The shoes were stolen from the Judy Garland Museum in Grand Rapids, Minnesota (the birthplace of Garland), in 2005, when someone broke into the institution via a window, smashed the display case holding the slippers, and absconded with them. While the slippers were insured for $1 million, the cinematic iconography they command makes them near priceless.
Entertainment Weekly reports that the Minneapolis FBI, the North Dakota U.S. Attorney’s Office, and the Grand Rapids Police Department will hold a press conference this afternoon to release more specific information on the recovery of the stolen shoes.
The crimson footwear plays a major role in The Wizard of Oz after Dorothy's farmhouse falls on the Wicked Witch of the East. The witch's shoes magically appear on Dorothy's feet, causing her to become a target of the Wicked Witch of the West, who wants them back. In the end, Dorothy clicks the heels of the slippers together, repeating the phrase "There's no place like home," effectively returning her to Kansas.
Based on the report from AP, four pairs of Garland-worn ruby slippers exist. Perhaps the most famous pair are those located at the National Museum of American History (a Smithsonian establishment) in Washington, D.C.
Aside from this pair and the recently recovered slippers, one pair was purchased by Hollywood memorabilia company Elkouby and Co., while the other was bought by the likes of Steven Spielberg and Leonard DiCaprio for the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences' upcoming cinema museum in Los Angeles.
A curled "Arabian" variant of the shoes was acquired by the late Debbie Reynolds, an actress and film historian and the mother of Carrie Fisher. This fancier pair of slippers (created by MGM costume designer Gilbert Adrian) was only ever used for test shots until director Victor Fleming settled on the simpler look we now know and love, states the Smithsonian website. Nevertheless, their rarity and obscurity only make them that much more valuable.