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Notorious Big crown photo, Barron Claiborne
Photo Barron Claiborne, via Sotheby’s

Notorious B.I.G.’s iconic $6 crown sells for nearly $600,000

An album cover designed by Jean-Michel Basquiat also smashed estimates at the recent Sotheby’s hip-hop auction

The plastic crown worn by Notorious B.I.G. in the final photoshoot before his death in 1997 has been sold for $594,750 at Sotheby’s first ever auction dedicated to hip-hop memorabilia.

The six-figure sum – which smashed estimates of $200,000 to $300,000 – comes despite the novelty crown, which belonged to the Brooklyn-based photographer Barron Claiborne, originally costing just $6. Still, Claiborne tells the New York Post, discussing the Sotheby’s sale: “Some people have told me that it’s too low. That shows you how strong the symbol really is.”

“I always thought Biggie was a king. His power cancels out the fact that it is a novelty crown.”

A sealed 12-inch edition of the seminal hip-hop track “Beat Bop” by Rammellzee and K-Rob also exceeded its $3,500 estimate in the Sotheby’s sale, fetching $126,000, a price tag partly pushed up by the cover design by Jean-Michel Basquiat.

Items of clothing worn by Drake, Salt-N-Pepa during their “Push It” era, and Dr Dre also featured, alongside a commemorative Wu-Tang Clan postage stamp signed by RZA, a collection of love letters written by Tupac to his highschool sweetheart, and more. Altogether, the lots brought in a total of over $2 million, a portion of which will benefit hip-hop programs and nin-profit organisations based in New York City.