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Notorious B.I.G.'s 1997 crown sells for nearly $600,000

CBSNews
·2 mins read

More than 120 pieces of hip hop history took center stage at Sotheby's Auction House in New York Tuesday, CBS News' Vladimir Duthiers reports. The unconventional collection, which included memorabilia from the Notorious B.I.G. and the Wu-Tang Clan, brought in $2 million and made Sotheby's the first major international auction house to dedicate an entire collection to the genre.

"For Sotheby's and the art market, it's extremely significant," said Sotheby's Senior Specialist Cassanda Hatton, who has been working on the collection for more than two years. "I just said, 'I'm doing this. This is important.' And nobody stopped me."

The event, which reflected on hip hop fashion, design, arts and pop culture influence from the late 1970s to the present day, featured items ranging from contemporary art to photography and jewelry up for auction. 

One of the night's most prized possessions was the crown that the Notorious B.I.G. wore in the famous 1997 "King of New York" photo shoot, his last before the rapper's death. It sold for nearly $600,000 — double what was anticipated.

Rapper Notorious B.I.G. is seen in this 1997 photo titled 'Notorious B.I.G as the K.O.N.Y' by Barron Claiborne.  / Credit: Sotheby's
Rapper Notorious B.I.G. is seen in this 1997 photo titled 'Notorious B.I.G as the K.O.N.Y' by Barron Claiborne. / Credit: Sotheby's

Also featured in the auction was Salt n Peppa's "Push It" jacket, 22 love letters written by Tupac Shakur to his high school sweetheart and Fab Five Freddy's gold and diamond "MTV" ring.

Hatton said the goal of the auction was to "celebrate the culture" of hip hop and the people who created it.

"And so we were happy to share their names and share the sources of where all of this material came from, because… it came directly from the artist," she said.

Letters written by rapper Tupac Shakur in high school are pictured in this handout photo supplied by Sotheby's, ahead of a September 15 auction dedicated entirely to hip-hop culture in New York.  / Credit: Sotheby's
Letters written by rapper Tupac Shakur in high school are pictured in this handout photo supplied by Sotheby's, ahead of a September 15 auction dedicated entirely to hip-hop culture in New York. / Credit: Sotheby's

A portion of the auction's proceeds will go to the Queens Public Library hip hop programs and community nonprofit Building Beats, which according to its website, "provides DJ and music programs that teach entrepreneurial, leadership, and life skills to underserved youth."

Many of the artists themselves will also donate the proceeds of their sales to charities.

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Only artists age 50 and over allowed