Federal officials said that they recovered a famous pair of ruby slippers worn by actress Judy Garland in “The Wizard of Oz,” 13 years after they were stolen from the Minnesota museum bearing her name.
The iconic footwear worn by Garland in the classic 1939 film was taken by thieves from the Judy Garland Museum in her hometown of Grand Rapids, Minnesota, in 2005, but the slippers were seized in a sting operation in Minneapolis in July, according to FBI agent Jill Sanborn with the bureau’s Minneapolis division.
After their recovery this summer, the slippers – estimated to be worth several million dollars – were transported to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C., where an in-depth examination and analysis of the slippers was conducted to confirm their authenticity.
Though the slippers have been found, the people responsible for the theft are still unknown.
The FBI has identified suspects and executed multiple search warrants in Minnesota and Florida, but is still asking the public to provide any tips to help identify the perpetrators of theft, as well as a more recent scheme to defraud and extort the Markel Corporation, which owns the slippers.
Further facts about the case were not disclosed because of the pending investigation.
Christopher Myers, U.S. attorney for the District of North Dakota, and Grand Rapids Police Chief Scott Johnson joined agent Sanborn in the FBI’s efforts to recover the slippers.
“When the slippers were snatched in the early morning burglary, the thieves not only took the slippers, they took a piece of history that will be forever connected to Grand Rapids and one of our city’s most famous children,” Johnson said Tuesday at a news conference. “We are confident this day would eventually come, and we are grateful to the FBI and all those who worked to bring this piece of cinematic treasure out of the shadows and into the light.”
“After all, there’s no place like home,” he added, quoting a famous line from “The Wizard of Oz.”
Rhys Thomas, author of “The Ruby Slippers of Oz,” attended the news conference and said the slippers are the “holy grail” of Hollywood memorabilia.
The pair of slippers that were recovered are known as the “traveling pair,” one of four pairs worn by Garland in the film.
“These are the items that every collector wants, that every collector hopes to have. Unfortunately for every collector, there’s only four known pairs, and three are unavailable,” he said.
Thomas estimated the traveling pair of slippers would sell between $2 and $5 million and as high as $7 million.
“The ruby slippers have always drawn record prices when they sell. The last pair sold for $2 million privately,” he said.
According to Thomas, when the ruby slippers were first made in the 1939, their estimated value was $13.
Myers said there are about 8,000 items of memorabilia or artwork currently on the FBI’s watchlist.