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Academy News
November 08, 2016

Alert Shopkeeper Returns Donated Emmys

Charity thrift store gets unusual donation.

Matt Powell
  • Five regional Emmy statuettes

    Five regional Emmy statuettes, returned to the Television Academy by the Out of the Closet thrift store in November 2016.

  • Richard Zagala

    Angel Alzona
  • Out of the Closet Thrift Store in Pasadena, California, where five regional Emmy Awards were donated.

    Angel Alzona

When Richard Zagala went to inventory a recent box of donations, he made an unusual discovery.

"It's amazing the stuff that we get here," said Zagala, assistant manager of the Pasadena branch of the Out of the Closet thrift stores.

The non-profit thrift store chain survives on donations, and donors can leave items anonymously directly at any Out of the Closet location. Zagala, who has worked for Out of the Closet in various capacities for 11 years, has seen his share of odd and interesting items left at the store.

He recognized something unique at the bottom of this particular box — five Emmy Award statuettes.

The identity of the person who left them at the store is not known. "They came in a private donation, somebody just dropped them off," said Zagala. "They were mixed in with another box of regular trophies; they were kind of hidden on the bottom."

It is also not known to whom the statuettes were originally awarded, as all identifying information had been removed from the statuettes. "The names were taken off," said Zagala.

Zagala thought right away that the statuettes resembled the iconic Emmy Award.

The Emmy Award statuette — which comprises a gold-plated mixture of copper, nickel, silver and gold — depicts a winged female figure holding up an atom above her head with outstretched arms. The juxtaposition of wings and the atom are meant to represent the dual mission of the Television Academy of promoting both the art and science of television.

Television editor and engineer Louis McManus created the final design, modeled after his wife, Dorothy, in 1948. The first Emmy Award ceremony, honoring excellence in television, was presented the following year. Chicago-based R.S. Owens & Company manufactures the Emmy Award statuettes each year. See the process of making the statuette.

Zagala, however, was not absolutely sure the statuettes were authentic Emmy Awards until he examined them further.

"I knew they looked kind of different, and when I flipped them around that's when I noticed they were stamped by the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences," he said. "I knew that they were Emmys but I didn't know what kind, because they didn't have the regular round bottom. When I called the Academy I was told they were probably Regional Emmys."  

The Television Academy and the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences own the Emmy Award jointly. The Emmy Award statuette image is trademarked by both academies and possession of the statuette itself is governed by the terms of the academies' copyright and trademark policies.

Some may be unaware that it is forbidden to resell an Emmy Award statuette. This is true even for the honoree or the honoree's family or legal heirs.

When the Television Academy honors an artist for an achievement, it lends a copy of the Emmy Award statuette to the qualifying artist honoree. When an honoree dies, the Academy allows for the honoree's heirs to retain possession of a copy of the statuette, in order to symbolize the achievements of the deceased honoree.

A recipient honoree, or his or her heir, may not sell, auction or otherwise dispose of their Emmy Award statue. Reproduction or other commercial use of the Emmy Award statue is also forbidden unless otherwise permitted by the Television Academy.

Anyone wishing to part with an Emmy Award statuette should return the statue to the Television Academy. The Academy will then store the statuette in the honoree's memory.

At all times, even after being presented to an honoree, the Emmy Award statuette remains the property of the Television Academy and the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences.

Zagala was aware that, like their film counterpart the Oscar, it is forbidden to resell an Emmy Award statuette. When he first discovered the statuettes in the donation box, he had no intention of trying to sell them.

Initially, he thought the awards might make an interesting window dressing. One of Zagala's duties as assistant manager at the Pasadena Out of the Closet is to dress display windows, and award-show-themed displays are a popular tribute to a local phenomenon.  

"I do the windows here at the store. Usually I'll do an Emmy window and an Oscar window," said Zagala. That is, until he examined the statuettes and saw the notice stamped into their base. "When I flipped them over I thought, maybe not."

That was when Zagala contacted the Television Academy to report his discovery and arrangements were made to recover the five statuettes.  

Despite the myriad items Zagala has seen come through the donation process in his years at Out of the Closet, this is the first time he recalls coming across an authentic award statuette.

Owned and operated by the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, Out of the Closet is a nonprofit chain of thrift stores, with 13 locations in the Greater Los Angeles Area. Proceeds from the sale of donated items help fund the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, the nation's largest non-profit HIV/AIDS healthcare, research, prevention, and education provider.

"98 cents of every dollar goes to our organization," said Zagala.

The organization offers pharmacies, clinics and other community services. Some Out of the Closet locations also offer free HIV testing and on-site counseling.

The Television Academy thanks Zagala and Out of the Closet for their efforts in doing the right thing in helping to return these five Emmy Award statuettes to the Academy.

The Television Academy asks the public to keep a lookout for Emmy Award statuettes found for sale, either online or in person, and asks for the public's assistance in helping to return any statuettes attempting to be illegally sold.

Any attempt to sell an Emmy Award statuette is a violation of the copyright and trademark policies of the Television Academy and the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences governing use of the Emmy Award. 

If an Emmy Award statuette is found for sale, the discovering party is asked to notify the Academy immediately.

All leads and inquiries should be directed to the Television Academy by phone at (818) 754-2800, or by email at

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