On Wednesday, September 15, auction house Sotheby’s held its very first Hip Hop memorabilia auction with items on hand such as Slick Rick’s diamond eyepatch, Tupac’s high school love letters, Jean-Michel Basquiat’s Rammellzee 12" single, and Notorious B.I.G.’s plastic crown worn in the final photoshoot before his death in 1997.
Biggie’s crown hauled in a whopping $594,750, although its original price tag was only $6.00 according to the New York Post, which quotes photographer Barron Claiborne as saying “without Biggie, the crown would not be worth” what it took in today. “I only paid six bucks for it.”
"All hail the King of New York," the auction house wrote on instagram announcing the sale. "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."
Sotheby's Hip Hop auction took in a total of $2 million, offering up cultural items, art, and more from the late 1970s up to the present day. A majority of the items shared proceeds with charities, and a portion of Sotheby’s own returns will benefit Hip Hop programs at the Queens Public Library as well as Building Beats, a non-profit that teaches tech, entrepreneurial & leadership skills through DJ & music programs for youth.
Sotheby's and Julien's have been offering music, movie, and sports fans unprecedented access to high end memorabilia auctions for years. Some of the latest items to be snatched up are Rocky Balboa's iconic gloves, and the helmet "Maverick" wore in Top Gun -- as well as the guitar Nirvana's Kurt Cobain used during the band's famous MTV Unplugged session, which sold for $6.01 million.