In Japan, since the Second Sino-Japanese War, the substitutes for metal commodities have been produced by using non-metallic materials for saving metal for civilian demand. The metal substitutes give us a typical example to investigate how our lives change in an era of shortage. The aim of this paper is to explore the diversity and transition of the metal substitutes throughout the Second Sino-Japanese and Asia-Pacific Wars, focusing on thumbtacks as a representative of the metal commodities. To achieve this aim, I collected the real objects, and compiled the information on them along with the literature information from books, newspaper articles, patents, etc.
The following conclusions are obtained: (1) the thumbtacks in pre-war time had been manufactured mainly from copper or iron alloys, and the substitutes for the metal thumbtacks were produced from the beginning of the Second Sino-Japanese War; (2) the substitute thumbtacks were manufactured from a very wide variety of materials such as celluloid, phenol resin, casein resin, vulcanized fiber, bamboo, wood, cardboard, and gramophone disks; (3) in a rough division, the celluloid, phenol-resin, and casein-resin thumbtacks were produced during the Second Sino-Japanese War, while the vulcanized-fiber, wooden, and gramophone-disk thumbtacks were produced during the Asia-Pacific War; (4) it is suggested that the diffusion of these substitutes was increased during the Asia-Pacific War, due to the shortage of existing metal thumbtacks.