Sotheby’s first hip-hop auction featured Notorious B.I.G.’s plastic crown and other ’90s hip-hop relics.
The plastic crown worn by Biggie Smalls went for $600,000, fetching more than twice its expected value. Sotheby’s in New York dedicated its September auction to hip-hop culture with more than 120 lots. It was the first-ever hip-hop auction by the international auction house.
The signed plastic crown was worn by Notorious B.I.G. during his 1997 “King of New York” photoshoot. It’s the last photoshoot the rapper had, taken just three days before his death.
Biggie Smalls’ death was part of a feud between East and West coast rappers. The rivalry took the life of Tupac Shakur just one year before, in 1996. Also in the auction were 22 love letters written by 16-year-old Tupac to his high-school sweetheart. Those letters were auctioned as a lot and went for $75,600.
Biggie’s crown was expected to fetch between $200,000 — $300,000 in the Sotheby’s hip-hop auction. It easily doubled that estimate.
Other artifacts included in the auction included unique artifacts from hip-hop albums, artwork, photographs, and vintage fashion items. Salt N Pepa’s “Push It” jackets worn during the music video went for $23,940. A silkscreen print of the trio fetched $3,000. Four action figures of Public Enemy in original packaging went for $11,340.
Nearly every lot in the collection went for more than Sotheby’s estimated initially. Biggie’s plastic crown was by far the item that sold for the highest price.
Sotheby’s hip-hop auction is just the latest celebration of cultural artifacts in hip-hop music.
Last year, New York State contributed $3.7 million to help open the Universal Hip Hop Museum in the Bronx. The $80 million institution will feature artifacts and the history of the hip-hop genre. It’s set to open sometime in 2023.
The Universal Hip Hop Museum will be the first-ever museum dedicated to rap music. It was operating as a pop-up exhibit in the Bronx Terminal Market before the COVID-19 shutdown happened.
Rocky Bucano is the executive director of the museum. Public Enemy’s Chuck D serves as chairman of the museum’s board. Cultural ambassadors for the museum include Rakim, Big Daddy Kane, LL Cool J, Grandmaster Flash, and Fab Five Freddy.
You can check out the full collection of hip-hop artifacts that Sotheby’s auctioned on their website. With this auction lot’s success, expect to see more hip-hop collections from Sotheby’s in the future.