Tin Man’s oil can up for auction: prop from 'The Wizard of Oz' expected to fetch $200,000

The oil can from the 1939 Oscar-winning classic is one of the last remaining items from the Tin Man costume

Judy Garland as Dorothy Gale gives Jack Haley's Tin Man a little oil from the can, as the Scarecrow, played by Ray Bolger, looks on. Shutterstock
Powered by automated translation

He famously headed off to the Emerald City with Judy Garland’s Dorothy, the Lion and the Scarecrow to find a heart. Now, one of the Tin Man’s oil cans from the classic 1939 film The Wizard of Oz is up for auction in what is thought to be the last remaining part of the famous costume to be sold.

The oil can belonged to actor Jack Haley who played Hickory, a friend of Dorothy’s uncle before he gets transformed into the Tin Man in Dorothy’s dream.

One of the pivotal prop items in the film, along with Dorothy’s ruby slippers, the oil can was used to loosen up the Tin Man after he had rusted when Dorothy first meets him. She then oils him a little more so he can sing his famous song, If I Only Had A Heart.

While there is confusion over whether there were three or five oil cans used as props, the can being sold by GWS Auctions was one originally presented to Haley at the end of filming, and is currently on display at the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures.

A piece of Hollywood history

The oil can is expected to reach up to $200,000 and remains the last item from the Tin Man’s costume, which is thought to have been lost.

While the winning bidder will own the item, the museum has requested they leave it as part of the permanent display there, with $1 million worth of insurance coverage.

The film, which scooped five Oscars at the 1940 Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Original Score, created many timeless songs and scenes, as well as props, which are still instantly recognisable nine decades after its release.

Dorothy’s ruby slippers, the Wicked Witch of the East’s striped tights, the flying monkeys and Dorothy’s picnic basket are all forever associated with the movie.

In 2021, one of the blue gingham dresses worn by Judy Garland in the film was found in a rubbish bag at The Catholic University of America in Washington DC after having been missing for many years.

The dress had been gifted to the former head of the drama department at university, Gilbert Hartke, in the 1970s.

“I was cleaning out my office to prepare and I noticed on top of the faculty mailboxes a trash bag and asked my co-worker to hand it to me,” Matt Ripa, a lecturer and operations coordinator for the drama department, told the university’s website. “On the trash bag was a note for our former chair stating that he had found this in his office and that he must have moved it when he moved out of the chair's office."

Ripa said: "I was curious what was inside and opened the trash bag and inside was a shoebox and inside the shoebox was the dress. I couldn't believe it.”

Three more items from 'The Wizard of Oz' sold at auction

1. The Cowardly Lion costume

The costume worn by Bert Lahr in the film sold for nearly $3.1 million at auction house Bonhams in 2014. It was made of real skins and fur with a hidden front zipper and tail.

2. The ruby slippers

According to film researchers, there were four pairs of ruby slippers. One pair is in the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures, another at the Smithsonian Institution, and a third pair sold at auction for $2m in 2015.

3. Dorothy’s gingham dress

Sold as part of the Bonham’s Treasures from the Dream Factory sale in New York in 2015, one of Dorothy’s dresses went for $1.56m, triple what it got three years earlier.

Updated: March 11, 2022, 11:35 AM