The Oscar: How It’s Made, and What It’s Worth
Presented by: JMBullion
The “Academy Award of Merit”, more commonly known as an Oscar, has been awarded since 1929. The modern Oscar stands 13.5 inches tall with a weight of 8.5 lbs, and it is made of solid bronze with a electroplated coating of 24-karat gold.
However, the world’s most beloved trophy wasn’t always made this way. Here’s the evolution of how an Oscar is made, and what people are willing to pay to get their hands on one.
The Evolution of the Award
1928: The original Oscar was sculpted by Los Angeles artist George Stanley. The design was based on sketches by MGM art director Cedric Gibbons, who came up with the idea of a knight standing on a reel of film gripping a crusader’s sword.
1929: The first ever Oscar was presented at the initial awards banquet on May 16, 1929 to Emil Jannings for Best Actor. It was made of gold-plated solid bronze.
1930s: The bronze was abandoned in favor of britannia metal, a pewter-like alloy which is then plated in copper, nickel silver, and finally, 24-karat gold.
World War II: Due to a metal shortage, Oscars were made of painted plaster for three years. After the war, the Academy invited recipients to redeem the plaster figures for gold-plated metal ones.
1983: R.S. Owens and Company, a Chicago-based awards manufacturer, takes over the contract to build Oscars.
2016: The Academy announced that New York-based Polich Tallix will help return the statuette closer to its original design.
The New Oscar
Using a cast bronze Oscar from 1929, Polich Tallix artisans have restored subtle features of George Stanley’s original sculpture, which was based on sketches by MGM art director Cedric Gibbons.
This was done by creating a digital scan of the 1929 statuette, and then 3D printed and molded so the form could be cast in wax.
Here’s how each new Oscar is made:
- The modern wax versions are dipped in a ceramic shell slurry for ten coats. Once the shell is cured, it is fired in an oven at 1600° F.
- Bronze at 1860° F is then poured into the hot ceramic shell and allowed to cool overnight.
- The next morning, the bronze castings are broken out of the ceramic shell and the plumbing system that guides the metal into the body of the casting is cut off.
- The castings are then sanded to a mirror polish finish and electroplated with a permanent layer of 24-karat gold by Epner Technology.
- The statuette’s bronze base receives a smooth black patina, which is hand-buffed to a satin finish.
The time required to produce 50 statuettes in this manner is about three months.
“With the help of some 21st century technology, we’re able to honor the Oscar’s proud beginnings,” said Academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs. “The new statuette exemplifies impeccable craftsmanship and the enduring nature of art.”
What’s an Oscar Worth?
Oscars on the open market can command up to millions of dollars. However, this wouldn’t be the case if the Academy had its way.
Since 1950, the Academy has not allowed winners to keep Oscars unless a First Right of Refusal agreement is signed. It stipulates that an Oscar cannot be sold by a winner unless it is offered to the Academy first for the sum of $1.
Here’s what an Oscar is really worth:
According to R.S. Owens, the longtime maker of modern-day Oscars up until this year, the cost to produce one statuette is $400.
Assuming $1,200/oz gold, a standard gold electroplated coat of 15 millionths of an inch thick, and a 2.2 sq. ft surface area, the melt value of the gold coating alone is $57.40.
A hypothetical solid gold Oscar? It would weigh 18 lbs and have a melt value of $330,522.
Stars Hit the Bid
Since 1929, approximately 150 Oscars have been sold on the open market, with around half of them being grey-market sales from the post-1950 era.
Here’s some stars that have bought or bid for Oscars during their careers. All numbers are converted to 2016 USD:
David Copperfield – $299,000
Oscar for Best Director to Michael Curtiz (Casablanca, 1942)
Copperfield bought it in 2003, and kept it in his bedroom. He auctioned it off for over $2 million in 2012
David Copperfield – $907,000 (failed bid)
Oscar for Best Screenplay to Orson Welles (Citizen Kane, 1941)
Copperfield tried to acquire a second Oscar in 2011, but was outbid by a private buyer
Michael Jackson – $2.19 million dollars
Oscar for Best Picture (Gone With the Wind, 1939)
Bought in 1999 for a record price of $1.54 million at the time, Michael paid far higher than the pre-sale estimated price of $300,000.
Steven Spielberg – $917,000
Oscar for Best Actor to Clark Gable (It Happened One Night, 1943)
Spielberg bought the Oscar, and donated it back to the Academy for safekeeping
Steven Spielberg – $773,000
Oscar for Best Actress to Bette Davis (Jezebel, 1938)
Spielberg bought the Oscar, and donated it back to the Academy for safekeepingEmbed This Image On Your Site (copy code below):
Animation: How Billionaires are Preparing for the Next Bear Market
No one likes to lose money, even if you have billions to spare. See how the world’s most elite investors – like Ray Dalio – are protecting themselves.
How Billionaires are Preparing for the Next Bear Market
No one likes to lose money, even if you have billions to spare.
It’s why the prospect of a bear market – a prolonged downturn which sees stock prices fall by at least 20% over two months or more – is something that keeps even the world’s most elite investors awake at night.
To hedge against this concern, the world’s billionaires use a variety of strategies and tactics to protect their wealth, including setting up their portfolios with specific asset allocations that can help soften any blow caused by an extended market downturn.
Today’s animation comes to us from Sprott Physical Bullion Trusts and it highlights a strategy being used by billionaires ranging from Ray Dalio to John Tudor Jones II.
Because market sentiment can change so quickly in the market, these elite investors protect themselves by having diverse portfolios that include uncorrelated assets.
While this sounds complicated, uncorrelated assets are simply investments that don’t move up or down in the same direction as the other asset classes in the portfolio. A small allocation to these uncorrelated items can help protect the value of a portfolio when market sentiment changes.
The King of Uncorrelated Assets
What kind of asset classes can be used for this kind of purpose?
While options like real estate, commodities, and cash can contribute to a more diversified portfolio beyond traditional stocks and bonds, many experts say that gold is the undisputed king of uncorrelated assets.
The price of gold doesn’t usually doesn’t move with the wider stock market – and often, because of its history, the yellow metal can even increase in price during the course of a bear market.
Here are some of the reasons billionaires turn towards an allocation in gold:
- Gold has acted as a store of value for thousands of years
- Gold can lower the volatility of a portfolio
- Gold can act as a hedge against inflation in some scenarios
- Gold is a traditional safe haven asset that investors flock to when the market goes astray
To kick off 2019, a new billionaire jumped onto the gold bandwagon – along with previous advocates such as Ray Dalio, David Einhorn, John Paulson, and John Tudor Jones II.
The newest entry to the club is Sam Zell, the pioneer behind real estate investment trusts (REITs). He bought gold for the first time in January, citing that it is “a good hedge” and that “supply is shrinking” as new mine discoveries dries up.
With market volatility back in the fray, it’ll be interesting to see how many more of the world’s elite investors also jump on the bandwagon.
A Brief History of Jewelry Through the Ages
Jewelry has been coveted for centuries by many different cultures. Here’s a look at the history of jewelry, and how it’s evolved into a $348B industry.
Jewelry has been an integral aspect of human civilization for centuries, but it was the discovery and subsequent spread of precious metals and gemstones which really changed the game.
In today’s infographic from Menē, we visualize how the uses and symbolism of jewelry have evolved across time and space to become the industry we’re familiar with today.
Antique, Yet Ageless
There isn’t a single corner of the world that’s untouched by the influence of jewelry.
- Ancient Egypt
Gold accompanied the affluent into the afterlife – the famous 1922 discovery of King Tutankhamun’s tomb was filled to the brim with gold jewelry.
- Ancient Greece and Rome
Jewelry was used practically, and as a protection against evil. The gold olive wreath design was highly popular during this time.
Both men and women in the Sumer civilization wore intricate pieces of jewelry, incorporating bright gems like agate, jasper, or lapis lazuli.
The aristocracy in Aztec culture wore gold jewelry with gemstones to demonstrate their rank. The jewelry also doubled up as godly sacrifices.
- Ancient India
The Mughal Empire introduced the combination of gemstones with gold and silver. Today, pure gold jewelry is often gifted to new brides for financial security.
- Ancient China
Both rich and poor wore jade jewelry for its durable and protective properties. Pure gold jewelry is making a fashion comeback, doubling as a form of investment.
Modern Jewelry: At a Crossroads
Today, jewelry is at once the very same and vastly different from what it used to be.
The industry is worth upwards of $348 billion per year, and it’s not hard to see why. As an alternative asset, jewelry has grown 138% in value over the last decade – only outperformed by classic cars, rare coins, and fine wine.
However, perceptions of jewelry vastly differ. It’s not a stretch to say that Western jewelry buyers are enamored with diamonds, given their enduring association with special occasions – but it’s interesting to note how that ideal was fabricated.
The Invention of Diamonds
The De Beers Group is well known for making diamonds great again. In the early 1900s, the company had already monopolized the diamond trade and stabilized the market, but they faced the challenge of marketing diamonds to consumers at all income levels.
The average American considered diamonds an extravagance, preferring to spend money on cars and appliances instead. The concept of engagement rings existed, but weren’t widely adopted. The #1 slogan of the century – “A Diamond is Forever” – transformed all that.
Even as more companies like Tiffany and Co and Cartier entered the playing field, De Beers had set a successful industry standard. But there’s a catch – diamonds are actually:
- Not all that rare in nature
- Intrinsically low in value
- Easily replicated in a lab
- Decreasing in sales
Despite these caveats, the popularity of diamonds illustrate how Western consumers do not approach jewelry in the same way as Eastern economies, where its function as a store of wealth persists.
The Eastern Gold Standard
In Eastern economies, jewelry often takes the form of pure gold. The reasons behind this difference are surprisingly pragmatic: gold is considered a secure and innate store of wealth that maintains its purchasing value over decades, allowing families to pass wealth from generation to generation.
The rich history of the precious metal has made it a sought-after commodity for centuries, and China and India drive more than half of global gold jewelry demand every year:
|Year||Share of Demand (India + China)||Total Global Jewelry Demand (tonnes)|
Source: Gold Hub – Values have been rounded up to the nearest tonne.
Why are Eastern cultures so attracted to the properties of pure gold?
Part 2 of this series will show why gold is the world’s most incredible metal, and why it’s coveted by billions of people.
Markets5 months ago
The Jeff Bezos Empire in One Giant Chart
Maps7 months ago
Mercator Misconceptions: Clever Map Shows the True Size of Countries
Advertising4 months ago
Meet Generation Z: The Newest Member to the Workforce
Misc6 months ago
24 Cognitive Biases That Are Warping Your Perception of Reality
Advertising3 months ago
How the Tech Giants Make Their Billions
Technology5 months ago
The 20 Internet Giants That Rule the Web
Environment4 months ago
The World’s 25 Largest Lakes, Side by Side
Chart of the Week5 months ago
Chart: The World’s Largest 10 Economies in 2030