​Movie memorabilia: The stuff that dreams are made of

Dorothy's ruby slippers, perhaps the most unforgettable footwear in movie history.

MGM

YOU MUST REMEMBER THIS ... Even the most beloved of Hollywood treasures run the risk of disappearing, which is where movie-loving collectors of memorabilia come in. Our Cover Story is reported now by Ben Tracy:

Dorothy's sparkling slippers are perhaps the most unforgettable footwear in movie history. Yet the only place they called home after the 1939 film "The Wizard of Oz" wrapped was a dingy storage room on the MGM studio lot.

"The studios looked at this stuff like junk," said James Comisar, one of the foremost collectors of Hollywood's history. His archive fills a massive warehouse in Los Angeles -- his treasures, once considered studio trash.

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The Maltese Falcon statuette sold for $4 million in 2013.
Bonhams

"They didn't want to store it; they wanted to get it off the books," he said. "So oftentimes they would sell it in the parking lot to the cast and crew members, or they would just throw it away."

In 1970 MGM held the first large studio auction. The legendary movie factory was struggling and selling off its famed backlot to developers.

Everything from tanks to classic cars to "Ben-Hur" chariots went on the auction block. One of several sets of Dorothy's ruby slippers sold for $15,000. That pair was later donated to the Smithsonian.

Hollywood legend Debbie Reynolds bought many of the items at the MGM sale and others over the years. Hers was considered the finest collection ever assembled.

In 2011 she gave Tracy a preview as she got ready to sell it to pay off debt. There was Julie Andrews' dress and guitar from "The Sound of Music"; Audrey Hepburn's costume from "My Fair Lady"; and a more airy article of clothing from "The Seven-Year Itch" -- one of the most iconic dresses in all of movie history.

All told, Reynolds' sale brought in $26 million.

When asked why she began collecting, Reynolds said, "It was mostly emotional. I couldn't believe that they were getting rid of all these iconic pieces that I considered to be historical and should be saved."

Reynolds was ahead of her time. Now, a lot of people want a piece of Hollywood's past.

"The reason I think these items appeal to so many people is that it's a deeply personal emotional connection to a film," said Laura Wooley, one of the top appraisers in Hollywood.

She says new items are being found in basements and boxes every year.