The vintage costumes from the immortal The Wizard of Oz have, along with those of Marilyn Monroe, set records for Hollywood memorabilia at auction. Stored in MGM’s wardrobe Department warehouses for decades, then liberated, they quickly turned hands and escalated in price. As outlined in my previous post, the one exception was the pair of Ruby Slippers that had been awarded as a contest prize by MGM to high school student Roberta Jeffries in 1940. She had treasured her pair until 1988 when she sold them at auction for $165,000. Roberta was flabbergasted by the price, as was everyone. The buyer was Anthony Landini, who then loaned them to Disney World for permanent display. The amazing thing was that at this point it was well known that these were not the only pair of Ruby Slippers.


The inked #7 pair of Ruby Slippers originally found by Kent Warner

The inked #7 pair of Ruby Slippers originally found by Kent Warner. Why were there more than one pair? It was common studio practice to have multiple pairs of costumes, and especially for plot-driving accessories like the Ruby Slippers. If they were damaged during filming, production would have to be halted, especially as Dorothy and the other key characters wore their costumes through virtually the entire movie.

The "Arabian test pair" of Ruby Slippers
The “Arabian test pair” of Ruby Slippers

There were also stand-ins or stunt-doubles that had the same costumes. And in the case of the The Wizard of OzJudy Garland also wore variant copies of the blue pinafore dress in test photos and in early scenes that were subsequently re-shot under the new but still temporary director George Cukor. While these were not the classic blue and white gingham pinafore used in the film, demand is so strong for anything OZ that values have escalated for these costumes as well.

Dorothy’s pinafore has reached very high prices, even when made in several copies and  in variant colors. The same dress has  also reappeared at auction several times. Kent Warner found several Dorothy pinafores in the MGM Wardrobe. The first one sold at the 1970 MGM auction for $1000. A few others he kept for himself. In 1981 he consigned to Christie’s East one of the classic blue and white gingham pinafores with an off-white blouse. It bore a label with Judy Garland’s name and the number 4461. It sold for an unknown amount. All of the variant Dorothy dresses were designed by Adrian. The Wizard of Oz was an international phenomenon in the Anglo-Saxon world.  Bonham’s Knightsbridge in London sold at auction a Dorothy blue and white gingham pinafore without the blouse in 2005 for the equivalent of $270,000, setting the record at that time, the company announced. 

A test pinafore of all-blue with gingham trim and off-white blouse

A test pinafore of all-blue with gingham trim and off-white blouseThe market started heating up again when Debbie Reynolds held the first of her two auctions run by Profiles in History on June 18, 2011. She was selling off her collection to pay off the debts of her bankrupt foundation, and the auction had been getting national  publicity for months. Additionally, many of the costumes had been on exhibit long in advance of the auction and thousands took advantage of viewing the collection at the Paley Center in Beverly Hills. Among the many treasures from Debbie’s amazing collection was the solid blue pinafore and off-white blouse shown above. This was one of the test dresses not used in the film. Amazingly, it sold for $920,000. This got people’s attention, as did the prices for all the other notable costumes from Debbie’s costume and Hollywood artifact collection. Debbie’s pair of the rather beat-up test pair of the “Arabian” slippers” went for $510,000, reportedly destined for the Middle-East. There is nothing like very high prices to shake the collectibles tree.

The next Dorothy dress to appear at auction was the blue and white gingham pinafore dress actually worn by Judy Garland in the movie. It came up for sale at the Julien’s auction of November 10, 2012. It also has the original blouse and was in fact the same costume consigned by Kent Warner to Christie’s in 1981, bearing the label with Judy Garland’s name and the number 4461. This dress sold for $400,000. Considering the $920,000 price minus the fees and taxes paid for the Debbie  Reynolds dress, this iconic dress was a bargain. Although the dress is a bit faded from time, and it was purposefully dyed in muted whites, the photo below does not do the costume justice.

 Judy Garland's movie-worn Dorothy dress

Judy Garland’s movie-worn Dorothy dress. So the next Dorothy dress to hit auction came quickly. Long-time Hollywood memorabilia collector and Judy Garland fan Barry Barsamian had another all-blue Dorothy dress, only this one had actually been used in the first two weeks of filming. This filming had been done under  OZ‘s first director, Richard Thorpe, before he was replaced. Barry Barsamian had gotten the dress from Wayne Martin, who in turn had gotten it from Kent Warner. This dress had been loaned as part of the Smithsonian’s “Freedom Train” celebrating the American Bicentennial. This dress is shown below. It sold at Profiles in History on July 28, 2013 for $300,000.


The test pinafore sold at Profiles in History in 2013
The test pinafore sold at Profiles in History in 2013

Also a beloved character from the movie was the Cowardly Lion, played by Bert Lahr. As mentioned in the last post, this costume was made from real lion pelts. It too was sold at the MGM auction in 1970. At that time the costume was missing its two front paws and its mane and ears. It sold nonetheless for $2,400, more than twice what Dorothy’s pinafore originally sold for.

Wizard of Oz Lion

Wizard of Oz Cowardly Lion auction 2012

The Cowardly Lion costume had been owned for many years by James Commisar, who had it restored. He had the face molded on that of Bert Lahr’s son; John Lahr. The mane was remade. Comisar is a collector of television history artifacts and he is planning a museum of television history. It is to this end that putting up for sale the Cowardly Lion costume would help his fund raising drive. He had the costume consigned to Profiles in History in 2011 but it failed to sell at its high reserve price of $2 million. Profiles in History subsequently sold it for $805,000 on Ebay.

Wizard of Oz AMPAS Lion wig

The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences Herrick Library owns the Cowardly Lion mane and ears that may have been the match to the costume above, but in any event are original to the 1939 Wizard of Oz production. They are shown above. 

And miracle of miracles, that most fragile  of costumes, the Scarecrow’s has survived. As mentioned in the last post, Ray Bolger saved his costume, including the raffia that served as hay, after production wrapped. His wife Gwendolyn donated the costume to the Smithsonian in 1987, along with a bag of raffia.

Wizard of Oz Scarecrow
The Scarecrow costume at the Smithsonian Museum

But other significant pairs of Ruby Slippers were out in the world. One pair went around the country on the exhibit tour, owned by noted Hollywood costume collector Michael Shaw, who had of course gotten his pair from Kent Warner. He had loaned his pair to the Judy Garland Museum In Grand Rapids Minnesota. In a bizarre  case, the pair were stolen from the museum, and their whereabouts are took years to solve. It was thought to be an “inside job” since the security system was disabled at the time. 

The stolen pair of Ruby Slippers
The stolen pair of Ruby Slippers

Profiles in History managed to land another pair of the Holy Grail of Hollywood collectibles: the Ruby Slippers with the provenance of Kent Warner, a subsequent auction purchaser, then Philip Samuels. These were the pair in the best condition and the most likely to have been the pair used in the close up shot, where Judy Garland taps her heels three times and wishes she could go back home. The pair of Ruby Slippers went up for auction on December 15, 2011 with a reserve price of $2 million dollars. Despite their high price, there was another chance for Hollywood history to vanish from these shores. 

These most famous of Ruby Slippers and the most treasured Hollywood icon did not sell. After the auction Leonardo DiCaprio and Steven Spielberg purchased the slippers for donation to the future Museum of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. How fitting an end that they should not only stay in the U.S but stay very near to Hollywood. Bravo to Mr. DiCaprio and Mr. Spielberg.

Wizard of Oz Ruby slippers Profiles 2011


And now in April 2017, Moments in Time dealer Gary Zimet,on behalf of the owners, is putting up for auction the original Roberta Jeffries Bauman pair, the promotional Ruby Slippers from 1940. The bidding started at $6 million.

Their magic must be very powerful, or they wouldn’t want them so badly.





  1. Does anyone know if a pair of silver test shoes existed? Also, I always wondered about the original soundstage yellow brick road. I believe it was painted on plywood but did any of it escape the dumpster?

    1. I have not heard of the Yellow Brick Road or any part of it surviving. As part of an indoor stage set for the film, it was common for these
      to be struck and no need for parts to be kept – this unlike props that would be. Various props for the Wizard of Oz have appeared at auction,
      such as the hourglass for example.

      1. Thanks for your reply on the yellow brick road. I was reading a website called Seeing-stars which is a commentary about the Sony studio tour. In it they quote a tour guide as saying that the yellow brick road can still be seen in studio 27 but you would have to rip up the floor. I actually find that hard to believe. If it were true it would have been uncovered long ago , the value would be incredible.

  2. What about the Tin Man’s costume? I sold the all blue pinafore worn by Judy Garland in the first few weeks of filming, mentioned on this website. From the Richard Thorpe filming. I was never told who purchased it.

    1. Yes, your former blue Dorothy pinafore was an Oz treasure. I have never heard that the Tin Man costume surfaced. It was of course made up of parts and had to have multiples as it got beat up
      during production. But even with the slight possibility that M-G-M might make another OZ sequel, it must have been considered disposable after the wrap. The Scarecrow only survived because Ray Bolger kept his costume.
      If anyone knows something about the Tin Man costume and reads the blog post please comment.

  3. The Ken Warner -Hollywood Pilferer- is to me is the story (Sorry I just learned of this story). So no one had a problem with the “saving” of the costumes? It’s not so much the theft but the blatant profiteering after the fact that I found mildly cringe-worthy. I better go look some stuff up… Thanks!

  4. I have a bonnet from the wizard of oz worn by a munchkin that I bought at MGM auction in 1970 . Any idea on what it’s worth?

    1. Usually all of the Munchkin or other Oz costume pieces have quite a bit of value. The items I mention and their values/prices are based on past auction sales. I couldn’t value your piece but I might
      suggest either Profiles in History or Julien’s auction houses for possible assistance with your piece.

    2. take it to Profiles in History , I would.. if it can be screen matched your in the money.. if you can prove it came from that MGM auction .. your in the money.. even the catalog from that 1970 MGM auction sells for hundreds of dollars…

  5. What Happened to the original Wicked Witch of the West costume? I have heard one of the costumes was showcased in Beach Mountains Wizard of OZ theme park and burned. I would appreciate anyone who can enlighten me on the original costume worn by Margaret Hamilton.

    1. Hi Paul. I don’t know what happened to the original Wicked Witch costume. According to the Beech Mountain Wizard of Oz web site, their museum was broken into at the same time a fire was set at their theme park.
      Several original Wizard of Oz costume pieces were stolen, but the Witch’s costume was not mentioned as one of them. The original Witch’s hat has been sold at auction before and will be coming up again soon at a Profiles in History auction.

    2. Beech Mountain had Dorothy’s costume. I saw it there when I was a child. My family went a few years back and was told by the property managers that Dorothy’s dress was either stolen or burned in the fire. They do have some other things from the movie and the park that is interesting to see.

  6. I don’t agree with the original costumes from the wizard of Oz being sold. To me they should have been kept in the museum for other people to see.i would have loved to have seen them as I am a fan. Or even if anyone knows who bought them I would love photos of them.

    1. Most of them were originally sold at the MGM auction of 1970. They have been sold and resold since by auction houses, dealers and collectors. Debbie Reynolds tried to have MGM save their wardrobe and props to make a museum but that didn’t want to at the time. She tried to start a museum herself but was never able to. Now the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is building a museum, but most of these costumes are already scattered to the winds. It’s a lost heritage.

    2. MGM liquidated everything they had sitting around , back then nobody cared about props and costumes , except Debbi Reynolds that is.. ..

      1. Thank God for Debbie Reynold’s hindsight to save as much as she could from being destroyed. A true angel she is now in heaven.

  7. Ask JK, curator in Minnesota where the slippers are. He turned off the alarm hours before the theft. BTW no kids used anything to smash a Plexiglas storage box. How many people who own a 4 million dollar pair of shoes will let them be left in a getting ready to close museum with no guards and no alarm. How many people let expensive art out of their sight at anytime they own it. People who own expensive or non expensive art or collectibles are fanatics who cherish these items like West Point or Fort Knox covets its gold….

    1. Thanks for the comment. This pair of Ruby Slippers had been on tour and had been displayed in various places around the country. It has been an assumption that this was an “inside” job. But which insider?

      1. The pair that sold at the MGM auction sold for $15,000, not $1,000.

        Also high school student who won a pair back in 1940 was named Roberta Bauman, not Roberta Jeffries…

        1. Thanks for your comments Kelly.The $1000 price quoted is for the pinafore, not for the Ruby slippers. And Jeffries was Roberta’s maiden name, her name when she won the pair of of Ruby Slippers.

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