They say you can’t “buy” an Oscar, but that would be a lie. As they do every year, the studios just spent millions in pursuit of them, and Hollywood’s elite seem to covet them more than their first-born. But exactly how much is an Oscar worth? If Tuesday’s latest Nate D. Sanders auction is any indication, it’s a lot.
Screenwriter Charles MacArthur’s 1935 “Academy First Award”, won at the 8th Annual Academy Awards for Best Story for The Scoundrel, sold today for $106,231 While not anywhere near a record for an Oscar statuette, it’s pretty remarkable considering this one was tarnished and had a cracked head and base as well as visible repair done to a break at the ankles. This ‘ol Oscar clearly had weathered a few storms since being presented to MacArthur (he shared the credit with Ben Hecht) on March 5, 1936. The fact it did not come for a major classic film or wildly famous recipient makes the sale even more impressive.
In case any more recent winners are looking to make a fast buck for their Oscar, be warned that a sale like this for any Oscar post-1950 is completely illegal. That is when the Academy started making winners sign an agreement that they or their heirs could not sell their Oscar without first offering it back to the Academy for the paltry sum of $1. Of course, this hasn’t stopped the practice even for those statuettes, and it has been estimated that at least 200 Oscars have been sold in the past and I would guess that a great number of them are post-1950. With this kind of black market in Oscar statuettes, it is obvious that not everyone with the coveted gold man on their mantel actually won it — or was at least related to a winner. But while the Academy may frown, the business of buying and selling Oscars, even as damaged as MacArthur’s, is still a very big one. (more…)