There’s no place like home: Minnesota wants Judy Garland’s ruby slippers back

Judy Garland's ruby slippers were recovered 13 years after they went missing from the Judy Garland Museum in Grand Rapids, Minnesota. (Richard Tsong-Taatarii/Minneapolis Star Tribune/TNS)

DULUTH, Minn. — The Judy Garland Museum in Grand Rapids could come to permanently display the same ruby slippers that were famously stolen from them — with help from $100,000 marked for the purchase within the Legacy Amendment Funds.

Earlier this year the museum’s keepers appealed to state lawmakers for money to buy the ruby slippers, an object of long-running intrigue for visitors to their space. Their ask was rolled into the $240 million Legacy Amendment fund bill that was recently passed by the House and Senate, alongside other arts and cultural heritage funding for programming, exhibitions and outreach. Gov. Tim Walz is expected to sign the bill.


“We’re excited,” said Janie Heitz, executive director of the Judy Garland Museum. “We’re excited to launch a campaign now that we have seed money. It’s a start.”

The slippers, one of several pairs worn by Grand Rapids native Garland in “The Wizard of Oz,” were returned to Hollywood memorabilia collector Michael Shaw in March. He promptly turned them over the Heritage Auctions house, which is touring them internationally before bidding starts in December 2024.

According to the bill, the state money is meant to “facilitate negotiations for the purchase” of the shoes by the Minnesota Historical Society. They are estimated to be worth $3.5 million.

“But it’s gong to be an auction, so anything can happen,” said Heitz.

The ruby slippers were on loan from Shaw to the museum in 2005 when they were swiped after hours from a display case. The case went unsolved for years, until the FBI recovered them in a sting operation in 2018.

Terry Martin, a longtime criminal who had settled into a quiet life in Grand Rapids in his later years, was convicted of the theft in 2022. He claimed in federal court that he believed the shoes were decorated with real rubies. He handed them over to a fence and never saw them again.

An ailing Martin, who is on oxygen and a hefty dose of prescription drugs, was sentenced to supervised probation for a year and restitution payments of $300 a month to the museum.

A second man, Jerry Hal Saliterman, of Crystal, Minn., has also been charged with theft of a major artwork. According to court documents, the shoes were buried for a while in his backyard near a shed. His jury trial is scheduled to start Sept. 9 at in Duluth.

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