‘Wizard of Oz’ Hourglass Fetches $495,000 at Auction

The Wicked Witch of the West uses the prop to taunt Dorothy in the famous 1939 film

The Wicked Witch of the West, played by Margaret Hamilton, holding the hourglass
The Wicked Witch of the West, played by Margaret Hamilton, holding the hourglass Heritage Auctions

Midway through The Wizard of Oz (1939), flying monkeys capture Dorothy (Judy Garland) and take her back to the castle of the Wicked Witch of the West (Magaret Hamilton). The green-skinned antagonist holds up a gargoyle-adorned hourglass and screeches: ”You see that? That’s how much longer you’ve got to be alive! And it isn’t long, my pretty! it isn’t long! I can’t wait forever to get those shoes!"

Earlier this month, that hourglass sold at auction for $495,000, reports Artnet’s Sarah Cascone.

Described by Heritage Auctions as the “most famous and recognizable timepiece in film history,” the prop played a central role in the beloved movie. In the scenes after the Wicked Witch’s speech, the camera repeatedly zooms in on the 20-inch hourglass and shows how little time Dorothy’s three friends—the Scarecrow (Roy Bulger), the Tin Man (Jack Haley) and the Cowardly Lion (Bert Lahr)—have left to save her.

The wicked witch's hourglass
MGM artisans created this version of the hourglass out of hand-blown glass, wood and paper-mâché. Heritage Auctions

As is customary with movie props, staff at the MGM production company created several versions of the hourglass for different filming purposes, including one made of resin and one made of wood. The lightweight version they created out of wood and paper-mâché—which the Wicked Witch holds above her head during a tense moment as Dorothy and her friends escape the castle—was the one sold at auction on December 17.

After making its Wizard of Oz debut, the same hourglass appeared in other MGM films, such as Babes on Broadway (1941), Diane (1956) and 7 Faces of Dr. Lao (1964). Later owners filled the hourglass with red glitter—which is used only for display purposes, as the pieces can’t flow through the prop’s small neck. Over the years, the object also appeared in several museums across the country. 

“Margaret Hamilton’s hourglass … is an instantly recognizable prop from one of the most beloved and influential films of all time,” says Joe Maddalena, Heritage Auction’s executive vice president, to Entertainment Weekly’s Maureen Lee Lenker. “The Gothic design on the hourglass frame is a testament to MGM’s artisans, featuring winged gargoyles perched atop three spiraled columns.”

As part of the recent sale, Heritage Auctions also offered up many other costumes, props, vehicles and items from some of Hollywood’s most iconic movies. From the Wizard of Oz, the company sold two costume pieces that will now live at the Wizard of Oz Museum in Cape Canaveral, Florida: a prototype of the blue-and-white gingham dress Dorothy wore while visiting the Wizard for $125,000 and a jacket worn by a townsman in the Emerald City for $37,500.

The replica Ferrari used in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
The replica Ferrari used in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off Heritage Auctions

Bidders also shelled out $100,000 for a dress Julie Andrews wore in The Sound of Music (1965) and $93,750 for an acoustic guitar she played during the film, as well as $200,000 for a jacket Dick Van Dyke donned in Mary Poppins (1964). Matthew Broderick’s sweater vest from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986) sold for $143,750, and the replica Ferrari used in the film fetched $337,500.

One triumphant shopper spent $137,500 to walk away with a golden ticket from Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (1971), while another paid $50,000 for the Holy Grail prop cup from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989).