The crown worn by rapper Notorious BIG in his iconic King of New York portrait sold this week for almost $600,000 at Sotheby’s.
The famous crown was the star lot of Sotheby’s Hip Hop auction, which featured memorabilia, art, rare records, jewelry and clothing spanning the history of hip hop culture.
Notorious BIG, aka Biggie Smalls, wore the plastic crown during the last photo shoot of his life in March 1997 – just three days before he was killed in a drive-by shooting.
The portrait, taken by photographer Barron Claiborne for Rap Pages Magazine, has since become one of the most famous images in rap history.
The crown was originally estimated to fetch $200,000 – $300,000, but sold for a final price of $594,750, setting a record as the world’s most valuable piece of hip hop memorabilia.
Another star lot was a collection of love letters written by rapper Tupac Shakur to his high school sweetheart Kathy Loy, circa 1987-88.
The pair dated for two months whilst studying at the Baltimore School for the Arts, and Shakur later became one of the most revered rappers of all-time, before he too was killed in a drive-by shooting in Las Vegas in 1996.
The letters, which offered a personal glimpse into the formative years of the late rapper, sold for $75,600.
The biggest surprise of the auction came when a sealed copy of the 1983 Rammellzee vs. K-Rob track ‘Beat Bop’ sold for $126,000, making it one of the most valuable records of all-time.
The record features cover artwork by artist Jean-Michel Basquiat, whose original paintings sell for millions of dollars, and who originally released the record on his own label.
The record is one of only 500 copies featuring Basquiat’s sleeve artwork, and had been estimated to sell for just $2,500 – $3,500.
Further major highlights from the auction included rapper Slick Rick’s multicolour diamond eyepatch, which sold for $25,200; Fab 5 Freddy’s famous gold and diamond ‘Yo! MTV Raps’ ring, which sold for $35,280; a pair of Salt-N-Peppa’s iconic ‘Push It’ jackets, which sold for $23,940.
There were also strong results for original hip hop artworks and photography, including The Wall of Boom – an installation by DJ Ross One featuring 32 vintage boom boxes linked into a single sound system, which sold for $113,400.