Biggie’s Crown Goes for Nearly $600K at Sotheby’s Hip-Hop Sale

AuctionsSep 17, 2020

Biggie’s Crown Goes for Nearly $600K at Sotheby’s Hip-Hop Sale

A buyer with more than a dollar and a dream bought the plastic headpiece, which sold for twice as much as Sotheby’s originally estimated.

The plastic crown worn by rapper Biggie Smalls in one of his most iconic photographs garnered nearly $600,000 at auction Tuesday, easily besting it pre-sale estimate of $200,000 to $300,000.

New York—A plastic crown worn by one of hip-hop’s most revered artists in an iconic photo sold for more than half a million dollars at auction Tuesday.

The Notorious B.I.G.’s headpiece from a 1997 photoshoot led Sotheby’s “Hip Hop” auction in New York, a sale that celebrated the history and cultural impact hip-hop has had on art and culture from the late 1970s through its Golden Age of the mid-1980s and mid-1990s to the present.

The auction included art, photography, vintage and modern fashion, historic and new jewels, important publications, and rare ephemera like flyers and posters, many of which were consigned directly to Sotheby’s by hip-hop artists and figures.

Fittingly, the sale’s top lot was the crown used to make the Notorious B.I.G., real name Christopher Wallace and also known as Biggie or Biggie Smalls, look like New York royalty.

Wallace donned the crown—plastic with multicolored plastic gems—during the iconic 1997 K.O.N.Y. (King of New York) portrait session with photographer Barron Claiborne, which took place just three days before Biggie was murdered in Los Angeles.

In photographing the rapper for the cover of Rap Pages Magazine, Claiborne’s idea was to portray him as the city’s king sitting on his throne but in a simpler way, providing a contrast to the overindulgent imagery of the late ‘90s.

Claiborne is the one who put the crown up for auction, as it has been in his possession since the 1997 photo shoot.

At left, the iconic K.O.N.Y photo of Biggie Smalls taken by Barron Claiborne for the cover of Rap Pages Magazine. At right, a closeup of the inscription on the inside of the piece—“Crown from Biggie KONY Shot NYC 3-6-97” and both artists’ signatures.

The interior of the crown bears the inscription “Crown from Biggie KONY Shot NYC 3-6-97” and bears the signatures of both Biggie and Claiborne.

Included in the lot were three prints of the K.O.N.Y photo signed by Claiborne and the 10th anniversary K.O.N.Y. photograph.

It sold for $594,750, nearly doubling its highest pre-sale estimate, after five bidders competed for more than seven minutes, Sotheby’s said.

Of the fine jewelry lots in the auction, Fab 5 Freddy’s “MTV” gold and diamond ring sold for the most, garnering $35,280.

This ring, created by Tito the Jeweler for Fred Brathwaite, aka Fab 5 Freddy, when he hosted the TV show “Yo! MTV Raps!” sold for more than $35,000 at auction.

The American visual artist, filmmaker and hip-hop pioneer, real name Fred Brathwaite, had Tito the Jeweler make the piece when he was a host of “Yo! MTV Raps!”

It is set with 20 round diamonds weighing about half a carat each.

A multicolored diamond eye patch owned by British-American rapper and style icon Slick Rick (real name, Richard Walters), meanwhile, sold for $25,200.

Made by Jacob the Jeweler according to a design created by Slick Rick’s wife and manager for his 40th birthday, the eye patch has 20 carats of round near-colorless and colored diamonds in pink, yellow, blue-green and black.

Featuring more than 20 carats of various colors of diamonds, this eye patch gifted to Slick Rick on his 40th birthday sold for more than $25,000 at auction.

Other notable highlights of the sale include an original, sealed 12-inch Rammellzee vs. K-Rob “Beat Bop” single with original artwork by Jean-Michel Basquiat from 1983 that sold for $126,000, smashing its pre-sale estimate high of $3,500, and the “Wall of Boom” art installation, featuring 32 rare vintage boomboxes from the early ‘80s and ‘90s set on a custom-built shelf and wired so they function together.

The Wall of Boom went for $113,400.

There was also an archive of 22 autographed love letters written by a 16-year-old Tupac Shakur to a high school sweetheart who was a fellow student at the Baltimore School of the Arts. They sold for $75,600.

In total, Sotheby’s Hip Hop auction, held live in New York Tuesday night, garnered more than $2 million and was 91 percent sold by lot.

It was organized in collaboration with Monica Lynch, former president of Tommy Boy Records who helped launch the careers of legends like Afrika Bambaataa & Soulsonic Force, Queen Latifah, De La Soul and Naughty by Nature.

A portion of proceeds from the sale will benefit the Queens Public Library Foundation to support its Hip Hop Programs and Building Beats, a nonprofit community organization that teaches tech, entrepreneurial and leadership skills to underserved youth through deejay and music programs.
Brecken Branstratoris the senior editor, gemstones at National Jeweler, covering sourcing, pricing and other developments in the colored stone sector.

The Latest

Alfred W. DeScenza
IndependentsApr 15, 2024
Alfred W. DeScenza of DeScenza Diamonds Dies at 95

He is remembered by loved ones for his loyalty, integrity, and kindness.

Joyce’s Jewelry
TechnologyApr 15, 2024
Judge Rules Jeweler’s Lawsuit Against PNC Bank Can Move Forward

Joyce’s Jewelry sued the bank after cybercriminals drained its accounts of nearly $1.6 million through a series of wire transfers.

AGS Conclave 2024 logo Austin
Events & AwardsApr 15, 2024
10 Can’t-Miss Sessions at AGS Conclave 2024

From lab-grown diamonds and AI to the inevitable Taylor Swift mention, here are some of Conclave’s most intriguing educational offerings.

Brought to you by
The Blueprint for Success in Scalable, Personalized Jewelry Retail

With Ho Brothers, you can unlock your brand's true potential and offer customers the personalized jewelry experiences they desire.

My Next Question webinar
Recorded WebinarsApr 12, 2024
Watch: What Jewelers Need to Know About Insurance

From cybersecurity liability to trade show coverage, insurance experts share tips on how to build the right policy.

Weekly QuizApr 11, 2024
This Week’s Quiz
Test your jewelry news knowledge with this seven-question quiz.
Take the Quiz
Evil Eye Charm with Turquoise Disc
CollectionsApr 12, 2024
Piece of the Week: Lionheart’s Evil Eye Gemstone Charm

The charm is a modern rendition of the evil eye amulet that has been worn for thousands of years.

The Jewelry Symposium scholarship winners 2024
Events & AwardsApr 12, 2024
The Jewelry Symposium Announces 4 Scholarship Winners

Ahead of its trade show next month, TJS awarded free registration and accommodations to one jewelry professional and three students.

Jewelers of America Fly In Washington, D.C.
Brought to you by
How Jewelers of America Represents Your Business

For over 30 years, JA has advocated for the industry, fought against harmful legislation and backed measures that help jewelry businesses.

SRK Empire and SRK House
Policies & IssuesApr 11, 2024
SRK Exports’ Journey Toward Net Zero Impact

By the end of this year, SRK’s diamond manufacturing complexes will achieve net zero emissions, one of an impressive array of achievements.

AGTA logo
Lab-GrownApr 11, 2024
AGTA Bans Lab-Grown Diamonds, Gemstones at GemFair

Members can still sell lab-grown stones, it said, but only natural gems are allowed on the show floor.

Steven Rosdal
IndependentsApr 11, 2024
Steven Rosdal, Co-Founder of Hyde Park Jewelers, Dies at 77

He is remembered for his charisma, passion, integrity, kindness, and wit.

Macy’s Herald Square store
MajorsApr 11, 2024
Macy’s Opens Books for Possible Buyout

The retailer also appointed two new board members, avoiding a proxy fight from a potential buyer.

Sylvie Jewelry model
CollectionsApr 10, 2024
Sylvie Launches New Nature-Inspired Collection, ‘Tulira’

The bridal collection consists of 35 engagement rings and seven wedding bands.

Rolex Oyster Perpetual Deepsea in 18-karat yellow gold
WatchesApr 10, 2024
These Are Rolex’s New Watches for 2024

The crown introduced a dozen timepieces in Geneva, including a heavy metal version of its deep-sea divers’ watch.

Levy’s Fine Jewelry diamond education
IndependentsApr 10, 2024
Levy's Fine Jewelry Explores Diamond History

The family-owned jeweler has a new education section on its website dedicated to the history of diamond cutting.

With Clarity NFL wedding bands
CollectionsApr 10, 2024
With Clarity Partners With NFL on Wedding Bands

The limited-edition men’s rings can be customized with one of 12 team logos.

Asian Star’s diamond manufacturing facility in India
SourcingApr 10, 2024
Compliance, Caution, and Concern: The Current Outlook of Indian Diamantaires

There is a willingness to comply with new government-mandated regulations, with an insistence that they should be practical and realistic.

Chrono24 watch inspection lab
WatchesApr 09, 2024
Chrono24 Debuts Pre-Owned Watch Authentication Program

The program, now live in Europe, will roll out to the U.S. this summer.

6.21-carat fancy vivid pink diamond
AuctionsApr 09, 2024
Phillips to Offer 6.21-Carat Vivid Pink Diamond

Colored gemstones and signed jewels are the focus of its upcoming Geneva sale.

Lucapa rough colorless and pink diamonds
SourcingApr 09, 2024
Former De Beers Exec Appointed to Lucapa Board

Stuart Brown, who was De Beers’ CFO and interim CEO, is now Lucapa’s independent non-executive chairman.

Jewelers for Children POS System Donations
MajorsApr 09, 2024
Jewel360 Announces New POS Integration, JFC Partnership

The point-of-sale software can now prompt customers to round up their credit card purchases as a donation to Jewelers for Children.

Bharat Ratnam, a Mega Common Facilitation Centre (CFC)
SourcingApr 09, 2024
Reinvigorating SEEPZ, the Epicenter of India’s Studded Jewelry Exports

The zone’s modernization will enhance and increase India’s jewelry manufacturing capabilities while aiding small and mid-sized businesses.

Charles & Colvard moissanite bypass engagement ring
SourcingApr 08, 2024
Charles & Colvard Debuts B2B Portal for Moissanite

Select independent jewelers and retailers can now purchase moissanite through Charles & Colvard Direct.

Amber Rank
Events & AwardsApr 08, 2024
AGS Announces First Recipient of ‘Women in Leadership’ Scholarship

Amber Rank of Exclusively Diamonds will receive mentorship, registration to AGS’s 2024 Conclave, and $500.

Jaeger-LeCoultre citrine pinky-ring watch
AuctionsApr 08, 2024
Sotheby’s ‘Rough Diamonds’ Sale Is All About … Watches

The auction will take place Thursday and is underground, literally.

JOGS logo
Events & AwardsApr 08, 2024
JOGS Show Returns to Las Vegas for a Second Year

The trade show is moving downtown to the Expo at World Market Center.

Kira Diam solar plant
Lab-GrownApr 08, 2024
Indian Lab-Grown Diamond Manufacturers Keep Growing

A combination of factors is driving growth in the industry despite the precipitous drop in prices across the board.


This site uses cookies to give you the best online experience. By continuing to use & browse this site, we assume you agree to our Privacy Policy