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Artists are not allowed to sell their Grammys … even in the most dire of circumstances

on April 17, 2015, 2:45pm

Not everyone keeps their Grammy in a shiny glass box for all the world to see. Just ask Kanye West, who stores his 21 gramophones in a sock drawer in his laundry room. The National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (NARAS), the organization that hands out the awards, could pretty much care less what artists do with their respective trophies … that is, unless they try to sell them off.

Guitarist Dave Burgess is currently auctioning off a Grammy he and his ’60s rock ‘n’ roll outfit The Champs won back in 1959 for their hit song “Tequila”. And the NARAS is not pleased at all.

Burgess says he needs to sell the award because of financial problems. “I prefer not to sell my Grammy but there is an illness in my family and we have a lot of doctors bills.” The NARAS reached out to the musician, making it known that it opposes his selling of the trophy, even “hinting” that the organization may take legal action against him in the future.

As it stands right now, NARAS requires winners to sign a contract of sorts which forbids them to sell their prizes, though they may be passed on within the family when that particular artist dies. Still, it’s unclear when the policy was enacted. According to Burgess, he was never asked to agree to such terms when he won some nearly 50 years ago at the inaugural Grammy Awards, and believes this regulation came well after The Champs took home their trophy.

Despite the NARAS’ objection and mild threats, Burgess has decided to go through with the auction. The bidding ends on April 25th, and he already has one offer of $30,000.

In some rare instances, Grammys have been made available for purchase (Johnny Cash’s estate sold a few through Sotheby’s in 2004). The NARAS has been known to step in and flex its legal muscle when it deems necessary, however. For example, when Toni Braxton faced bankruptcy in 2011, the NARAS filed a notice requesting that her creditors not seize her awards on the grounds that they aren’t considered monetary possessions and could not be legally sold.