A rare auction of an Oscar statuette brought a total of $79,200, well more than expected, at its sale Monday by a Rhode Island auction house.

Nanci Thompson of Briarbrook Auctions said the total included a 20 per cent buyer's premium for the 1942 Oscar. She declined to disclose the name of the buyer, but said "you would recognize the name."

The auctioneer had estimated the golden statuette would sell for $5,000 to $30,000. But several hours before the live auction began, the online bidding had already reached $32,000.

The statue was awarded to Joseph C. Wright at the 15th Academy Awards for colour art direction for his work on My Gal Sal, starring Rita Hayworth and Victor Mature.

Academy investigated sale

Prior to the auction, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences was investigating the sale of the statuette. Since

Oscar Auction

The 1942 Oscar for colour art direction was awarded to Joseph C. Wright for his work on My Gal Sal. Wright died in 1985 and passed the statuette on to his nephew. (Briarbrook Auctions/Associated Press)

1950, the academy has prohibited Oscar recipients and their heirs from selling the statues without first offering them back to the academy for $1.

But the auction house said the restriction does not apply because the Oscar was awarded before 1950.

Wright died in 1985, and his nephew inherited the statue. It weighs around 2.7 kilograms and is 33 centimetres high. The auctioneer said it is in good condition, with just a little wear at the back.

Wright received 12 Academy Award nominations and won twice, both in 1942 and both shared with Richard Day. The other award was for black-and-white art direction for This Above All, starring Tyrone Power and Joan Fontaine.

Wright also was nominated for his work on movies including Days of Wine and RosesGuys and Dolls and the Man With the Golden Arm.