Historical Returns | Financial Bubbles

Historical Gallery

All of the images in this gallery come from the historical collections of Baker Library at Harvard Business School. They are some of the many artifacts in the library that bring the historic events of the South Sea Bubble to life.

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South Sea Bubble Playing Cards

Two of Diamonds; Successful Investor

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South Sea Bubble Playing Cards, 1721. Bancroft Collection.

You may view the entire deck of cards.

Not everyone was ruined in the South Sea Bubble. As in all financial bubbles, there are also tales of investor success, such as this one from a deck of playing cards published in 1721. Here we see a wealthy landowner who has gambled successfully with his servants' wages and is able to pay them five times their yearly salary with the earnings. Each card in the deck includes an image accompanied by an allegorical quatrain. While most depict investors ruined by loss, or shed light on the deceitful machinations of stock-jobbers, there are a few cautiously optimistic stories.