The original Cowardly Lion costume from the original The Wizard of Oz film is up for sale.
Worn by actor Bert Lahr in the 1939 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer film, the costume is currently the property of James Comisar who owns the largest collection of television artifacts in the world.
A longtime curator of television and film memorabilia, Comisar is hoping a patron from the film industry will step up and buy the lion to fund his planned television museum in Phoenix.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, Comisar bought the Cowardly Lion in 1991 from a dealer after it was found covered in dirt and mouse droppings in an abandoned MGM lot.
After he bought the costume, Comisar hired professional conservators from the Los Angeles County Museum of Art to restore the furry garb to its former glory. That process took almost two years.
The collector isn’t interested in the highest bidder and is in fact offering to sell the costume at a discount. Ideally, Comisar would like the Lion to end up next to ‘Dorothy’s (played by Judy Garland) ruby slippers.
One pair of those ruby slippers was jointly bought by actor Leonardo DiCaprio, Steven Spielberg, and Terry Semel, before being donated to the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures — still in development for a Los Angeles site.
One of two surviving Lion costumes, Comisar’s property is expected to fetch up to several million dollars, as it was worn by Lahr in two of his most memorable scenes in The Wizard of Oz.
If one considers the prices that other important broadcast memorabilia sold for — the original television Batmobile went for $4.6 million in January, and a dress worn by Audrey Hepburn in My Fair Lady hauled $4.55 million in 2011 — the precedent looks good for Comisar.
Also in the collector’s favor, is the fact that while Dorothy’s blue dress and several ruby slippers still exist, no Tin Man costumes survived and the singular Scarecrow costume is housed in the Smithsonian National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C, BBC News reports.
It may not be the Academy that buys the Cowardly Lion in the end though. The Academy, which has so far raised about $100 million of a planned $250 million for the museum, isn’t buying anything at the moment.
But Comisar isn’t giving up. Even though a few foreign buyers have made offers, Comisar hopes the Academy will step in and reunite the Cowardly Lion with the ruby slippers for “the magical Hollywood ending it deserves.”