A deal toy, or financial tombstone in the finance and investment banking world, is a customized memento or gift that is intended to mark and commemorate the closing of a business deal. These plaques or other types of trophies are typically presented at the closing ceremony or dinner to the issuer and senior third-party advisers of the major financial transactions as a souvenir. Other common names for a deal toy include: deal gift, lucite, lucite tombstone, or financial tombstone.
The deal toy is the marriage of a design with the tombstone advertisement, a term that dates to the late 19th century, when printers used it to refer to "column-width newspaper ads run without any illustration or typographical ornamentation,". After the crash of 1929, the Securities Act of 1933 placed strict requirements on the advertisements that banks were allowed to run. Those restrictions meant that the tombstone ad became the format that companies and banks used to publicize financial transactions such as initial public offerings. From at least the late 1960s, law firms and banks produced Lucite slabs that encased the tombstone ads announcing new partner classes. By the late 1960s, banks were commemorating their new partner classes by embedding the partnership announcements in Lucite. The first deal toy was created in the early 1970s. A second world war buff, Mr. McDonald stumbled upon Lucite as the optimal material for crafting deal toys, as it was easy to tool and available in large, cheap quantities after being used for years to make bullet-proof glass for combat planes. Despite having reservations about whether bulge-bracket banks would be interested in his wares, Mr. McDonald says most of them were surprisingly “enthusiastic”, since buying the more traditional high-end client gifts from places like Tiffany’s was seen as prohibitively expensive. Don retired in 1984 and sold the family business to his two sons, who kept their headquarters in New York City. In 2009 Altrum Group was founded to bring together 3 leading deal gift companies: Don McDonald Group, Icon Recognition, and Gifted Portfolio. In 2014, Altrum Honors was the global leader in sales of deal toys.
A plaque, paperweight, or other trophy that is designed to commemorate a financial transaction is commonly called a deal toy. This memento is described as an ad hoc creation to a financial offering or other major investment banking transaction and is most often presented at the closing ceremony of the deal.
This souvenir typically includes the names and/or logos of the firms for which the transaction is completed (the recipients), description of the transaction (type, size and, date of the deal) as well as the names and or logos of the key financial advisors and financiers involved in that transaction. Because the recipients of the award are the clients of the advisors and financiers, the award also acts as a marketing tool for the presenter long after the transaction has passed.
As deal toys became used within investment banking industry, they also became a point of pride—and competition-with firms frequently seeking to outdo each other with creative and elaborate designs.
The banking crisis of 2008 caused many financial firms to reign in spending generally, and on deal toys specifically. Though many financial firms have recently eased restrictions on tombstone budgets, they largely have not been restored to pre-crisis levels. Average order size, which had ranged between 50-60 pieces prior to 2008, had by 2013 stabilized at around 20-30. Order quantities can still reach approximately 50 or 60 for larger transactions.
There are many ways to make deal toys, the most common material used is acrylic due to its versatility and price; however, crystal, resin, faux stone, wood, metal, and glass are used. Prices of these deal toys vary based on size, type of material(s) used and the amount of customization.
One of the exclusive characteristics of acrylic is that it is one of the most optically clear materials available, even more so than glass, and it weighs about half as much as glass. Acrylic is resistant to many elements, including sunlight, rain, snow, pollutants and many chemicals. And because it’s a thermoplastic, it can be heated and formed into many different shapes.
Embedding in solid acrylic is a popular practice employed to showcase various objects. Different materials can be embedded, including paper, clear acetate, computer chips or even cast metal objects. Custom molds provide the acrylic block with its form. The liquid acrylic is poured into the mold. The objects are then placed in the acrylic. Various shapes are available, such as rectangular, cube, triangular, etc.
Deal toys are generally considered to be prized by the recipient, indicating achievement. Deal toys possessed by an individual can also serve as a reflection of his or her status, as they indicate the number of transactions they have been involved. They are displayed to help persuade future clients to work with a firm on their transaction.
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