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No. 579: Periodic Table: 50 Tin

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Periodic Table: 50 Tin

First | Previous | 2017-05-17 | Next | Latest

Strip by: David Morgan-Mar

T-Rex: T-Rex presents The Periodic Table:
T-Rex: 50 TIN
T-Rex: A silvery metal, alloyed with copper to make bronze. From 1956 to 1985 the price of tin was artificially set by the International Tin Council, using a stockpile to control price fluctuations.[1]
T-Rex: In 1985 their stockpile ran out, triggering a tin crisis.[2]
Utahraptor: That's very interesting!
T-Rex: Yep. Tin has the highest interestingness to letters ratio of any element!
T-Rex: Suck it, Rutherfordium!

The author writes:

[1] This really is quite fascinating. Tin is the only mineral commodity to have had its price artificially controlled in this way. Basically, while every other industrial metal was traded globally on a free market during the 20th century, tin was unique in being artificially controlled by a cartel.

[2] Alas, I didn't read the entire history of the International Tin Council before writing this comic. They didn't run out of their stockpile at all - quite the opposite in fact. In the 1980s, due to widespread global adoption of alternative materials such as aluminium, demand for tin fell dramatically. In order to maintain the price (at what was an artificially inflated level compared to what the free market price would have been), the Tin Council attempted to buy up as much tin as it could, to reduce supply. However, they ran out of money, and thus collapsed. The result was a crash in the tin price.

Tin also has a bunch of interesting chemical properties, but really, it's historical stuff like this that really makes it fascinating.