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Deal toys were the result of the banking industry’s need to create a lasting memento of its achievements. Previously, banks would place tombstone advertisements in newspapers to publicize their achievements. Unfortunately, the newspapers were not visually appealing and were often discarded. The deal toys were in response to the need to develop a more lasting and attractive means of celebrating the completion of a deal. The ads were placed into Lucite blocks and eventually evolved into more complex designs. When the financial industry was at its peak deal making, deal toys were highly popular.

The Fall of the Deal Toy

When the economy was doing well, the deal toy industry did well. At one point, some businesses were spending hundreds of thousands of dollars annually on the tombstones. When the financial crisis occurred, spending on these toys decreased. In 2007, JPMorgan Chase no longer commissioned deal toys. The hard times faced by the financial industry also affected the deal toy industry. Both industries struggled to survive during the financial crisis.

Post-Crisis Banking

It has taken several years, but Wall Street is starting to rebound. The industry that was rather sluggish on deals seems to be making a return to investments. Mergers and acquisitions are at its highest levels since 2007.

In 2014, the banking industry made $1 billion in fees just from initial public offers (IPOs). By March of the same year, Blackstone Group & KKR & Co. negotiated $19.6 billion dollars in transactions. With the market on an upswing, will this mean that there will be a resurrection of the deal toy?

The Return of the Deal Toy

The Corporate Presence is one of the major toy deal companies. Despite the market doing better and an increase in deals, David Parry, director of digital strategy at The Corporate Presence, does not believe that the use of deal toys will return to pre-crisis levels. Parry believes banks are slowly returning to using deal toys to celebrate their accomplishments. In 2014, The Corporate Presence saw a 23 percent increase in revenue. Deal toys may not have the prominence they once had, but they are making a comeback. Deal toys do not only publicize mergers and acquisition. They also highlight the accomplishments of the firm involved in the acquisition.

Deal toys are making a comeback. However, it is unknown if they will return to the level of use they were at before the financial crisis. While the banking industry may be returning to using deal toys, they may not spend as much money as they had in past years. However, there is something to be said about that intangible element that deal toys bring that is worth more their actual cost.

While deal toys may seem like souvenirs found in the offices of businessman and bankers to commemorate their work, they have a long and rich history. The deal toy has existed almost as long as banking itself. In its earliest incarnation, organizations like the Hanseatic League gave silver plates. London banking magnates gifted crystal bowls. Modern deal toys have evolved too much more, but how did this occur?

The Combination of Lucite and the Tombstone Ads

The stock market crash of 1929 caused the U.S. to impose changes to the banking industry. One of these changes affected how banks could advertise. The Securities Act of 1933 no longer allowed banks to place advertisements that used illustrations or any form of adornment. Essentially, banks could now only use tombstone ads. Tombstone ads are column-width, black and white advertisements without any graphics. This was the only format banks could use to publicize an IPO (initial public offering) or any other type of transaction.

The 1930’s also introduced Lucite. Lucite is a shatterproof substance that was used to keep the plane’s cockpit glass. By the 1950’s, Lucite was readily available in stores and crafters began to use this material to encase important mementos. Crafters were not the only group of people who took an interest in Lucite. Resourceful bankers also began to use it.

The Rise of the Dealer Toys

The originator of Lucite dealer toys is not really known. However, in the 1960’s, banks and law firms started to use Lucite slabs as a way to celebrate new partner classes by placing partnership announcements in Lucite. Even though the concept of the deal toy existed long before 1973, many consider Don McDonald to be the creator of the first deal toy. He also played an important role in the development of the of the deal toy industry.

In 1973, Don McDonald, an advertising executive, created a Lucite deal toy for a childhood friend. Realizing the lucrative opportunity; McDonald started Don McDonald & Associates. The company specialized in the creation of deal toys. The start-up evolved into a business with multiple offices around the globe. It even had its own production facility. By the mid 90’s, the business was making 5,000 deal toys a year. Eventually, Altrum Honors Inc. acquired the business.

From Simple Encased Advertisements to Commemorative Art Pieces

Deal toys reached peak popularity in the 1990’s. They were no longer the simple announcements encased in Lucite; they had become highly creative commemorative displays. Philadelphia celebrated a municipal bond by commissioning deal toy. The deal toy depicted a tombstone advertisement inside the silhouette of the Liberty Bell. In 1985, Nabisco and RJ Reynolds commemorated their merger with a Lucite Oreo. The cookie opened to reveal an ad that etched onto the filling.

The deal toy is a way to celebrate the closure of a business deal. What started off as simple advertisements placed in a newspaper is now so much more. Now, deal toys are more creative, more custom and made from a variety of materials and designs.

Initially, Lucite was the only material used to produce deal toys. However, deal toys have evolved to be more than tombstone advertisements encased in Lucite. The creativity of the designs and technology now allow for the creation of these gifts using a variety of materials. The material best suited for your project depends on your design needs and budget. Here are some of the more popular deal toy materials and their characteristics.


Lucite is a clear, transparent material. It is easily manipulated to create different shapes. Known for its smooth, hard surface, it is also the only material that can have an object embedded into it. The versatility of Lucite is what makes it a good material from a design standpoint.


Metal is ideal because it is a durable material. However, it does take a lot of effort and tools to manipulate the metal to achieve a desired result. Different types of metal are used to make deal gifts. Some of the metals include steel, brass, and aluminum. The design may incorporate metal with other materials, or be made entirely from metal.


Next to Lucite, crystal and glass are the second most popular material for deal gifts. Glass and crystal have a beautiful clarity. These materials are ideal for 3D etching on the surface and for tombstones with a standard shape.

Wood and Stone

What makes wood special is the fact that it can make deal toys in variety of shapes. Gifts made from this material take a bit of craftsmanship to transform wood into a work of art. The results are beautiful and will definitely leave the recipient impressed. Stone is another material that you can use for you deal gifts. It also creates an impressive deal toy. You can use it to create the entire deal or use it as a base.

The material you choose to use depends on your desired results. Working with a design specialist can help you match the right material with the design you have in mind. Regardless of the material selected, your deal toy will have a lasting impact on the recipient.

Deal toys are gifts that commemorate the closing of a business deal. They also showcase the work of bankers and can attract future clients. They are typically given out by members of the banking industry and can range from the simple encasement of a tombstone ad to a more elaborate, customized piece. The cost of a deal toy varies and, if allowed, can become quite expensive. Luckily, there are ways to keep deal toys within your budget. Here are a few tips to help you keep the costs of your deal toys from getting out of hand.

The Bigger the Size, the Bigger the Price

Deal toys have evolved from the simple encasement of tombstone ads to complex displays. While deal toys that are larger in size may turn heads, they also require more money. As a general rule, the more square inches the toy, the more it will cost. On average, deal toys tend to be no larger than a grapefruit.

Custom Features

Adding features to a deal toy sets them apart from the others. The materials used, printing methods available and texting options make it easy to create a customized piece. While Lucite is a common material for deal toys, wood, metal and glass are some of the other materials available for use. Air brushing and 3D laser engravings are some of the printing options available. It is important to keep in mind that the more ornate the deal toy, the more expensive it is to produce.

Shape and Number of Pieces

Using a standard shape for your deal toy is another tip to staying within your budget. Standard-shaped deal toys are typically less expensive. These deal toys require less material and labor to produce. Using a standard shape does not alter the quality, or limit the creativity of the deal toy. Ordering in bulk helps to decrease the overall cost of the deal toy. Larger quantities tend to have a lower cost-per-piece. Typically, there is a discount on the cost starting at orders of at least 25 pieces.

Deal toys are a great way to memorialize the successful closure of a deal. They vary in style from the basic encasement of a tombstone ad to larger, more ornate designs. While creativity is often desired for deal toys, it is important to remember that the more ornate deal toys will impact your budget.

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