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How much is an Oscar worth?

An Oscar winner is not allowed to sell their statuette without first offering it back to the Academy for $1.

Should you ever come across an Academy Award on eBay, there’s a good chance it shouldn’t be there. That’s because Oscar winners aren’t allowed to sell their statuettes without first offering them back to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for the nominal fee of $1, which is meant to maintain their prestige. As the Academy’s official regulations explain, honorees “have no rights whatsoever in the Academy copyright or goodwill in the Oscar statuette or in its trademark and service mark registrations” and “shall not sell or otherwise dispose of the Oscar statuette, nor permit it to be sold or disposed of by operation of law” before first giving the Academy the chance to buy it back. Presumably, the Academy always accepts that $1 offer in order to protect the brand, though it’s not clear how often, if ever, it’s actually happened. 

The rule is strictly enforced, with winners having to sign a contract before taking possession of their statuette. It also applies to their family members and descendants. Not everyone has abided by it, however. To take just one example: The trophy awarded to art director Joseph C. Wright, who won for his work on 1942’s My Gal Sal, was sold to an auction house for $79,200 in 2015. This led to the Academy winning a lawsuit enforcing the rule — and likely discouraging any future honorees from trying to break it.

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