Financial History Issue 116 (Winter 2016) - Page 10
THE TICKER CONNEC TING TO COLLEC TIONS
Bull Market Baubles: Deal Toys
and the Culture of Wall Street
By Sarah Poole
as Lehman Brothers, even hired full-time
staff to design their deal toys.
Production of deal toys dropped significantly after the financial crisis of 2008. One
reason is that there were simply less deals
to celebrate. More significantly, however,
is that Wall Street came under heavy criticism from the media and the public for
excessive spending and grandiose culture.
Deal toys specifically have been criticized
as being ostentatious rewards with a hefty
For example, to celebrate a deal involving Universal Studios, J.P. Morgan ordered
a batch of 10 x 15" Lucite dinosaur heads
(referencing Jurassic Park) that cost $300
each. Some deal toys also outwardly
expressed flippant attitudes toward major
financial deals. One Austin Powers-themed
Photo: Robert Dinkelmann
Deal toys, also known as tombstones,
are commemorative toys issued by investment banks to celebrate mergers, initial public offerings (IPOs) and financing. The idea for these desktop souvenirs
evolved from financial “tombstone advertisements” that commonly appeared in
newspapers as early as the 19th century.
Tombstone ads lacked images or flourish and would be formatted to fit into the
width of a single column. This format was
commonly used to announce IPOs and
other financial transactions.
In the 1960s, banks began commemorating these announcements by placing
them within clear slabs of a new type of
plastic called Lucite. Lucite is a trademark
name for polymethyl methacrylate, a hard
plastic that can be molded and colored
and is also resistant to weathering. Industrially, Lucite is used to make components
such as aircraft windows, boat windshields
and car taillights.
Although tombstones started out as
simple slabs, they quickly progressed into
more colorful and whimsical designs.
Many bankers collected these toys, which
served as status symbols and subtle marketing for their successful services. Tombstones became so popular that banks
would compete to see who could come
up with the most creative concepts. While
the majority continued to be made of plastics, some firms also incorporated metal,
ceramic and glass deal toys to distinguish
themselves from others. Some firms, such
Three weeks before the stock market crash of 1837, John Pierpont Morgan is born in Hartford, CT.
The sickly baby grows up to become one of the most powerful financiers in American history.
8 FINANCIAL HISTORY | Winter 2016 | www.MoAF.org