Rare Opportunity to Buy an Oscar

Wanna buy an Oscar? Because of a rule established in 1950 by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which allows the organization to buy back unwanted statues for $1 before the public gets a shot, the opportunity to purchase an actual Oscar is extremely rare. But in December, Sotheby's will be auctioning one off, and it's a doozy: the only Academy Award won by Orson Welles, which he earned for the screenplay to "Citizen Kane." And given its mysterious history, you might call this one the Rosebud of Oscars.

Welles won the award in 1942, making it exempt from the Academy's rule. But in 1988, his daughter Beatrice informed the Academy that the original statue had been lost prior to Welles's death three years earlier. She asked for, and received, a replacement, under the condition that she could never sell it. But then in 1994, the original suddenly appeared on the auction market. The seller was a cinematographer friend of the late filmmaker, who claimed that Welles gave it to him as a gift. Beatrice took the man to court, won back the original Oscar, then tried to sell it herself—and was taken to court by the Academy, where she won again. She sold the original to a private purchaser in 2003, and now the current owner is selling it for charity. Estimated value: $800,000 to $1.2 million. How does the statue look after changing hands so often? "It's worn around the shoulders and back, like someone held it a lot to thank the Academy," says Leila Dunbar, director of collectibles at Sotheby's. Now, for the right price, you can do the thanking.

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