Treasure Hunting Shows

Did Expedition Unknown find the ruby slippers?

The Expedition Unknown team may not have solved the ruby slipper mystery, but their investigation did help to solve the case.

People have been debating the validity of Expedition Unknown, the adventure show hosted by expert explorer, Josh Gates, as well as the various discoveries made on the show, for almost as long as the show has been airing.

There is certainly room for debate regarding the show’s uncanny ability to make a story out of years-long investigations.

But there is no denying that Gates and his Expedition Unknown team had an incredibly important part to play in recovering one of the world’s most valuable costume pieces.

Were the ruby slippers ever recovered?

Expedition Unknown fans are pretty used to seeing the show’s host scale rock faces and even dive to the bottom of the ocean in order to find answers for some of the world’s biggest unsolved mysteries.

But the “Hunt for the Ruby Slippers” episode took Gates down a considerably more theatrical route, as he investigated the theft of the iconic ruby-red shoes worn by Judy Garland in the 1939 classic film, The Wizard of Oz.

By the time that Gates took up the investigation into what exactly happened to Michael Shaw’s prized movie props, the case was already around 13 years old.

However, in classic Expedition Unknown fashion, it seems like a little small-screen glamour was all that the case needed, as the shoes were eventually recovered by the Minneapolis Police Department and the FBI just a few short months after the episode first premiered.

In this case, it is perhaps not entirely accurate to say that the Expedition Unknown team helped to recover these valuable slippers, but the additional publicity and evidence surely aided in their recovery.

Re-watch the investigation on Expedition Unknown

The fifth season of Expedition Unknown, which featured the original Lost Ruby Slippers episode and the special expanded edition, first aired back in 2018.

Though if you want a recap of the saga today, you can still find this season of Expedition Unknown (alongside many others) on platforms like Max, Discovery Plus, fuboTV, Vudu, Amazon Prime Video, Apple TV, Google Play, Spectrum and more.

The Expedition Unknown episodes that follow the disappearance and reappearance of these slippers can be outlined as follows:

Episode Title Initial air date
Season 5, episode 7 “Hunt for the Ruby Slippers” July 10, 2018
Season 5, episode 9 “Solved: Mystery of the Lost Ruby Slippers” September 5, 2018

How much are the ruby slippers worth?

These long-lost and now, finally recovered ruby slippers are one of only four pairs in existence. This means that they are not only an important part of American film history, but they also hold incredible valuable to any collector.

When the ruby slippers were first stolen, they were reportedly insured for about $1 million. However, some experts believe that these shoes could fetch a price tag of up to $3 million on auction.

What happened after the show?

According to what the FBI shared in their news conference in 2018, the ruby slippers were found during a sting operation in Minneapolis carried out by the bureau’s art crime division.

Did Expedition Unknown find the ruby slippers?
© FBI © Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History

However, though the slippers had finally been found, the investigation was far from over. It actually took until January of 2024, for the authorities to track down the people responsible for this theft.

And, even now, the case continues to take one unexpected turn, after the other down the yellow brick road.

Not only did the first charged subject, Terry Martin, receive no prison time for the crime due to his ailing health – but, a second subject, Jerry Hal Saliterman, has now also been charged with receiving, concealing, and disposing of the slippers.

The connection between Martin and Saliterman remains unclear at this time, Saliterman has appeared in court to hear the charges, but no final verdict has been reached, just yet.

Where are the ruby slippers now?

There is a common misconception that the pair of ruby slippers that was stolen from the Judy Garland Museum belonged to the museum.

But, if you were paying close attention to the Expedition Unknown episode, you would have noticed that this pair actually belonged to Michael Shaw and was only on loan to the museum at the time that it was stolen.

And though Shaw has not confirmed anything officially yet, some sources have reported that he was able to purchase the slippers back from the insurance company after they were recovered.

Rumor has it that this pair of iconic shoes will soon be going on a tour across the world before being put up for auction in December 2024.

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