Michael Jackson Paid How Much for the 'Gone With the Wind' Oscar?
Find out how much Oscars statues cost, where they're made and traded on the gray market.
The 2023 Academy Awards are taking place Sunday, March 12, which means dozens of lucky showbiz types are about to enter that very exclusive club of Oscar winners. The Academy has handed out more than 3,000 of its prized statuettes since the first Oscars ceremony in 1929, and while many of those recipients are some of the world’s most famous actors and actresses, little is known about Oscar himself. If you’re curious about Hollywood’s most coveted curio, we’ve rounded up all the stats on Academy Award statues for you below.
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How much is an Oscar statue worth?
According to the Academy, its highest honor is worth a lowly buck! That’s because the group’s own regulations state that any Oscar awarded after 1950 cannot be sold by its recipient or his or her heirs without first offering to sell it back to the Academy for $1; run afoul of that rule and you may have to forsake your Oscar altogether.
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Do people ever sell their Oscars?
Oscar trophies that were handed out before 1950 get sold aplenty—and for a lot more than a mere dollar. Deadline has noted that magician David Copperfield, for example, turned a tidy profit when he paid $232,000 in 2003 for the Oscar won by Casablanca director Michael Curtiz in the 1940s, then auctioned it off for more than $2 million 10 years later.
Hollywood auteur Steven Spielberg, meanwhile, has made a habit of buying up old Oscars, then returning them to the Academy as his way of “preserving film history.” He plunked down $578,000 at a 2001 auction to buy Bette Davis’ Best Actress statue for the 1938 romantic drama Jezebel, then bought the other Oscar that Davis won for 1935’s Dangerous the following year. The hit director also purchased Clark Gable’s Academy Award for It Happened One Night—and donated all of those trophies back to the Academy.
And one of the highest amounts ever paid for an Oscar was the $1.5 million Michael Jackson (a known movie buff!) plunked down for the Best Picture Oscar won by producer David O. Selznick for 1939’s Gone With the Wind. After Jackson’s death, his estate reported in 2016 that they don’t know what happened to that piece of memorabilia.
Are Oscars ever sold illegally?
As for post-1950 Oscars, Forbes once estimated that about 75 of them have allegedly been sold in “gray-market sales” on the down-low.
Are Oscar statues made of real gold?
Like so much about Hollywood, Oscar’s golden beauty is only skin deep. Today’s Oscars are “solid bronze and plated in 24-karat gold,” according to the official Oscars website. Also, fun fact: “Due to a metal shortage during World War II, Oscars were made of painted plaster for three years.”
How much does it cost to make an Oscar?
Numerous outlets have estimated that, based on the value of bronze and gold, each statue is worth about $400.
Where are the Oscars made?
Far away from Tinseltown, believe it or not! “New golden statuettes are cast by UAP Polich Tallix fine art foundry in New York’s Hudson Valley,” Oscars.org reports. More specifically, Polich Tallix is located about 70 or so miles north of New York City in the teensy hamlet of Rock Tavern (population: 2,034). However, the UAP Polich Tallix website notes that they’ve only been in charge of hammering out Oscar statues since 2015; for decades prior, the keepsakes were “manufactured at a Chicago trophy company where they were cast in britannia metal and gold plated.” And way back in the day, Oscars were indeed made in California.
How much does an Oscar weigh?
“A robust 8½ pounds,” according to Oscars.org. For reference, that’s about the same as a gallon of milk or water.
How big is an Oscar?
From Oscars.org again: “Oscar stands 13½ inches tall.”
Why is the Academy Award called the Oscar?
Film folklore has it that Margaret Herrick, who served as the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science's first-ever librarian (and eventually its executive director), remarked sometime in the 1930s that the statuette "resembled her Uncle Oscar." The Academy officially adopted the "Oscar" moniker in 1939, but the statue's full, technical name remains the "Academy Award of Merit."