How Transaction Tombstones Differ from Deal Toys

March 5, 2024 by David Parry
transaction tombstones

“Transaction tombstones” is one of a medley of terms that are roughly similar in meaning. They include “financial tombstones”, “deal gifts”, “deal tombstones”, “cubes”, and “corporate tombstones”.

There is a common denominator among these terms. They all refer to gifts or awards, typically highly customized in their design and usually made of crystal, Lucite, resin, or wood, that commemorate and celebrate financial transactions.

But there are also subtle differences between what these terms signify. Transaction tombstones, for example, have a different connotation than the term that is by far the most prominent and recognizable in what’s known as the financial recognition industry.

That dominant term is “deal toy”.

So what exactly is the difference between transaction tombstones and deal toys?

Lucite Transaction Tombstone

Some of the financial recognition industry’s terminology is a holdover from its early days—when commemoratives were overwhelmingly made of Lucite and fashioned in very basic shapes like cubes.


Transaction Tombstones and Terminology

Like many industries, the financial recognition industry has retained much of the language of its early history.

And like many industries, it has retained some of that terminology long after its initial, or intended meaning has ended.

One particular term comes immediately to mind. It derived from the simple, austere newspaper advertisements that for decades once grimly announced the completion of deals.

The resemblance of these ads to grave markers gave rise to a term—one that still seems at odds with their celebratory purpose: “tombstones”.

Similarly, “Lucites” as a generic term for all deal toys also has its origins in the industry’s early days.

Though crystal has largely eclipsed it in the past decade, Lucite was once, and by a significant margin, the material of choice for celebrating deals.

The term “cubes” as in deal cubes—also takes its origins from decades past. Cube shapes, especially ones containing a miniature prospectus booklet of a stock or bond issue fanned out inside Lucite, tended to be the default design, along with rectangles and other very basic shapes.

Deal toys for lawyers

Lawyers were among the first groups outside investment banking to order “transaction tombstones” and “deal toys” to commemorate successes involving no transaction or deal.


Deal Toys Evolve Beyond the Deal

As the practice of giving out deal toys became more entrenched in the investment banking industry over the years, the term “deal toys” spread to other industries.

Lawyers, for instance, who had traditionally only been on the receiving end of deal toys from investment banks, began to appreciate their usefulness in both brand building and solidifying client relationships.

They began to order their own deal toys. But law firms weren’t simply ordering deal toys when commemorating their advisory work on a transaction.

Only in many cases, there was no deal or transaction—at least in the traditional sense.

Though they commonly used the term deal toys in placing an order, what they were in fact typically celebrating were favorable legal outcomes such as successful verdicts and settlements. For that matter, law firms also tended to use the term “deal toy” to recognize internal achievements, such as those involving pro bono work and summer internships.

Lawyers weren’t the only ones to adopt the term.

Inceasingly over the years, we’ve received requests for “deal toys” to commemorate everything from product launches and groundbreakings to organizational anniversaries and milestones and regulatory approvals.

Similarly, clients requesting “cubes” don’t necessarily want that specific geometric shape.  Just as those asking for “Lucites”  often actually have in mind a design made of an entirely different material like crystal.

And those requesting deal toys aren’t necessarily looking to celebrate a deal.

Tombstones in a Deal Toy World

So where does that leave the term “transaction tombstones”?

We still typically hear and see it used with respect to the kind of traditional bread-and-butter transactions that investment banks originally sought to commemorate with deal toys.

Those transactions include mergers and acquisitions, financings, public offerings, and private placements—to name just a few.

So as much as “deal toys” may have become a generic, all-encompassing term, “transaction tombstones” is still very much in usage.

Transaction Tombstones at The Corporate Presence

At The Corporate Presence, we’ve been providing transaction tombstones for over 40 years.

And during that time, we’ve learned not to be too literal-minded. We recognize that clients requesting “Lucites” might actually want (or be better suited for) commemoratives in crystal, wood, or some other material. And that clients requesting “cubes” are necessarily insisting on a design with six square faces.

Whatever it is you’re commemorating—and whatever terminology you use—you can count on us to steer you to a memorable design that will have high perceived value among recipients. That’s the very reason tombstones, by any name, continued to have enduring appeal over a number of decades.

Get started on your project. Reach out to us today.

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