The straitjacket -- which Houdini used for several of his outdoor suspended escapes -- was given to Paul J. Campbell, a salesman for Fleetwood Coffee, by Houdini's brother, Theo. Hardeen, in late 1927 or early 1928. It remained in the Campbell family and was unknown to the Houdini world until last May when it appeared on Pawn Stars. There it was authenticated by magician Murray SawChuck using a photo of Houdini (below) from which he was able to match specific stitching on the jacket.
Pawn Stars star Rick Harrison made an offer of $25,000, but the owner refused and instead listed it on eBay with a starting price of $149,000. There it cycled twice without selling. The jacket was then entered into Christie's Pop Culture: Film & Entertainment Memorabilia auction in London, where it ended its journey today.
One question that remains for me is why Hardeen would give this important Houdini artifact to Campbell, who doesn't appear to have been a magician or even a magic buff. The seller of the jacket says he played with it as a kid, not understanding the value or significance. Maybe in 1928 Hardeen didn't realize the value of his brother's props just yet and was simply looking to get rid of a straitjacket that didn't fit him? Or is it possible that Dash, who was known to be a gambler, gave Campbell this as payment for a gambling debt? If so, it paid off today!
The auction also featured several other Houdini items, including a green sack, also given to Campbell by Hardeen. The auction simply described it as being "used by Harry Houdini for escapology tricks", but I'm wondering if this could have been one of the sacks Houdini used during Metamorphosis? If so, its final auction sale price of $1,958 was a steal!
Congrats to the buyer of this major Houdini artifact.