Manufacturing, Shipping and Repairs
Approximately 50 Oscars are made each year in Chicago by the manufacturer, R.S. Owens. If they don't meet strict quality control standards, the statuettes are immediately cut in half and melted down.
The Academy won't know how many statuettes it will actually hand out at the Annual Academy Awards Ceremony until the envelopes are opened on Oscar Night. Although the number of categories and special awards is known prior to the ceremony, the possibility of multiple recipients sharing the prize in some categories makes the exact number of Oscar statuettes awarded unpredictable. As in previous years, any surplus awards will be housed in the Academy's vault until next year's event.
"Casting the Oscar statuettes is our New Year's celebration," says R. S. Owens spokesperson Noreen Prohaska. "It's our first project of the year, and certainly our most prestigious. Though we could probably do it quicker, we take three to four weeks to cast 50 statuettes. It may sound silly, but each one is done to perfection and handled with white gloves. After all, look at the people who will be clutching it on Oscar Night."
Prior to 1949, the statuettes were not numbered. Since that year, starting with a somewhat arbitrary number 501, each Oscar statuette has worn his serial number behind his heels.
The 15 statuettes presented at the initial ceremonies were gold-plated solid bronze. Within a few years the bronze was abandoned in favor of an alloy called britannia, which made it easier to give the statuettes their smooth finish. Due to the metals shortage during the World War II years, they were made of plaster. Following the war, all of the awarded plaster figures were redeemed for gold-plated ones.
For eight decades, Oscar has survived war, weathered earthquakes, and even managed to escape unscathed from common thieves. Since 1995, however, R.S. Owens has repaired more than 160 statuettes. "Maybe somebody used chemicals on them to polish them and the chemicals rubbed right through the lacquer and into the gold," says Owens president Scott Siegel, "or maybe people stored them someplace where they corroded." Although he stresses that the statuette is made to endure, Siegel offers this sage advice to all Oscar winners: "If it gets dusty, simply wipe it with a soft dry cloth."