Notorious BIG's $6 crown sells for almost $600,000 at auction

Sotheby’s hip-hop auction also raises $126,000 for a 12-inch copy of Rammellzee track Beat Bop, with artwork by Jean-Michel Basquiat

A plastic crown costing $6 worn by the Notorious BIG has sold for $594,750 (£461,000) at Sotheby’s first ever auction of hip-hop memorabilia.

The crown was used by photographer Barron Claiborne in portraits made three days before the rapper’s murder in a drive-by shooting, and is signed by the Notorious BIG. It features “one point broken off, some general light wear and abrasions”, according to the listing. The sale price was double the $200,000-300,000 estimate.

A sealed 12-inch copy of one of hip-hop’s foundational tracks, Beat Bop by Rammellzee vs K-Rob released in 1983, sold for $126,000. It had been expected to sell for no more than $3,500, but its pedigree and its cover by Jean-Michel Basquiat pushed it far above the estimate. The price makes it among the most expensive records ever sold at auction (though some way off the record $790,000 paid for Ringo Starr’s 0000001-numbered copy of The White Album in 2015).

A cache of 22 love letters sent by Tupac Shakur to his high-school sweetheart Kathy Loy sold for $75,600. They show an emotional maturity he would soon bring to bear on his music. “I just want to be less sensitive and less of a pest,” he writes in one. “What I am feeling has to do with my insecurities, and I have to handle that on my own.” An autographed letter from the rapper also sold for $17,640.

Numerous items of clothing were sold, including colourful jackets worn by Salt-N-Pepa at the time of their hit Push It, a suit worn by Dr Dre and prototype Air Jordan trainers designed for Drake.

A commemorative postage stamp featuring Wu-Tang Clan, and signed by the group’s rapper-producer RZA, sold for $8,190.

Three artworks from De La Soul’s Daisy Age era trounced their estimates, with a study for the album cover Three Feet High and Rising selling for $21,420 (its peak estimate was $3,500).

Visual artworks by Janette Beckman, Shirt King Phade, rapper Schoolly D and more were also sold alongside flyers, posters and photography. A 2013 artwork by Fab 5 Freddy, one of hip-hop’s originators, sold for $22,680. The boombox installation Wall of Boom, by DJ Ross One, sold for $113,400. A Harlem subway sign, graffitied by artists between 1980-85, sold for $27,720, three times its estimate.


Ben Beaumont-Thomas

The GuardianTramp

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