Owner of Dorothy's Ruby Slippers Finally Reunited With Stolen Hollywood Icons

Michael Shaw, the collector who lent his pair of Dorothy's Ruby Slippers to the Judy Garland Museum in August of 2005 only to be shocked by news of a brazen smash-and-grab one week later, was recently reunited with his treasured Hollywood memorabilia in a private ceremony at the scene of the crime.


“It’s like welcoming back an old friend I haven’t seen in years,” said a teary-eyed Shaw as he stood beside a display of the slippers, along with the federal agents and local authorities who spent almost two decades tracking down the Technicolor treasures featured in 1939’s beloved The Wizard of Oz.


Shaw, a former child actor, had acquired the slippers from Kent Warner, a Hollywood costumer who discovered them in an MGM warehouse shortly before the famous May 1970 auction that liquidated costumes and props from Hollywood’s Golden Age.

Shaw told The Los Angeles Times in 1988 that when Warner brought him the ruby slippers, “I was so thrilled I literally started crying… I told him that if I never owned another possession, I’d be happy.”

Shaw eventually amassed an impressive collection of movie memories and travelled them around the country as part of a show called “Hollywood on Tour.” Shaw said last week that when people saw the slippers in person, “It was like they became 12 years old again.”

Just after the emotional reunion ceremony at Garland's restored birthplace home, Shaw surprisingly turned over the slippers to Heritage Auctions, which will spotlight them during an international tour — with stops in Los Angeles, New York, London and Tokyo — and then auction them some time in December.

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

Gilbert Adrian, the chief costume designer at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, created the ruby slippers for Victor Fleming’s big-screen adaptation of L. Frank Baum’s children’s novel. (The magical slippers were silver in the book, but Adrian reinterpreted them as ruby because this was to be the first feature film shot in Technicolor).


Adrian had intended to use bugle beads to simulate ruby, but they proved to be too heavy. Instead, most of the bugle beads were replaced with sequins, 2,300 on each slipper. The butterfly-shaped bow on the front of each shoe features red bugle beads outlined in red glass rhinestones in silver settings.

Only four pairs of Ruby Slippers are known to have survived. One pair remains among the most popular attractions at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History in Washington, DC.

Each of the pairs is believed to be worth about $3.5 million, according to federal prosecutors.

In 2005, the Judy Garland Museum borrowed Shaw’s Ruby Slippers for its annual Judy Garland Festival. It was to scheduled as a 10-week exhibition, but on August 28, 2005, someone slipped into the museum after hours, shattered the plexiglass case holding the slippers and stole them, leaving behind only a single red sequin.

“It’s the worst nightmare for me,” Shaw said at the time.

In July 2018, after Shaw and investigators feared the slippers had disappeared forever, the FBI and Grand Rapids Police Department recovered the pair during a sting operation.

In May 2023, a federal grand jury indicted Terry Martin for stealing “an object of cultural heritage” from the museum. Five months later, Martin pleaded guilty. Shortly before sentencing last month, Martin told the court he’d stolen the shoes because he thought the sequins were genuine rubies.

Unable to sell them on the black market, Martin said he ditched the slippers with someone who had recruited him for the job. Martin's accomplice was charged last week with theft of a major artwork and witness tampering.

According to Heritage Auctions, Dorothy's Ruby Slippers will once again dazzle and delight crowds around the world before stepping up to the auction block.

“This is a day that is years in the making, a real-life Hollywood ending,” Maddalena said. “It took an ensemble cast of law enforcement professionals giving the performance of a lifetime — and their coordination, cooperation and commitment restored the ruby slippers to their rightful owner. As we all look forward to the next chapter in their storied history… we are reminded of what these legendary objects are and what they represent: an iconic piece of our collective history, an enduring symbol of the magic of storytelling and an ever-shimmering reminder that dreams are best in Technicolor.”

Credits: Photos courtesy of Heritage Auctions / HA.com.