Look at what has happened to the scarcity of antimony over the past 100 years. (aside: antimony is a metal that when used as an alloy can substantially harden materials, it is commonly used in batteries and in semi-conductor production among myriad other uses)
The top chart adjusts nominal antimony prices to account for the general rise in prices since 1900 using a measure of the CPI’s broad inflation index. The bottom chart takes a different approach to adjust the antimony data. It looks at the hourly wage of a typical manufacturing worker and asks how many hours would a typical worker need to work in order to secure a unit of antimony (note that the 2009 data is my estimate based on monthly average spot prices for antimony)
(note, I imputed the hourly wages for 1915-1918). Antimony data from USGS, CPI data from BLS and wage data from Historical Statistics of the United States and BLS.
By any metric, the scarcity of antimony is no higher today (in fact, it is much lower) than it was over 100 years ago, even as human consumption of tin has rocketed with economic growth and population growth. In real terms, antimony prices have increased by only 2.4% since 1900 from $5,370 per metric ton to $5,500 per metric ton today. In 1900, it took a typical manufacturing worker 975 work hours to secure himself a ton of antimony. Today, a similar worker would only have to work 275 hours to get it – a decrease of over 71 percent over the course of the century. And as I will show you, these are lower bounds for just how scarce antimony really has become. Antimony prices would have to rise to $19,467 per metric ton to make it just as hard for a typical worker to get it today as it was in 1900. Alternately, if tin prices remain unchanged, the typical worker would have his pay slashed to $5.60 per hour in order to be in a position that his 1900 counterpart was in.
But this is just antimony, right? Here is the previous entry in the series.