The crown the Notorious B.I.G. donned for a portrait session on March 6, 1997, isn’t inherently valuable. Its gold base and inlaid gemstones are made of plastic, and P. Diddy even reportedly said Biggie looked like “the Burger King” while wearing it. As a cultural object, however, it’s priceless.
The legendary rapper was shot and killed just three days after he sat down for the session, and the photo of him staring dolefully into the camera lens, crown askew, is one of the most iconic images in music history.
Soon we’ll find out how much someone is willing to pay to take the headgear home with them: Sotheby’s is auctioning it off on September 15, and it’s expected to fetch between $200,000 and $300,000. The crown, which is missing one point, still has pieces of foam along the inner rim that were added to make it fit more snugly. It’s also signed by the photographer, Barron Claiborne—and by Biggie, the “King of New York,” himself.
Along with the crown, the buyer will receive three 36-inch-by-40-inch prints: the regular B.I.G. as the (K.O.N.Y) photograph; a 10th anniversary edition, titled Notorious B.I.G. as the (K.O.N.Y) Tunz-O-Gunz, which recreates the classic photo with a collage of tiny images of guns; and a contact sheet with nine shots from the session.
The lot is part of an auction devoted entirely to the history of hip-hop, a first for any major international auction house. Other items include a collection of love letters Tupac Shakur wrote to his high school sweetheart, Salt-N-Pepa’s matching “Push It” jackets, and more. You can explore the other offerings here.