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'Casablanca' Oscar expected to fetch up to $3 million at auction

Paul Henreid, Ingrid Bergman and Humphrey Bogart in a still from "Casablanca".

Michael Curtiz’s best director Oscar for the movie classic Casablanca is going up for auction this week and is expected to fetch $2.5 million to $3 million, according to auctioneer Nate D. Sanders.

The Academy Award won in 1943 by the Hungarian-born Curtiz, who died in 1961, will be auctioned on June 28 by the Los Angeles-based company.

“This Oscar has to be one of the two biggest Oscars to ever come onto the market, ever, in auction history — the other one being the Gone With the Wind Oscar that Michael Jackson bought in either the early 2000’s or late 1990’s.

Casablanca and Gone With the Wind, they are clearly the two biggest films, of all time, bar none,” said Nate D. Sanders, founder of the Nate D. Sanders auction house.

Casablanca, starring Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman, and set in the Moroccan city during the Second World War, is one of the most enduring romances in American cinema. In 2007, the Los Angeles-based American Film Institute named it as the third-best film of the past 100 years.

Curtiz’s Oscar for directing the movie was previously sold by Christie’s in 2003 for $231,500 to U.S. magician David Copperfield. The auction house declined to name the latest seller.

According to Sanders, the rare sell has already generated bids of up to $400,000.

“The Oscar is being sold because of the tremendous prices that have been received lately for Oscars. Over four and a half million dollars of Oscars have been sold by my company, Nate D. Sanders Inc. since this December. Right now the prices have been unprecedented, going for about two to three times what they’ve sold for in previous years,” said Sanders.

Oscar statuettes rarely come up for auction following a 1950 agreement between winners and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences that banned them from selling their Oscars to anyone but the Academy for the nominal sum of $1.

But several pre-1950s Oscars have gone under the hammer in recent years. Last December, Nate D. Sanders sold Orson Welles’ Oscar for his screenplay of Citizen Kane for $861,000, and in 1999 the best picture Oscar for Gone With the Wind was bought by singer Michael Jackson for a record $1.54 million.