The value of an Oscar is impossible to calculate in economic terms. Acting awards open the doors to any role you want. Technical awards elevate any resume. And to win “best picture” is to immediately become part of the history of cinema.
But the statuette itself has commercial value, especially to Hollywood memorabilia collectors who have bought and sold them for prices ranging from a single dollar to almost two million.
To begin with, no – the statuette is not pure gold. An Oscar is 35 centimeters tall and weighs almost 4 kilos. If they were made of gold, even if they are only 14 carats, each one would cost the Academy about $ 100,000. They are actually forged in bronze at the Polich Tallix studio outside of New York and then plated in 24 karat gold.
In terms of raw material, the Oscar is not worth 20 dollars, but artisan workmanship increases that value to 400. Of course, the forge does not sell replicas to the general public and the design is protected by intellectual property laws. The Academy does not tolerate faithful reproductions, to the point that in 2014 it sued the sculptor Jaime de la Rosa for selling perfect replicas for $ 850. Poor Jaime sold only 9 and had to pay $ 375,000 in damages.
The only way to buy an Oscar is to search for a winner who wants to let theirs go through auction sites. Lately, however, figurines don’t appear frequently in prop auctions and collectibles.
This is because by accepting the Oscar a contract is signed with the Academy that says that the Oscar is worth only $ 10, and that although the winner is authorized to resell his award, he must first offer it to the Academy for it. buy for just one dollar. This rule, in force since 1951, also applies to the winners’ heirs.
Therefore, the Oscars that can be found for sale belong to the period between 1929 and 1951, and yet the Academy must authorize each sale. They are few, and of course, they are very expensive.
The most recent auction took place at the end of 2018. The auction house Profiles in History presented its partners with two Oscars for Best Picture: that of “Mutiny on board”(1936) and “The Light is for Everyone”(1948). The oldest was believed to be the most popular at auction, but it sold for only $ 240,000, while the one in the Gregory Peck reached 492,000.
It is not the highest value that has been paid for an Oscar. In 1999 the award for best film of “Gone With the Wind”(1939) was purchased for about a million and a half dollars – the buyer? Michael Jackson. Unfortunately, after the singer’s death, the Oscar was lost and not even his heirs know where it is. In case they find it this strange story would make the value double.
Steven Spielberg turned out to be another collector of Oscars, acquiring several statuettes at public and private auctions that he later returned to the Academy, despite paying hundreds of thousands of dollars for them.
The Academy authorized the sale of a single Oscar to an individual. In 1947 Harold Russell won an Oscar for his unforgettable performance in “The Best Years of Our Lives,” a postwar drama in which he played a version of himself. Russell had lost both of his hands in combat and the hooks that replaced them were a powerful symbol of a veteran’s difficulty adjusting to civilian life.
In 1992, Russell was in dire financial need and auctioned off his Oscar for $ 60,000. The Academy disagreed, but even the coldest lawyers in Hollywood knew that suing a war veteran with two orthopedic hands would have been their least popular decision ever.
(years after Russell’s death, Bruce Davis, the Academy’s executive director, told the New York Times that the wife actually had no medical problems and they just wanted to go on a cruise – apparently the Academy cares more about the legacy of its statues than that of the people they reward)
The reality is that despite these prices and restrictions, there are dozens of Oscars They have changed hands in the vast black market of Hollywood collectors.
As Jordan Tabach-Bank, owner of a pawnshop in Beverly Hills, says, “Imagine that you are selling an Oscar that is yours but you should not sell, and your neighbor a kilo of cocaine… Who do you think the police are going to look for?”