Article Posted -- May 12, 2011
MGM’s Technicolor classic, “The Wizard of Oz,” is considered one of the greatest films of all time, and props from the film are viewed as the “holy grail” in the collectable’s market – not only fetching some of the largest prices in the auction world, but also ending up on permanent display at the Smithsonian Institute where they are considered national treasures.
The giant crystal ball used by the Wicked Witch of the West was last seen in 1939 and had been thought lost by Wizard of Oz experts. Amazingly, it was recently discovered in of all places, a junkyard – found amongst the discarded remains of a defunct Hollywood prop house. Purchased with the hope of one day turning it into an enormous plasma ball, the bulky, hand blown item sat unidentified for several years until the new owner, an amateur inventor, began researching high voltage Tesla coils, when, as luck would have it, he stumbled across photos of the item pictured in the Kenneth Strickfaden biography “Dr. Frankenstein’s Electrician.” Further research revealed that the item had actually belonged to the special effects genius himself, and had been used by some of Hollywood’s biggest stars, including Boris Karloff in “The Mask of Fu Manchu” and Bela Lugosi in “Chandu the Magician.” But, it wasn’t until after the owner placed the item up for auction that he learned of its possible appearance in another Hollywood classic, “The Wizard of Oz.”
Upon receiving confirmation from noted Wizard of Oz experts that his junkyard find was in fact the long lost Hollywood icon used by the Wicked Witch of the West, the owner proudly informed his mother she could finally retire. Besides helping his family, the owner wishes to donate a portion of the proceeds to the New Jersey State Fireman’s Home in Boonton out of gratitude for the excellent work they do caring for the state’s heroes. He also plans to make a matching donation to the under-funded, yet truly inspirational, New Jersey Teen Arts Program, with the hope that they’ll create a new category for budding inventors. This anonymous owner and benefactor is still moved by the memory of being a student who was encouraged and inspired by the annual Sussex County Teen Arts Festival held on the campus of Sussex County Community College and followed by the New Jersey State Teen Arts Festival.
The auction, held by “Profiles in History,” will take place this Sunday, May 15 in Beverly Hills, California.