. 2 tulip, but then had a change of heart and simply gave away the other tulips he had collected.

Desmond commented in the forums, and to interested bystanders who gathered for the final tulip treasure hunt, that he noticed quite a lot of interesting behavior as the frenzy grew. Suddenly, he had people who wanted to befriend him and trade calling cards — because that would tip them off to when he logged in. A few cheated and used scanners to search his grounds for objects with his name — but he said he had an unnamed surprise for them. At least one person rapidly created an item called an Uber Rare Tulip that was a patent fake, as the stem-leaf ratios, carefully examined, could quickly ascertain (not to mention that the item’s creator wasn’t listed as Desmond Shang).

The tulip began to appear on the collectible shelves of the better homes, even assuming pride of place above the highly-rare and highly-prized *tiny* Jack Linden bear with the earring (not to be confused with the larger-sized, more common Jack Linden bear).


The predictions for such crazes is that they reach a peak within a week or two or so, pricing at even 100 times their original value (L$1,000), then begin to wane, finally to be forgotten, like yesterday’s issue of the Herald.

7 Responses to “Tulipmania Takes Over Second Life”

  1. Cocoanut

    Mar 1st, 2006

    How cute!


  2. Urizenus

    Mar 1st, 2006

    Dunno. They may not fade in value if it’s true that he isn’t making any more. Think of the rare pets on tso. I say those tulips are going for cheap right now (and no, I don’t own any).

  3. One Song

    Mar 1st, 2006

    Is it just me or does SL suck more than ever, where is Plastic Duck’s grid crashings when you need him :( ((. It’s surely alot more fun than collecting tulips. What happened to all the SL politics and all that non-sense? I might join the W-hat officially and help Plastic Duck with his h4x0r1ng skills.

  4. whatever

    Mar 2nd, 2006

    I swear people will buy or look for anything that is ‘Limited Edition’ I could make these in my sleep and give them away for free all day long and they wouldn’t be any worse than these ‘rare special tulips’ created by someone who needed some advertising.

    Some SL’ers are willing to pay because they just have no clue whatsoever and would buy a bag of shit if someone told them it was “Limited Edition”

  5. Plastic Duck

    Mar 2nd, 2006

    I’ll show you mine if you show me yours One Song.

  6. Eboni Khan

    Mar 7th, 2006

    Good Lord, I have to agree with One Song. WTF is wrong with these people?!?!?!!? I think logging into SL knocks your IQ down a few knotches.

  7. Prokofy Neva

    Mar 8th, 2006

    I got one for $25, and I keep looking for the peach but nobody wants to sell. I wouldn’t say this has “taken over” SL but it is one of those obsessive little side passtimes you engage in, like compulsively looking to see if there are any 512 waterfronts available in the first land batches so you can tell newbies to rush and get them.

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