LOS ANGELES Fifteen Oscar statuettes have sold for a total of $3 million at an online auction, the most money made from a single collection of Oscars in a sale by bid, organizers said on Wednesday.
Los Angeles auctioneer Nate D. Sanders said the hot seller of the collection was Herman Mankiewicz's statuette for best screenplay, which he won for co-writing the 1941 film "Citizen Kane" with Orson Welles. The Oscar sold for $588,455.
Welles' own best screenplay Oscar for the movie, which both the American and British film institutes list as the best picture ever made, fetched $861,542 at an earlier Sanders auction in December.
"People continue to be drawn to the magic of the movies and were extremely enthusiastic bidding on the Oscars, which accounted for the high demand and sales prices," Sanders said in a statement.
Other statuettes that pulled in high sums included the 1933 best picture award for the drama "Cavalcade," which brought in $332,165, while the oldest statuette in the collection, the 1931 best picture award for "Skippy," netted the third highest total. It sold for $301,973.
An Oscar given to Charles Coburn in 1943 for best supporting actor in "The More the Merrier" held special significance as the first statuette ever awarded in the best supporting actor category. It went for $170,459.
Prior to 1943, winners of the best supporting actor category received awards mounted on plaques.
The identities of the main buyers at the auction were not revealed. The $3 million generated by the auction was the most ever made for a sale by bid of Oscars, and it was the most statuettes ever put up for auction in a single event, said Laura Yntema, spokeswoman for the auction house. The auction house had anticipated the sale would bring in $2 million.
The auction for the 15 statuettes went live online in mid-February and the sale ended on Tuesday. Bidding continued on Sunday, when the 84th annual Academy Awards were held and French romantic comedy "The Artist" won the top prize of best picture.
Oscars are increasingly rare finds at auction. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences introduced an agreement in 1950 that banned winners from selling their Oscars to anyone but the Academy for the nominal sum of $1.
The best picture Oscar for the 1939 film "Gone With the Wind" was sold to singer Michael Jackson in 1999 for a record $1.54 million.
(Reporting By Piya Sinha-Roy: Editing by Alex Dobuzinskis and Cynthia Johnston)