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June 27th, 2024
In her iconic role as Dorothy Gale in 1939's The Wizard of Oz, teen actress Judy Garland famously clicked the heels of her Ruby Slippers three times while repeating, "There's no place like home."


Now, the Judy Garland Museum and Minnesota lawmakers are making an aggressive play to bring the Technicolor treasures back home to Grand Rapids by winning them at auction in December. The Minnesota legislature has already allocated $100,000 in Legacy funds, but the state will need much more, say $3.5 million, to be competitive.

The wild story behind this pair of Ruby Slippers — one of only four known to exist — could be the subject of its own feature film.

Fans of the Ruby Slippers may remember they were stolen from the Judy Garland Museum in August of 2005 during a brazen after-hours smash-and-grab robbery. Collector Michael Shaw had loaned them to the museum for what was supposed to be a 10-week exhibition.

Someone had slipped into the museum after hours, shattered the plexiglass case holding the slippers and stole them, leaving behind only a single red sequin.

In July 2018, the FBI and Grand Rapids Police Department finally recovered the pair during a sting operation.

In May 2023, a federal grand jury indicted Terry Martin for stealing “an object of cultural heritage.” He told the court he’d stolen the shoes because he thought they were adorned with genuine rubies. He sadly learned the shoes were were covered in thousands of red sequins and a few bugle beads.

Unable to sell the Ruby Slippers on the black market, Martin said he ditched them with the person who had recruited him for the job. Martin’s accomplice was charged with theft of a major artwork and witness tampering.

In March of this year, Shaw was finally reunited with his beloved Ruby Slippers in a private ceremony at the scene of the crime, which is actually the site of Garland’s restored birthplace home.

During the event, Shaw turned over the slippers to Heritage Auctions, which will spotlight them during an international tour — in Beverly Hills, New York, London and Tokyo — and then auction them on December 7.

Heritage Auctions' executive vice president Joe Maddalena told Minnesota Public Radio, "They could sell for $1 million. They could sell for $10 million. They’re priceless.”

The FBI put their value at $3.5 million.

“You cannot overstate the importance of Dorothy’s ruby slippers," Maddalena commented earlier this year. "They are the most important prop in Hollywood history.”

The Minnesota legislature put aside $100,000 for the purchase, hoping that the seed money would encourage benefactors to step up to the plate. Fundraising took place at the annual Judy Garland Festival, which ran from June 20-23. A new exhibit and guided tour focused on the ruby slipper theft.

“It would be a Hollywood happy ending to this ruby slippers saga,” Janie Heitz, executive director of the Judy Garland Museum, told The New York Times. “This would be a good final home for them, which is what Dorothy was searching for in The Wizard of Oz, so it’s a full-circle story for the slippers.”

Minnesota governor Tim Walz shared on social media that if the shoes could be won at auction, local officials would "make sure they remain safe at home in Grand Rapids – on display for all to enjoy – under 24/7, Ocean’s Eleven-proof security.”

Credit: Photo courtesy of Heritage Auctions /