It is often said that saffron is worth its weight in gold because it is so difficult and labor-intensive to cultivate and harvest. For several weeks every fall, the crocus sativus flower blooms. ... At that moment, saffron producers throw themselves into the harvest. They pick the flowers early in the morning, and on the same day gently tease the bright red, three-filament stigma from each flower and dry them. It takes about 150,000 flowers to produce a kilogram (2.2 pounds) of saffron. ... Little wonder, then, that the precious powder has spawned a trade rife with the kind of deceptions and distortions typical of traffic in gems or illicit drugs: cheap substitutes, diluted shipments, false labeling. ... The turbulence in the saffron market has intensified. The much-anticipated lifting of international financial sanctions against Iran after the nuclear accord last spring has led to brisk saffron speculation inside Iran. (Saffron is several times cheaper here than in Europe, where the retail price can soar to 20,000 euros a kilogram, or about $10,000 a pound).
Ten years ago, high tech observers complained that the nation didn’t have enough bold innovators. There were, of course, wildly profitable high tech firms, but they rarely took creative risks and mostly just mimicked Silicon Valley: Baidu was a replica of Google, Tencent a copy of Yahoo, JD a version of Amazon. Young Chinese coders had programming chops that were second to none, but they lacked the drive of a Mark Zuckerberg or Steve Jobs. The West Coast mantra—fail fast, fail often, the better to find a hit product—seemed alien, even dangerous, to youths schooled in an educational system that focused on rote memorization and punished mistakes. Graduates craved jobs at big, solid firms. The goal was stability: Urban China had only recently emerged from decades of poverty, and much of the countryside was still waiting its turn to do so. Better to keep your head down and stay safe. ... That attitude is vanishing now. It’s been swept aside by a surge in prosperity, bringing with it a new level of confidence and boldness in the country’s young urban techies. ... higher education soared sevenfold: 7 million graduated college this year. The result is a generation both creative and comfortable with risk-taking. ... Anyone with a promising idea and some experience can find money. Venture capitalists pumped a record $15.5 billion into Chinese startups last year, so entrepreneurs are being showered in funding, as well as crucial advice and mentoring from millionaire angels. ... Even the Chinese government—which has a wary attitude toward online expression and runs a vast digital censorship apparatus—has launched a $6.5 billion fund for startups.
In the late 1800s, a surge in silver production made a shift toward a monetary standard based on gold and silver rather than gold alone increasingly attractive to debtors seeking relief through higher prices. The U.S. government made a tentative step in this direction with the Sherman Silver Purchase Act, an 1890 law requiring the Treasury to significantly increase its purchases of silver. Concern about the United States abandoning the gold standard, however, drove up the demand for gold, which drained the Treasury’s holdings and created strains on the financial system’s liquidity. News in April 1893 that the government was running low on gold was followed by the Panic in May and a severe depression involving widespread commercial and bank failures.
When she took it for validation to a used video game store in Charlotte, the young man behind the counter rustled open the plastic bag and beheld the game -- pristine in its cardboard box covered by much of the original cellophane -- coughing the words "Oh my god." He offered her all the money in the register for it. She turned him down. ... Before Stadium Events for the Nintendo Entertainment System came into their lives, Jennifer and her now-husband, Jeff, were scraping by. They lived in a double-wide trailer with a mouse problem and a buckling floor, so close to the Carolina Speedway that the sounds of engines from the dirt track kept them awake at night. ... It is seductive because of its rarity but also a testament to the darker side of a hobby reaching new heights of popularity. ... It isn't a good game. It's a boring game. Released in 1987 by the Japanese company Bandai, Stadium Events was made for a piece of peripheral hardware called the Family Fun Fitness mat. ... Nintendo of America president Minoru Arakawa thought the technology could be huge, so the company purchased the mat and relaunched it as the Power Pad. Stadium Events was then rebranded as World Class Track Meet ... what happened to the Stadium Events that had already been made? Nintendo and Bandai have declined to shed any light on the matter, leaving collectors to speculate.