Sotheby’s held its very first hip-hop memorabilia auction where they auctioned off rare items from rappers, including Slick Rick’s eye patch and 2Pac’s high school love letters. Among the items was the crown that Biggie wore in his final photoshoot before he was fatally shot in 1997.

The plastic crown was bought for $6 by Brooklyn-based photographer Barron Claiborne for a “King of New York” spread in Rap Pages magazine. Claiborne provided the crown to Sotheby’s, who auctioned it off for a whopping $594,750 alongside a pair of prints from the session, plus a photo contact sheet. Claiborne commented on the shoot, stating,

“I’m not sure that I even got paid for it. I was mostly shooting celebrities and reportage. I did this because I liked taking pictures of Biggie. The time before, I photographed him in a white suit — instead of the tracksuit that most rappers were wearing back in 1997.” 

He then revealed that he almost didn’t get the shot of Biggie in the crown, revealing that “[Diddy] said it would make Biggie look like Burger King.” Claiborne added, “But Biggie didn’t listen. He wore it anyway. And nobody’s ever told me that they look at the photo and think the crown is plastic. His power cancels out the fact that it is a novelty crown.”


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All hail the King of New York! Tonight during our inaugural Hip Hop auction, one of the most iconic symbols of Hip Hop’s heyday: the crown 👑 worn and signed by Notorious B.I.G. from @barronclaiborne’s iconic 1997 ‘King of New York’ photoshoot for Rap Pages Magazine sold for $600,000. The photograph is one of the most recognizable images in Hip Hop culture and it has endured as the defining portrait of the artist more than 20 years since it was taken. Achieving an overall total of $2 million, the auction was a celebration of the history and cultural impact Hip Hop has had on art and culture from the late 1970s through the “Golden Age” of the mid-1980s to mid-1990s, and up to the present. A majority of items included in the sale were consigned directly from Hip Hop’s most pivotal and well-known artists and figures, several of who will be sharing their proceeds with a variety of charities. A portion of Sotheby’s own proceeds from the sale will benefit the Hip Hop programs at the @qplnyc, as well as @buildingbeats, a non-profit community organization that teaches tech, entrepreneurial and leadership skills to underserved youth through DJ and music programs. #hiphop #hiphopmusic #notoriousbig #biggiesmalls #barronclaiborne #HipHopxSothebys #QPLHipHop

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