The Evolution of the Deal Toy

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.

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