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On sale: 'Wizard of Oz' ruby slippers

The iconic footwear, worn by Judy Garland in the 1939 musical, will be shown on an international tour before being auctioned off

The sequin-covered ruby slippers worn by Judy Garland in 'The Wizard of Oz'
The sequin-covered ruby slippers worn by Judy Garland in 'The Wizard of Oz' (AP)

A pair of ruby slippers worn by Judy Garland in The Wizard Of Oz were returned to their owner, nearly 20 years after the iconic shoes were stolen from a museum in the late actor’s hometown. But “No place like home?” Not exactly.

The memorabilia collector who owns the iconic footwear immediately turned them over to an auction company, which plans to take them on an international tour before offering them at auction in December, an official with Dallas-based Heritage Auctions said.

The ruby slippers were at the heart of the beloved 1939 musical. Garland's character, Dorothy, danced down the Yellow Brick Road in her shiny shoes, joined by the Scarecrow, the Tin Man and the Cowardly Lion. To return home to Kansas, she had to click the heels three times and repeat, “There's no place like home.”

In reality, Garland wore several pairs during filming. Only four remain.

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Memorabilia collector Michael Shaw's ruby slippers were believed to be the highest quality of all of them—they were the ones used in close-ups of Dorothy clicking her heels. Shaw loaned them in 2005 to the Judy Garland Museum in Grand Rapids, Minnesota.

That summer, someone smashed through a display case and stole the sequins-and-beads-bedazzled slippers. Their whereabouts remained a mystery until the FBI recovered them in 2018.

The slippers were returned to Shaw in a ceremony in February, but details weren't disclosed until Monday.

“It’s like welcoming back an old friend I haven’t seen in years,” Shaw said in a news release.

The Dallas-based auction company said the tour of the slippers will include stops in Los Angeles, New York, London and Tokyo. Dates were not announced.

“You cannot overstate the importance of Dorothy’s ruby slippers: They are the most important prop in Hollywood history,” Heritage Auctions executive vice president Joe Maddalena said in the news release.

The man who stole the slippers, Terry Jon Martin, 76, pleaded guilty in October to theft of a major artwork, admitting to using a hammer to smash the glass of the museum’s door and display case in what his attorney said was an attempt to pull off “one last score” after turning away from a life of crime. He was sentenced in January to time served because of his poor health.

An indictment made public Sunday showed that a second man, 76-year-old Jerry Hal Saliterman, has been charged with theft of a major artwork and witness tampering. He did not enter a plea when he made his first appearance Friday in U.S. District Court in St. Paul, while in a wheelchair and on supplemental oxygen.

The indictment says that from August 2005 to July 2018 Saliterman “received, concealed, and disposed of an object of cultural heritage" — specifically, "an authentic pair of ‘ruby slippers’ worn by Judy Garland in the 1939 movie ‘The Wizard of Oz.’" The indictment says Saliterman knew they were stolen. It also says that, starting sometime last year, he threatened to release a sex tape of a woman and “take her down with him” if she didn’t stay quiet about the crime.

Saliterman's attorney, John Brink, on Friday declined to discuss the case in depth but said his client is not guilty.

“He hasn’t done anything wrong,” Brink said.

Court documents do not indicate how Martin and Saliterman may have been connected.

Martin said at an October hearing that he had hoped to take what he thought were real rubies from the shoes and sell them. But a person who deals in stolen goods informed him the rubies weren’t real, Martin said. So he got rid of the slippers.

Defense attorney Dane DeKrey wrote in a court document that Martin had no idea about the cultural significance of the ruby slippers and had never seen “The Wizard of Oz.”

The FBI said a man approached the insurer in 2017 and claimed he could help recover them but demanded more than the $200,000 reward being offered. The slippers were recovered during an FBI sting in Minneapolis the next year. Federal prosecutors have put the slippers’ market value at about $3.5 million.

The other pairs of slippers are held by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the Smithsonian Museum of American History and a private collector.

Garland was born Frances Gumm in 1922. She lived in Grand Rapids until she was 4, when her family moved to Los Angeles. She died in 1969. The Judy Garland Museum, which includes the house where she lived, says it has the world’s largest collection of Garland and “Wizard of Oz” memorabilia.

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