Movie News & Reviews

Dorothy should take good care of those $666,000 ruby red slippers

When it comes to the value of iconic Hollywood memorabilia, Kansas doesn't take a backseat to anyone.

That's right. The most valuable prop or collectible associated with any Academy Award-winning film or actor has a direct connection to the Sunflower State. Can you guess it?

We thought it might be interesting to look back at familiar movie props and how much they brought at auction. To help us, we called on Phil Weiss, an appraiser for "The Antiques Roadshow" on PBS. For the last quarter of a century Weiss, 52, has owned Phil Weiss Auctions in Oceanside, N.Y.

When it comes to iconic props from movies, which one brought the most money at auction?

Dorothy's iconic ruby red slippers from "The Wizard of Oz." That was an enormous sale. They sold for $666,000 in 2000.

Who bought them?

I don't know. Generally the auction houses don't publicize the name unless the person wants it publicized. (There are several pairs of authentic ruby red slippers. The pair Weiss was talking about sold to David Elkouby and his partners, who own Hollywood memorabilia shops.)

Why do you think the ruby red slippers worn by Dorothy Gale of Kansas are so valuable?

One factor is the longevity of the movie. "The Wizard of Oz" is over 70 years old and is probably still as popular today as it was when it came out.

Another big factor is there is a great story behind the ruby red slippers. There was a whole book written about it ("The Ruby Slippers of Oz," by Rhys Thomas). It has a really rich history of how it went through an auction, and there was more than one pair, and somebody wanted to buy them, and one of them disappeared. There's a whole detective story about them. That really adds to the value.

So what else sold for a lot of money?

The Maltese Falcon sold for $389,500 in 1994, and Luke Skywalker's lightsaber that was used in the first two "Star Wars" films sold for $240,000 in 2008.

Any more? Keep 'em comin'.

A pink cocktail dress that Audrey Hepburn wore in "Breakfast at Tiffany's" sold for $192,000 in 2007. And the voodoo doll modeled after Harrison Ford in "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom" sold for $30,000 in 2008.

How does a buyer know these props are authentic?

The provenance of an item is most important. You have to be able to trace back where it came from. You know, did it come from the studio? And then matching things up with the pictures in the movie is important.

But the provenance is the most important thing. Does it have studio markings on it or a studio label? There could be letters from the studio or photos from the studio.

Any problem with forgeries?

I don't see a lot of forgeries when it comes to ruby slippers and like that. But where you do see a lot of forgeries is with celebrity autographs and items that are supposedly celebrity-owned. People will say, "Hey, I have Humphrey Bogart's handkerchief, or cigarette lighter, or Marilyn Monroe's pocketbook." And you have to be careful, because if you can't prove it, it's meaningless.

What about certificates of authenticity?

You have to be very careful with that, too, because anyone can make up a certificate of authenticity. You know, how do you know if the certificate of authenticity is authentic? You have to know who you're dealing with.

What else has sold for a lot of money?

Some of the original Oscar (statues) themselves might have gone for more than a million dollars. But there are a lot of laws pertaining to selling those. The academy has certain restrictions. I think it has to be pre-1950s or so to be able to sell them.

What's your favorite Hollywood prop? The one you'd really like to have if you had enough money?

Oh, the Cowardly Lion costume that Bert Lahr wore in "The Wizard of Oz." You talk about an iconic costume and one that people would recognize instantly, that would be it.

Somebody once thought that they had the costume, and they brought it to me. It was very similar. But it was not one of the ones they used during the making of the movie. But, yeah. I'd like to have that.

What about autographs of Hollywood stars? Which ones are the most valuable?

Academy Award-winning actors with the most valuable signatures (worth as much as $1,000 or more, depending on various factors) include Humphrey Bogart, Clark Gable, John Wayne, Marlon Brando and Gary Cooper.

How about for Academy Award-winning actresses?

Grace Kelly, Judy Holliday, Vivien Leigh, Katharine Hepburn could all be worth $1,000 or more. And Mary Pickford's autograph would go for between $250 and $500.

Why is one autograph more valuable than another?

Supply and demand. Grace Kelly died young, so there's not a lot of her autographs, so the value goes up.