The Oscar Statuette Is the Most Prestigious Prize in Hollywood | Here’s Why It’s Only Worth $1
Winning an Academy Award is often considered the most prestigious honor you can receive in Hollywood. According to CNBC, earning an Oscar can instantly allow actors to command as much as 20% more money on their next project. But, although taking home the top prize can be career-changing, the trophy itself is worth less than a cup of coffee.
While each trophy reportedly costs over $400 to produce, official regulation of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences states that the winners or anyone else cannot sell it in the market. It mandates that any resale requires for it to be first offered back to the Academy for $1. And if an Oscar winner dies and passes their award down to their children, those heirs must also abide by the same rules and cannot sell or give away the statuette. These rules were first introduced in 1951, and are in place to “preserve the integrity of the Oscar symbol,” the Academy says in its materials.
The Academy’s rules specified in Article 10 that, “Academy Award winners have no rights whatsoever in the Academy copyright or goodwill in the Oscar statuette or in its trademark and service mark registrations. Award winners must comply with these rules and regulations. Award winners shall not sell or otherwise dispose of the Oscar statuette, nor permit it to be sold or disposed of by operation of law, without first offering to sell it to the Academy for the sum of $1.00.″
Previously it had a symbolic value of $10, but it was agreed to lower it to $1. In addition, the aforementioned article also refers to the heirs of the winners, who are prohibited from selling the statuettes. Article 10 was drafted so that the winners are the only ones who can own the statuettes, not those who can just afford to pay for them. All nominees sign a contract prohibiting them from selling their award in the event that they win it. Guardian reported that this rule was ratified in 2015 by a Los Angeles judge, Gail Ruderman Feuer. The judge ruled against auctioneer Nate D Sanders, who had purchased Joseph Wright's 1943 Oscar for My Gal Sal, and upheld the Academy's regulations.
Despite these strict rules, it is estimated that between 150 and 200 statuettes have been sold. Oscars that were awarded prior to the introduction of the rule are technically fair game for collectors. In fact, a number of public figures have bought them. Michael Jackson paid $1.5 million in 1999 for the statuette for Best Picture for Gone with the Wind (1939), according to Hollywood Reporter. Steven Spielberg bought two awards, Clark Gable’s for It Happened One Night (1934) and Bette Davis’ for Jezebel (1938), both for just under $1.5 million, according to Far Out Magazine. Both were donated to the Academy.
Los Angeles Times reported that Magician David Copperfield bought for $232,000 the statuette that Michael Curtiz had won for Best Director for Casablanca (1944). Orson Welles’ family sold the award for best screenplay for Citizen Kane (1942) for close to $800,000. More recently, in 2001, Kevin Spacey bought the award won by George Stoll for the Best Original Score for Anchors Aweigh (1945) for $150,000 and made it available to the Academy.