The Plastic Crown Worn by the Notorious BIG for a Photo Taken Days Before Death Sold for $600,000 at Sotheby’s First Hip-Hop Sale

Other highlights from the sale included Salt-N-Pepa’s “Push It” jackets, Slick Rick’s diamond eye patch, and high school love letters written by Tupac Shakur.

Barron Claiborne, Notorious B.I.G. as the
Barron Claiborne, Notorious B.I.G. as the "K.O.N.Y (King of New York)" (1997). Courtesy of Sotheby's.

A $6 plastic crown worn by the Notorious BIG during a now iconic photoshoot three days before his death sold for $594,750 last night at Sotheby’s in New York, far surpassing it’s $200,000 to $300,000 pre-sale estimate. 

The object highlighted the auction house’s inaugural hip-hop sale, an event that featured other historic objects from the genre and its most famous figureheads, including Salt-N-Pepa’s “Push It” jackets, Fab 5 Freddy’s custom MTV ring, and a set of Public Enemy action figures.  

Altogether, 91 percent of the lots sold, bringing in a total of $2 million. 

“We are thrilled with the results from tonight’s historic Hip Hop auction in New York, the birthplace of Hip Hop,” Cassandra Hatton, Sotheby’s vice president and senior specialist in books manuscripts, said in a statement. “Since the idea of this sale first began taking shape more than seven years ago… it has been a labor of love to organize an auction of this magnitude and significance at Sotheby’s.”

The Crown worn by Notorious B.I.G. for the "K.O.N.Y (King of New York)" photoshoot, 1997. Courtesy of Sotheby's.

The Crown worn by Notorious BIG for the “KONY (King of New York)” photoshoot, 1997. Courtesy of Sotheby’s.

The crown was consigned by Barron Claiborne, the photographer behind Biggie’s “KONY (King of New York)” portrait session for the cover of Rap Pages magazine in 1997. It was accompanied by three prints of the original photo and the contact sheet from the shoot. Sean “Diddy” Combs, owner of the rapper’s record label, Bad Boy Records, opposed the prop saying it made the artist look like “the Burger King.”

Five bidders exchanged offers for seven minutes last night before the lot hammered down. 

“This crown is a novelty item; I bought it at a place on Broadway called Gordon’s,” Claiborne told the New York Post. “Without Biggie, the crown would not be worth [six figures]. I only paid six bucks for it.” 

A Rammellzee vs. K-Rob "Beat Bop" sealed vinyl single, featuring cover artwork by Jean-Michel Basquiat. Courtesy of Sotheby's.

A Rammellzee vs. K-Rob “Beat Bop” sealed vinyl single, featuring cover artwork by Jean-Michel Basquiat. Courtesy of Sotheby’s.

“That shows you how strong the symbol really is,” he added. “I always thought Biggie was a king.”

Other highlights from the sale include 22 signed love letters from a young Tupac Shakur to his high school sweetheart, Kathy Loy, which went for $75,600; an art installation of 32 stacked vintage boomboxes called the Wall of Boom by DJ Ross One, which fetched $113,400; and Slick Rick’s diamond studded eye patch, which took in $25,200.

An original copy of a 1983 single by Rammellzee vs. K-Rob “Beat Bop,” emblazoned with an illustration by Jean-Michel Basquiat on its cover. The record sold for $126,000, obliterating its pre-sale estimate of $2,500 to $3,500,


Follow artnet News on Facebook:


Want to stay ahead of the art world? Subscribe to our newsletter to get the breaking news, eye-opening interviews, and incisive critical takes that drive the conversation forward.
  • Access the data behind the headlines with the artnet Price Database.

Share

Article topics