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19 Jul 2024 20:17
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  •   Home > News > International

    Judy Garland's Minnesota hometown fundraising to buy back stolen ruby slippers

    The Minnesota town where actress Judy Garland grew up is raising funds to buy back the ruby slippers stolen from its museum in 2005.


    The Minnesota hometown of actress Judy Garland is raising money to purchase the ruby slippers she wore in The Wizard of Oz.

    Ms Garland was born in Grand Rapids, Minnesota in 1922, and was cast in the now-classic film in 1938 — when she was 16 years old.

    Although the late actress wore several pairs of ruby slippers on set, only four remain today. 

    The ruby slipper robbery

    Memorabilia collector Michael Shaw lent one pair of slippers to the Judy Garland Museum in Grand Rapids in 2005, but they were stolen from their display case that summer.

    The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) recovered them in 2018, and the man who stole the slippers — 76-year-old Terry Jon Martin — pleaded guilty to theft of a major artwork in October last year.

    He admitted 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.

    Mr Martin received a sentence of time served because of his poor health.

    In March this year, a second man — 76-year-old Jerry Hal Saliterman — was charged in connection with the theft.

    Buying them back

    Once the slippers were returned to Mr Shaw, the collector handed them off to a Dallas-based auction company.

    The company will take the slippers on an international tour before offering them up to prospective buyers in December, and the town of Grand Rapids intends to buy them back.

    "We wanted to enable places that might not normally be able to raise the funds so quickly to have plenty of time to think about it and work out ways to do that," said Joe Maddalena, the auctioneer who previously sold two other pairs of ruby slippers.

    "They could sell for $US1 million, they could sell for $US10 million. They're priceless," he continued.

    "Once they're gone, all the money in the world can't buy them back."

    Grand Rapids is fundraising at its annual Judy Garland Festival this weekend.

    Funds raised at the festival will supplement the $US100,000 ($AU150,000) set aside this year by Minnesota lawmakers to purchase the slippers.

    Mr Maddalena speculated on the town's chances of success.

    "That'd be an amazing story. I mean, if they ended up back there, that'd be a fantastic story."

    AP/ABC

    © 2024 ABC Australian Broadcasting Corporation. All rights reserved

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