Judy Garland Museum Aims To Raise $3.5 M. to Buy Back Dorothy’s Stolen Ruby Slippers At Auction

In 2005, the Judy Garland Museum lost a pair of ruby red slippers worn by its namesake in the iconic movie The Wizard of Oz. The slippers were stolen by a career burglar after breaking one of the institution’s windows and smashing a display clase.

The FBI found them in 2018, but Dorothy Gale’s slippers have never gone back to the museum.

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The Grand Rapids, Minnesota institution is now trying to bring them back to Garland’s hometown by raising enough money to buy the famous pair of shoes when they go on the auction block in December. The FBI has appraised them at $3.5 million.

When the Judy Garland Museum had the shoes on display in 2005, the exhibition was through a 10-week loan from collector Michael Shaw. They were stolen mid-way, and Shaw offered a million-dollar reward for their return. After the FBI recovered the red slippers, Shaw consigned them to Heritage Auctions. The auction house has taken Shaw’s prized pair on an international tour, including stops in New York, London and Tokyo.

“They need a home, so maybe we can be that home for them,” Janie Heitz, the museum’s executive director, told the Washington Post, adding: “It would be a great happy Hollywood ending.”

The theft was orchestrated by Terry Jon Martin, a career criminal who had never seen The Wizard of Oz and was oblivious to the cultural significance of the shoes, according to a court filing made by Martin’s attorney.

The red slippers had a $1 million insurance policy, and the attorney said it led Martin to assume the footwear featured real gemstones. Upon discovering they were only adorned with red sequins, Martin passed off the shoes onto an associate.

The theft had a long-term impact on the Judy Garland Museum which had only been open for two years.

“Nobody was going to loan their Judy Garland memorabilia to us anymore,” Heitz told the Washington Post. “And so I think there were just a lot of opportunities that we missed out on.”

While Heitz declined to disclose how much the museum had raised so far to acquire the slippers, state lawmakers have provided $100,000 in support.

“And we’re buying Judy Garland’s damn slippers to make sure they remain safe at home in Grand Rapids – on display for all to enjoy – under 24/7, Ocean’s 11-proof security,” Gov. Tim Walz (D) posted on X on May 30.

Heritage Auctions executive vice president Joe Maddalena told the Washington Post he was inspired by the museum’s effort to fundraise the acquisition, calling it “a really amazing story,” and hopes it’s successful, as it would provide greater access to the fans in the middle of the United States.

Visitors can currently see two of the four existing pairs on display at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History in Washington, DC, and the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures in Los Angeles.

The slippers will go on a four-city tour in October and November prior to their sale.

Source: artnews.com

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