We were talking about the Oscar statue around the office this morning, and decided to see what it was actually made of. It turns out that the Academy Award of Merit, aka Oscar, weighs 8½ lb (including base) and is made of gold-plated Britannia metal (a type of pewter.) There is no resource anywhere on the net that tells how thick the gold plating is, so we had to do a little precious metals CSI work.

**CAUTION:** Lots of assumptions have necessarily been made, due to lack of data.

Time magazine quoted the weight of the statue *sans base* at 8 pounds in an article about the company that makes the statues. I then found the following video from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences showing how Oscar statues are made:

So, we have three platings: copper, nickel silver and gold. Let’s work our way from the outside in, like an onion.

First, we need to figure out the dimensions of ol’ Oscar in order to calculate surface area. The Academy says he is 13.5″ high and 5.25″ wide. That gives us two of the three dimensions we need, but we need to eyeball how big he is front-to-back. I called it as 1.75″. For simplicity’s sake, we are treating him like a rectangle.

OK, we have a surface area to apply our plating to, but how thick is the plating? After much online sleuthing with no results, I decided to use the Olympic gold medal as a guide. Olympic gold metals are 60mm x 3mm, and have to have at least 6 grams of 24k gold plating. So, we take the surface area of an Olympic gold metal, divide that into the surface area of Oscar, then multiply by 6grams. This gives us 4 troy ounces of gold.

4 ozt x $1,592/ozt = $6,368 of gold.

Next is copper. With a spot price at $3.55/lb, 4 ozt = $0.97.

Now, nickel silver. This isn’t silver at all, but a pewter-like alloy of 60% copper, 20% nickel, and 20% zinc. So, 2.4 ozt of copper, and 0.8 ozt each of nickel and zinc. Convert to AVP ounces and take the spot price of each metal, and…

2.4 ozt Cu + 0.8 ozt Ni + 0.8 ozt Zi = $1.05.

Finally, the actual body of the statue, made of Britannia metal. This is composed of 92% tin, 6% antimony, and 2% copper. But how much?

We take the 12 ozt total of the three platings, convert to oz, then subtract from 8 lb. (which is 128 oz)

128 oz – (4.38 oz x3) = 114.86 oz.

So, that’s 105.6 oz of tin, 6.9 oz of antimony, and 2.3 oz of copper. That gives us:

$68.73 + $13.67 + $0.51 = $82.91 for the core of Oscar.

So, how much is the melt value of the Oscar statue?

Gold plating = $6,368.00

Silver Nickel plating = $1.05

Copper plating = $0.97

Britannia core = $82.91

_________________

$6,452.93

Of course, the question you *really* want to know is, “How much would the Oscar statue be worth if it were solid gold?”

8 lb = 128 oz = 116 troy oz

Dr. AculaThe Academy’s financial reports state that they pay between $800-$900 for each statue. That makes it hard to believe that the melt value is $6500. The gold plating is probably not 24k and definitely not the thickness that was used to develop this melt value.

GainesvilleCoinsYes, the Academy fiercely guards the amount of gold used on the statuettes, so I used the amount used in Olympic gold medals (6 grams over a silver core) and scaled it up. The gold plating on the Oscar is confirmed to be 24k, but I’m sure it’s far less than the proportion used in an Olympic gold medal. Regular gold plating in jewelry terms is defined as more than 7 millionths of an inch, and heavy gold plating is 100 millionths of an inch.

Obviously, I have no way to map the surface of an Academy Award in 3D then calculate the weight of a 0.0001″ gold covering, so I went with the Olympic medal “yardstick.” The $900 stated price for the Oscar includes 10 days’ labor. I’ve seen the raw materials price cited somewhere as $400. (Sorry, don’t have the link handy any more.) Given the melt price for the Britannia metal core, Oscar probably has about the same 6 grams as an Olympic medal (6 grams of gold @ $1592 = $307.) If the Oscar had the same thickness of gold as a Gold Medal, then the melt price would be as stated in the article.

This goes to show just how thin that gold plating on an Academy Award is!