The Wizard of Oz was filmed in 1939 and is based on a book by L. Frank Baum. It has captivated several generations and has remained something magical to this day. Recently, when one of the props from the movie went on auction, it brought in $500,000. Let’s explore why this piece of memorabilia went for such a massive sum.

The Movie Was Magical For Its Time

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In the 30s, when the movie was made, there were no such things as fancy effects. Most props had to be made by hand and were all working mechanical pieces. Post-production would smooth out some of the hitches, but many of these old sets had artifacts that would never be made again.

The Wizard of Oz had a great set design, and many of the pieces that were used in the original production went on to other Hollywood sets. A few of them, which didn’t have any lasting use, were auctioned off or given away as memorabilia to the workers and actors.

Most People Recall the Hourglass

Source: Heritage Auctions

This piece of memorabilia, the Wizard of Oz hourglass, was in one of the movie’s pivotal scenes. It happened when the Wicked Witch of the West told Dorothy’s friends she only had a limited time left to live. The hourglass was turned over to show her how much time she had left.

The sand in the hourglass was referenced in several shots in the film, making it memorable for anyone who saw it. While you might not have given much thought to the hourglass when you first saw it, someone definitely did. That’s why it sold for such a massive amount.

Why Does Memorabilia Have Such a Massive Price Tag?

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When something goes up for auction as memorabilia, there’s a chance it will sell for a considerable amount. Nostalgia causes many people to want to own a piece of the past that reminds them of something good. Sometimes, it could be something as simple as an outfit worn by an actress.

In this case, however, it was a prop from one of the most iconic films in Hollywood’s storied history. The combination of The Wizard of Oz as one of the most iconic Golden Age films and the uniqueness of the prop itself made it even more valuable to the buying public.

A Memorable Piece of Hollywood History

Source: Wikimedia/MGM

While you might vaguely recall the hourglass if you saw the film, it’s impossible to mistake it for anything else. The construction shows off a few gothic influences since the set designers were trying to make it look sinister and serious because of its role in the film.

The hourglass’s construction is twenty inches tall by one foot wide (50 cm x 30 cm), making it a substantial prop. The inner hourglass itself is made out of glass, while the frame is made out of wood. The wooden frame shows off some ornately carved gargoyles atop three spiraled columns.

Not The Only Expensive Memorabilia On the Block

Source: Flickr/Matthew Stevens

While the hourglass was among the most expensive items sold, the auction involved several other Hollywood artifacts from movie history. Among the auction items included a golden ticket from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory and a robe from The Ten Commandments.

There were also other props from the same movie, with a gingham pinafore and an Emerald City extra jacket being auctioned off as well. Neither of those items came close to the price that the hourglass eventually commanded. It’s a testament to how valuable collectors think it is.

This Is One Of Many Hourglasses

Source: Flickr/Rachel

As with many golden-age films, several hourglasses were constructed to be used in the movie. The idea was to find out which best fit the demeanor of the film and what the studio was going for. This particular version won out in the end.

This hourglass actually stayed in the studio and was reused several times during its life before it was auctioned off. The hourglass also toured several museums while it was still being used as a prop. It’s not a bad life for a prop crafted almost a century ago!

The Auction’s Bidding Started at $400,000

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The power of memorabilia is nothing new for auction houses. Many of the pieces put on the block started their bids at pretty high prices. Even the hourglass had a starting bid of $400,000, which quickly rocketed to $500,000 before the final fall of the gavel.

The hourglass had a lot of hype prior to being sold as well. The auction house advertised the hourglass as “the most recognizable signature prop from the film, in addition to being a crucial plot-driving device.” The starting bid kept with the hype the company was setting up.

Not In Pristine Condition

Source: Wikimedia/Crakkerjakk

While some pictures of the item might show it as being in mint condition, it definitely wasn’t. No prop used in regular production for almost a century will still be in mint condition, but the auction house was at least forthcoming about the damage.

According to the description of the item, it showed some scuffing and cracking of paint on the gargoyles and repairs done to the hourglass. Pegs were inserted to make sure that the frame remained intact and to secure the gargoyle ears to the base.

Could It Have Sold for More?

Source: Flickr/zack Mccarthy

As with anything that’s a collectible, the price is determinant on the market. This piece is likely a one-of-a-kind despite two alternates being made. The alternates wouldn’t resemble the one used in filming and probably wouldn’t cost the same.

Additionally, if the prop was in better condition, it might likely have fetched a better price, but that’s not necessarily the case. Since this is a unique item, just its existence, regardless of the condition, would command a heavy price tag for the buyer.

What It Takes to Own a Piece of Hollywood Memorabilia

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Hollywood has a ton of fantastic props and memorabilia from all of its history. Owning one depends on several factors, from how many of the particular props were made to how many others are interested in owning the prop. More popular franchises will have more expensive memorabilia.

Sometimes, franchises create copies of memorabilia to sell on store shelves. While many of these are affordable, they might also go up in price the longer you hold onto them. Who knows, something you buy today might be worth a lot more in the future.