A Brief History of Deal Toys

Lauren Deegan

More than a few successful bankers proudly display toy-like plastic objects on their desks. Such deal toys represent the meeting of pop art and big business, and they are only given to the most important players in significant deals.

In some ways, it’s a marvel that professionals who work for some of the biggest money movers in the world are delighted to receive such playful objects. To understand why finance pros are mad about deal toys, we turn to the history of these modern-day commemoratives.

Deal Commemoration in the Old Days

Commemorative trinkets have long been used by the upper strata in the finance business. Objects such as crystal bowls and engraved clocks have gone out of vogue for commemorating deals, but they were once an important part of the business world.

With the introduction of easy-to-mold plastics in the 1950s, the market in commemorative objects largely shifted to what are still known as Lucite tombstones.

These so-called tombstones were simply blocks of Lucite with an embedded sheet that contained the pertinent details of a big financial transaction and were often simply reprints of newspaper ads on heavier paper. The name for these objects came from tombstone paper advertisements that Wall Street executives ran in order to announce deals. That is, until the federal government intervened.

Things changed when designers learned to embed clear, printed sheets of acetate in Lucite. Announcements were no longer bound to paper or miniature deal books. Suddenly, the names of principals and transaction details could float in thin air. For designers, it meant that the Lucite tombstone could be more than just a block. It could take on a variety of shapes, and textual details could be made to fit each unique design.

A New Order of Deal Toys Emerges

At first, these new capabilities were embraced primarily to free text from the bounds of the printed sheet. Designers became more confident doing this leading to many design advancements. They started to play with the block form and toyed with discarding it altogether.

One early Lucite tombstone, now called a deal toy, was cut in the shape of the Liberty Bell and was finished with a realistic crack. Another featured two brass balls suspended in a clear block. These toys began to encapsulate the bankers and financiers ambitions in designs that would suite each unique accomplishment.

A line of deal toys that emerged after Don McDonald & Sons built out advanced designs that represented true pop art renderings of the financial world.

Sometimes kitschy and other times abstract, deal toys started to encapsulate more than the bare details of the Lucite tombstone. They began to capture the spirit of a big transaction. In these newfound designs, one could see objects of giddy remembrance.

cristaux-deal-toy

That’s still how deal toys work today. Each design carefully reflects the key players, nature and importance of a financial deal. Because Lucite and acrylic can be poured at room temperature, practically anything can be embedded in a deal toy. These plastics can also be made into an array of shapes, meaning deal toys can essentially change like chameleons.

The designers at Cristaux love taking deals and modernizing them with advanced processing and an array of available materials. Ranging from the traditional tombstone to a modernized design, Cristaux can see a vision to its fullest potential.