For Sale: Biggie’s Crown

Sotheby’s announces an auction celebrating the history and cultural impact of Hip Hop on 15 September in New York.

On March 6, 1997, photographer Barron Claiborne welcomed Christopher Wallace—also known as The Notorious B.I.G. or Biggie Smalls—to his New York studio. Together, the pair unknowingly made history. Claiborne took a series of portraits of Biggie wearing a plastic crown and posing as the “King of New York.” “I used to think he looked like a big king,” says Claiborne. That’s all there was behind the now-ubiquitous image.

The plastic crown that Biggie wore in those photos now leads a forthcoming sale of more than 100 historic hip-hop items, at Sotheby’s in New York. Estimated to sell for at least $200,000, it’s signed by both Biggie and Claiborne, and is missing most of its interior foam coating (which had to be removed for the crown to fit). Though the crown is no doubt the sale’s marquee offering—almost literally a royal artifact in the world of hip-hop—the sale extends to all manner of writings, equipment, and accessories. Set for September 15, 2020, it’s also the first hip-hop-focused sale ever held by a major international auction house.

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