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Sotheby’s Auctioning Biggie’s Crown And Tupac Love Letters

biggie smalls notorious big
Biggie Smalls

Rivals in life, Tupac and Biggie unite for Sotheby’s first Hip-Hop auction.

Sotheby’s, known for auctioning fine art and rock ‘n roll memorabilia, is set to host their first hip-hop auction featuring Biggie Small’s notorious crown, and handwritten letters from Tupac Shakur. The crown is estimated to go for $200,000-300,000, while the letters are expected to get $60,000-80,000.

The auction will focus on “The Golden Age” of the genre, between the mid-’80s and mid-’90s, and will showcase iconic artifacts, contemporary and fine art, one-of-a-kind experiences, vernacular photography, vintage and modern fashion, historic and modern jewelry and luxury goods, and rare flyers and posters.

Photographer Barron Claiborne has owned the crown since its use as a prop during Biggie’s regal portraits. Those photos were taken on March 6, 1977, just three days before he was fatally shot in LA. The headpiece is autographed by both Biggie and Claiborne and will come with three 36 x 40″ prints of the iconic “K.O.N.Y” photograph that are also signed by Claiborne, and the contact sheet.

“After 23 years in my possession, I’m very excited to share this iconic piece of hip hop history with the public,” Claiborne said in a press statement. “With the tragic events that unfolded just days after the photoshoot, this image of a crowned Notorious B.I.G. became much more than a portrait – the image transformed Biggie Smalls into an aristocratic or saint-like figure, forever immortalized as not only the King of New York but a king of hip hop music and one of the greatest artists of all time.”

biggie tupac sotheby's


Tupac’s letters

Also up for auction are 24 pages of poetic love letters written by the legendary MC to Kathy Loy between March 1987 and April 1988. The pair attended high school together at Baltimore School for the Arts, along with Jada Pinkett Smith, who’s also mentioned in the letters. Each letter is signed by Shakur with endearing messages such as “Love, Tupac,” “4 Eternity, Tupac,” “With Passion, Tupac,” “Forever Yours, Tupac” and “With All My Heart, Tupac.”

“I’ll always be there for you,” Shakur wrote to her in one. In a poem, we write: “Everything is so beautiful/since I fell in love.”

In another letter, Tupac admits his desire to end his pursuit of a music career saying, “my old manager came over and said she doesn’t want me to retire from rap but I think I am because I can’t handle too much rejection and I don’t have the time….” Tupac was a high-school sophomore at the time.

“Since its birth in the Bronx in the 1970s, hip hop has become a global cultural force, whose influence has grown over the decades to shape tastes in fashion, design, art, pop culture, and much more. This auction is a celebration of that story and the many ways in which hip hop continues to resonate across all aspects of culture,” said Cassandra Hatton, VP and senior specialist in Sotheby’s Books & Manuscripts Department. “We are so pleased to announce the auction with two unquestionable pillars of hip hop — Biggie and Tupac — with lots that offer an introspective look, in their own way, beyond their respective public personas.”

A portion of the proceeds will benefit Building Beats, a Brooklyn based non-profit that teaches entrepreneurial and leadership skills to underserved youth through music and DJ programs.

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