An Academy Award is the most prestigious accolade someone in the film industry can earn. It commands respect and esteem. But the statuette itself is only worth $1.
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which hosts and coordinates the awards each season, has strict rules regarding the statuettes. The official regulations state that winners cannot sell their Oscar without first offering to sell it back to the Academy for $1, which makes each one worth a mere $1.
This also applies to family members who inherit Oscars from relatives who have died.
Until a few years ago, the Academy asked for $10 per statue if a previous winner or their heirs wished to let go of an Oscar. But that changed in 2015, when the statue won by Joseph Wright for "My Gal Sal" in 1942 ended up in the hands of Nate D. Sanders, who bought it from Briarbrook Auctions for $79,200. Wright's nephew, Joseph Tutalo, had consigned the Oscar to Briarbrook in 2014.
The Academy sued Briarbrook to enforce its $10 rule, which had been added in 1951.
Although Wright earned the award before the rule was created, a Los Angeles court ruled on the side of the Academy because Wright had kept his membership current through 1951.
"Wright's continued membership in the Academy was predicated on his agreement to the new right of first refusal in its bylaws," wrote Los Angeles Superior Court judge Gail Ruderman Feuer in an opinion reported by The Hollywood Reporter. "As of 1951, Wright was free to leave the Academy and sell his Oscar on the free market, but instead decided to retain his membership subject to the new bylaws."
The lawsuit was significant because it upheld the Academy's wishes that the statuettes never become a common "article of trade." Selling them would "diminish the value of the Academy's Award of Merit, signified by the Oscar statuette," Dawn Hudson, now the CEO of the Academy, said in a statement to The Hollywood Reporter.
The Academy later dropped the price down to a single dollar.
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