Some Exhorbitant Displays of Wealth in History

By   June 3, 2014

Obama-bucks-animated-money-gifThese days, it has become increasingly more popular and the “in thing” for those who have considerable amounts of wealth, to flaunt it. Money is globally considered to be a status symbol – the more of it you have, the higher your social standing generally is. While that in itself is quite a debate to be enjoyed, it is one which we will not be delving into today. Instead, we will be focusing on the incredible (and often ridiculous) spending habits in the old days which have become notably infamous.

These days it has become a lot easier to flaunt wealth – for those who choose to do so. All it takes for people to sit up and take notice of you is to purchase a big, fancy house; as well as the now-mandatory matching His ‘n Hers exotic sports cars to complete your “image”. To instantly add further status, always be sure to book the most expensive table at the most expensive restaurant in town – needless to say, you will get noticed. Love yourself a healthy dose of the nightlife? Nothing will get you into the VIP section faster than whipping out a platinum (or better yet, black) credit card. Yes folks, money talks – and the world listens.

credit cardsWhile these glamorous lifestyles are often quite desirable – especially if its beyond the means of the ordinary, Everyday Joe – they surprisingly pale in comparison to how money got spent in the old days. You’ve just bought yourself a penthouse apartment, complete with its own fancy swimming pool? Well, try purchasing an entire hotel – then come tell us about it. Without further ado, here are some of the most outrageous public displays of incredible wealth – and what it takes for you to achieve such levels of financial freedom and security!
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  • EDWARD HUGHES BALL HUGHES (1798 – 1863)

Golden Ball HughesAs far as big spenders go, Edward Hughes Ball Hughes (confusing, yes we know – he was more commonly known as “Golden Ball Hughes”) certainly ranks right up there with the best of them. Golden Ball Hughes was an early 19th century dandy who began making a name for himself in upper social circles, thanks to him inheriting £40,000 a year in 1819 at the tender age of 23. For those who aren’t familiar with the term “dandy”, it’s basically a male who places particular importance upon their physical appearance; makes use of refined upper-crust language, and frequently indulges in leisurely hobbies – despite coming from a middle-class background.

Thanks to his newfound wealth, Golden Ball Hughes was able to indulge in the finer things in life on a frequent basis – although, “indulge” may be a bit of an understatement. He famously bought as many fancy clothes as possible, cramming them all inside a huge house which he had purchased. He also enjoyed hunting, and was rarely seen without a massive entourage of servants, all carrying Hughes’ guns, food and wine with them on his expeditions. Everyone has their vices, and unfortunately for Hughes his was gambling. Quite the addict, he would frequently bet large sums of money on the most idiosyncratic of things – right down to the flip of a coin. While most gambling addicts enjoy their fair share of success in relation to the amount of losses, Hughes lost frequently – and quite spectacularly while he was at it. So much so in fact, that the locals issued a warning to the young man in 1824 to alert him to the questionable company he was keeping; citing how those close to him would constantly take advantage of his great wealth and inherent naivety, and how he would stand to lose his entire fortune if he kept said company. In response to this, he promptly went ahead and lost £45,000 in a single evening whilst gambling. You don’t think that’s too bad of a loss? Well, adjusted for inflation, that amount these days is the equivalent to £37,000,000 – now that is indeed a massive loss! After this huge setback, Golden Ball Hughes fled to Paris in a bid to escape having to pay his debts, and lived a quiet, comfortable existence until he passed away in 1863.

  •  EMPEROR CALIGULA (12 A.D – 41 A.D)

Emperor CaligulaJust because this emperor’s terrible reign was virtually at the dawn of time, it doesn’t mean that his spending habits were any less exorbitant – even by today’s standards. Emperor Caligula (real name Gaius) was a distant relative to Julius Caesar, who was the Roman emperor from 37 A.D up until 41 A.D, when he died. While he may have indeed been an Emperor, his wasn’t a particularly noble reign. Many stories have surfaced over the years about Caligula’s mental instability, his wild sex parties (hey, “When in Rome” and all that), even his attempts at trying to make his horse a consul – but many don’t often recall his crazy spending habits.

Emperor Caligula loved gold. So much so, in fact, that one could say he became obsessed with the precious metal. At one point, the Emperor commanded his servants to pile up his gold reserves for one simple reason: He wanted to roll around in the gold, and quite literally “swim” in it – apparently, he liked the feeling of the cool precious metal against his skin! As if that wasn’t weird enough, it has also been reported that he went through a phase where he fed his horse (you know, the same one he tried to make a consul) oats mixed with gold. Had you been privileged enough to be a guest of the Emperor, consider yourself to be in luck – he apparently often served his guests loaves of bread made out of solid gold, just to flaunt his wealth! Remember how we made mention earlier about Caligula’s exorbitant spending habits? Well, it has been estimated that in the few years he reigned as Emperor, Caligula spent approximately 27,000,000 gold pieces doing whatever the heck he felt like doing. That’s some seriously deep pockets right there.

  • HOWARD HUGHES (1905 – 1976)

Howard HughesAnother Hughes that cracks the list; although there’s no relation between Golden Ball Hughes and Howard Hughes – thankfully. While both were incredible spenders, Howard Hughes chose to spend his riches in a much more spectacular fashion – but we’ll get to that in a moment. With a father who made his massive fortune in the oil drilling industry before passing away, young Hughes gained access to the entire fortune when he was only 19. He subsequently had a court declare him to be a legal adult, and promptly used his newly-acquired wealth to purchase every single share in his father’s profitable business empire – Hughes Tool Company – making him the absolute owner. Seeing as he was a tad bit “wet behind the ears” as far as business savvy goes, he handed over control of the company to a trusted friend who could steer it in the right course, while Hughes went off to enjoy life to the fullest.

An immensely talented individual, Hughes displayed a great love for anything mechanical. During his younger years though, he decided that he would like to pursue his dream of making movies – which he did to great success, and which simply added to his already-huge fortune. He also established Hughes Aircraft, an aerospace engineering company, seeing as he was an avid aviator – he set numerous records, including a transcontinental airspeed record for flying non-stop from Los Angeles to Newark. When World War II broke out, Hughes purchased an airline company, and when the war ended he purchased a film studio as well. By the early 1960’s, Howard Hughes was one of the richest people on the face of the planet – no mean feat, with a fortune purported to reach well into the billions. Sadly though, by the mid-60’s, Hughes’ physical and mental health began to deteriorate – and this is where his exorbitant spending began in earnest. In 1966, he very calmly explained to one of his aides that he wished to be a single owner of the most amount of properties in the gambling capital – making reference to Las Vegas. The next day, Hughes arrived in Sin City via railroad car – still in his pajamas – and rented a room on the top floor of the Desert Inn. After staying there for nearly a month and refusing to leave, Hughes made the call to purchase the hotel to avoid any conflict with the owner. That was the beginning of his property acquisitions; he went ahead and purchased another six casinos – including the Silver Slipper, which he purchased purely because he didn’t like the location of the sign and wished to change it – he claimed it kept him up at night, as he had a clear view of it from his penthouse window.

As Hughes’ condition worsened, his behavior became increasingly hermit-like and erratic. One night while watching television, he was dismayed to find that there was nothing to watch – so the next day he purchased the television station, just to ensure that they would show the movies he wanted to watch at night. Eventually though, Hughes passed away after moving out of Las Vegas to an island he had purchased, staying exclusively in the penthouse of the Xanadu Princess Resort. It was calculated that Hughes had spent $300,000,000 on his Las Vegas acquisitions – barely dipping into his billions!

  • PABLO ESCOBAR (1949 – 1993)

Pablo EscobarProbably – or perhaps, undoubtedly – the biggest spender of them all, Colombian kingpin Pablo Escobar’s wealth was nearly impossible to calculate. As in, he had a staggering degree of wealth. At the height of his cocaine-dealing business, Escobar was literally writing off a billion dollars every year to either rats gnawing away at stacks of cash, water damage, or it simply getting lost – his annual profit was estimated to be $20 billion every year! Because his was a cash business, transporting and storing all his money soon became an issue. Escobar solved this issue by using trucks and Lear jets to transport his money, and when he ran out of space to store it, he would pay people in Medellin (they saw him as their modern-day Robin Hood) to store his money in their walls – anything upwards of $5,000,000 per home.

Even when he started to feel the pinch from the long arm of the law, Escobar’s spending never slowed down – according to his son, while Escobar was on the run from police he hid out in the wild, literally burning millions of US dollars just to stay warm! His greatest display of wealth though (besides his incredibly lavish lifestyle and homes, as well as his charitable nature), came in the form of him eventually being captured by Colombian officials. After being taken into custody, Escobar offered to settle the entire debt of Columbia – an estimated $10 billion – in cash, out of his own pocket, if the officials would simply let him loose. They refused.
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