Toys for Titans: How Wall Street Celebrates Its Deals

Lauren Deegan

Big activity is back on Wall Street, and with it comes the most curious of things. The market might still suffer from tremors, but bankers are optimistic. Their reignited love for the deal toy more than proves it. Trophies used to celebrate the biggest deals, these toys range from the traditional Lucite tombstone to fun, modern designs. To the uninitiated, deal toys seem like strange trinkets that hardly have a place on a banker’s desk. To the initiated, though, they represent more than their plastic forms express at first glance.

The Deal Toy: A Taste of Success

The deal toys that tend to grace offices in financial institutions today were pioneered in the ’70s and ’80s. An offshoot of older tombstone-style commemoratives, their sole purpose is to recognize significant participation in a big financial deal. Deal toys have traditionally held all of the details of a particular transaction, but abstract forms aren’t unheard of either. They are for the financial world what certificates of recognition are in much of the rest of the business world, and earning them is a point of pride for many professionals.

That doesn’t mean that the deal toy is infallible. Despite the important role that deal toys and Lucite tombstones have long served in financial institutions, they can never be bigger than the markets that they celebrate. This means that a bad year on Wall Street is generally a bad year for deal toys too, and that became apparent during the financial crisis of the mid-2000s. Bankers were struggling to make it instead of closing big deals. For many there simply wasn’t much to celebrate. Some big banks even phased out deal toys altogether, believing them to be artifacts of a foregone time.

Turning Around the Crisis in Toys

Could it be true, though, that the deal toy’s 15 minutes of fame had expired? Some financial analysts said so, but we were more optimistic. After all, the culture and achievements that deal toys celebrate can’t be defeated by one economic recession. Like the bankers whose desks they adorn, these fascinating objects of business and art have rebounded with the market. Even on stressful days when the Dow quakes, deal toys sit calmly on desks around the world, a reminder that things are turning around.

Of course, there’s no doubt that some things in the market have changed forever. Financial executives and bankers have to be more creative about how they work. That means that the deal toys they buy need to reflect an increased degree of creativity too. From specialty fonts to carefully matched colors to forms that reflect their function, deal toys are dynamic, unique mementos of challenging financial transactions. What they do goes beyond simple recognition and appreciation. It reaches down to core values. That’s why deal toys are often used to communicate messages about character, motivation and other intangible qualities.

Perhaps more than anything, deal toys represent highly branded bragging rights. They’re an inside joke; a token of having been a key player at the right place and time. Because they’re meant to capture something significant, the financial leaders who order them almost always eschew generic solutions. After all, brokering a big deal often means tossing aside generic thinking and getting creative. The same type of outside-the-box thought goes into every deal toy that leaves our facilities here at Cristaux. Our clients do big things, and we celebrate them with enormously creative deal toys. It’s an insider tradition that we simply love.